Getting into a bedtime routine early on
It may feel at first like you’ve not got much chance of getting a good night’s sleep, but teaching your baby good sleeping habits now will make the months to come much easier. By six months your baby should be able to get through the night without a feed, so from 6 to 8 weeks in you can begin a routine which will help your baby learn to do this.
Regular nap times
Sticking to set nap times throughout the day and a set bedtime at night helps your baby get into a regular sleeping routine, and means you can keep track of how long they are sleeping. There might be a little bit of trial-and-error involved as you learn just how much sleep your baby needs, but don’t be afraid to wake them up if they’re sleeping for longer than you think they need to.
Teaching your baby the difference between night and day
To help your baby get into the habit of sleeping for short spells throughout the day and longer periods during the night, try teaching them the difference between the two. Make daytime light, bright, noisy and exciting – even when they’re napping, try not to block out the world and don’t worry about keeping things quiet. Come night-time, make your home dark, quiet and calming as their bedtime approaches. Once your baby is in their cot, close the curtains and if you are near their room keep voices low and turn the TV down. The change in atmosphere will soon help your baby tell the difference.
Settling your baby ready for bedtime from 6 months onwards
From 6 months onwards, a consistent and predictable bedtime routine will help your baby relax and settle at the end of the day. Like any of us though, babies take time to get used to a new routine, but keep going and soon they will expect it and feel secure with it.
Try our five steps to help you enjoy some quiet time together as you get your baby ready for bed.
- Wind down with a warm calming bath – a signal that the day is coming to an end. It’s time to put on soft, fresh nightclothes so they’re warm and comfortable through the night.
- Turn down the bedroom lights – a cosy atmosphere will let your baby know it’s time to quieten down.
- Give your baby some warm milk – it can help settle your baby by providing a warm and satisfying end to the day.
- Sing a gentle lullaby or read a bedtime story – reading or singing in a soft, soothing voice will let your baby know that you are there to comfort them and that it’s safe to settle.
- Kiss your baby goodnight – your touch and smell will help them feel safe and secure.
Helping your baby sleep through the night
Once your baby reaches 6 months, they should be able to get through the night without a feed until morning. If they haven’t started to do this naturally, you can encourage them by gradually leaving longer between each night feed. Make sure you keep the mood calm and quiet so they know it’s not time for the day’s activities to start.
Try not to let your baby get into the habit of falling asleep while you’re feeding them. Teaching them to drift off on their own will make it easier for them to get back to sleep if they wake in the night.
Some people believe you should use a ‘controlled crying’ routine so that they begin to learn to fall asleep on their own. This is where you leave your baby to cry for a few minutes before comforting them and then gradually increase the time before returning to check on them over several nights. But it does take a lot of will-power to stop yourself from going to their room to give them a comforting cuddle.
Or, you may prefer a gradual withdrawal process, which can be just as effective: if your baby starts whimpering when you leave, gently and quietly reassure them with a stroke of the head and a gentle “night night, I love you”…and then leave the room. If you have to go back in, don’t pick your baby up, just repeat the process until your baby drifts off.
Every mum and baby is different, so try not to get too stressed if a particular routine isn’t working. It can often take you both time to get used to things, so just try to be patient and go with whatever works best for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding is best for your baby. Follow-on milk should only be used as part of a mixed diet and not as a breastmilk substitute before 6 months. Use on the advice of your healthcare professional. Make sure your baby's teeth are cleaned after the last feed at night.