For the first few months of baby’s life, there really isn’t much you can do to establish a bedtime. Until babies are at least four months old, they are going to eat and sleep when they’re ready to. Their bodies are designed that way. They need to eat every two to four hours, and they need to spend the majority of their time sleeping.
We’ve all joked about newborn babies doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and making poo poo, but the reality is that newborn babies are going through many developmental changes which require them to get those 14-18 hours of sleep every day and to eat as often as they do.
With that said, however, babies do reach that point when you can start molding their sleeping habits a bit. By the time babies are four months old, they can keep enough food in their tummies to stay satisfied for longer stretches. With a little training, restful nights may very well be just around the corner.
One of the first things you should do when training your baby for night time sleep is to establish a bed time. There are lots of things you can do to achieve this. Here are the ones that we’ve found work the best:
- Establish a pre-bedtime routine. Choose two or three things to do consistently before bedtime every night. You could use a warm bath, story time, a favorite lullaby, or just about anything as long as it’s something baby can clearly identify with winding the day down.
- Keep things calm. Babies will generally go to sleep without much prodding if everything is kept reasonably peaceful.
- Darken the room. Turn lights off, or use a dimmer switch to make the room fairly dark. From a fairly young age, babies will naturally associate dark with sleep and light with being awake, playing, eating, etc.
- Decide on a baby sleep method and stick to it. We’re not advocating for cry it out methods or attachment parenting methods. Either will work. The important thing for baby is that you show consistency.
- Be realistic. Even when your baby starts “sleeping through the night,” she will only sleep for about five or six hours at a stretch at first. You should also expect that she will occasionally wake up during the night, at least in the beginning.
- Be willing to try different things to help baby go to sleep. Some babies fall asleep when rocked. Others respond well to white noise. Some like to be sung to. Some will relax after a bath (others will just get wound up). Be flexible and willing to try different things.