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My biggest suggestion is having a rock-solid bedtime routine! I prefer the standard bath, books, boob, bed scenario. We started doing this routine every night starting at 3 months old. It really set the stage for bedtime.
Step 1: Bathtime
We go into her bedroom, turn on her lamp, close the blinds and curtains, lay out her pajamas, and undress her for her bath. We started this around 3 months. I would turn on music in the bathroom and my daughter would play for about 5-10 minutes. I only used soap every 3 days on her because she has eczema and too much soap was drying on her skin. She did fine with just water though.
After her bath, we would go into her room, which was already dimmed, with the curtains drawn and her lamp lit. I would dry her off, comb her hair, and give her a little baby massage with lotion. Then we would put on comfy jammies and her sleep sack and we would move on to the next part of the ritual!
Here are the sleep sacks I used by age:
0-3 months I used plain swaddle blankets like these.
3-6 months I loved these transition sleep sacks. I was slowly able to wean her out of having her arms swaddled. She was able to break out of all other transition swaddles I tried. But this one worked like a charm! I just wish it was a warmer material. Luckily I was transitioning her out of her sleep sack during the summer! I have a friend that raves about the Merlin Sleep Suit! Might be a better choice if you are transitioning from a swaddle in the winter!
6 months and on: I used this sleep sack and this sleep sack interchangeable. I liked them both equally, however, the microfleece one is extra snuggly!
Note: As my daughter got accustomed to this routine I started moving bath time to every other night. I wanted to have the flexibility to not have to give her a bath if we were especially pressed for time.
Step 2: Books
Next up we would sit in the rocker and read a few books. Of course, a baby’s attention span at this age is short so your reading time will be short! But as an elementary school teacher, I know the importance of setting up good reading habits early on! I want reading to be a part of my daughters daily routine so I wanted to start working on this skill at an early age. Plus reading to a baby provides so many learning opportunities! It’s great developmentally even for little babies!
As a teacher here are a few of my favorite book sets for babies to get your little reader started off on the right foot!
All of those books sets come highly recommended by me for their educational purposes. They have great concepts to teach your child including rhyming, colors, and opposites! They are also loved by my daughter because they are silly, colorful and so much fun! Help your young child discover a love of reading from the beginning!
After a few minutes of reading (which I know will get longer over time), we stand up and put the books away and walk over to turn on the music.
Step 3: Music
I play classical music in her room anytime she is going to sleep. This is a good cue to her that it is sleep time! It also has the added bonus of drowning out other noises she might hear while falling asleep. Spotify has a great playlist called Lullaby Baby. I love this playlist because it is acoustic versions of hit songs! I really enjoy turning it on because now it relaxes me too!
Step 4: Boob/ Bottle
With the music playing, we head back over to the rocker and turn off her little lamp. (Need some tips on setting up your nursing station? Read my post here!) I then nurse her and give some final snuggles. By this point, she is completely relaxed. I put her in her crib and she is often asleep before I even make it to the door! If she isn’t asleep she babbles a little in her crib before she finally puts herself to sleep.
Note: If your baby isn’t rolling over yet I highly encourage you to invest in a DockaTot! I think the DockaTot was one of the biggest reasons my daughter was such a good sleeper in the early days and this really came in handy when sleep training! We stopped using it around 4 months. So worth it!
- I involve her in the entire bedtime process! We turn off lights together, lay out clothes, the works! I think that going through the motions with her really helps to remind her that we are getting ready for sleep time!
- Find 4 easy sleep associations you will use, maybe you will do bath, books, music, and boob/ bottle or maybe you have some other routine you use. Having multiple EASY sleep associations makes it a piece of cake if you have to remove one of them for some reason.
- As your child gets used to the routine you can start removing one part of it, such as a bath, or books if you are short for time. Your baby will still know its time to sleep because you are using the other sleep cues and sleep associations.
- Do a similar shorter routine for nap time as well!
Using this basic sleep routine I am able to put my daughter down for naps or bed ANYWHERE! I have put her to sleep at hotels, friends’ houses, and my parent’s house all with very little fuss from my daughter. We are no longer rushing home to get her in bed by 7pm. On special occasions we know we can get her to fall asleep in a pack and play and move her later that night. (We don’t do this often, but we know its an option!) We can also use the sleep cues and get her to fall asleep on long car trips! It has always been important to me that we raise a flexible child and this is just one of the ways we are making that happen!
Still on the fence about sleep training? Read my post Sleep Training Survival Tips to get some more ideas! You won’t regret it!