Sleep is often hard to come by with new babies. For most new parents, there can be months—if not years—of unsettled nights, interrupted sleep, and wondering how to get your little one to drop off. While there’s no guaranteed way that will work for every baby, there are certain things you can try that could help teach bubs to recognise when it’s time to drift off. Included is the setting up of a routine – a series of behaviours that, when repeated each day, can help teach children how to let their bodies rest for the night.
First up is deciding what’s going to work for you as a family – whether that’s just you and bubs, other children, or extended family under the same roof. No matter the circumstances, trying to make something work that doesn’t suit your day-to-day needs will be challenging to make a habit of, and that’s the key part – habit. By repeating those behaviours, it makes it easier for your baby to learn. Even though they are small, they are learning all the time, and routines are an excellent way to gently encourage things like learning the difference between night and day. One final thing to remember before you get started, though, is that babies won’t learn straight away. Most things can take them days, weeks, or months to get the hang of, so make sure to keep your expectations in check. It’s also good to remember that in those early days, babies only have very small stomachs and need to feed frequently – this, by necessity, means that sleeps longer than a couple of hours may take a while to happen. Keep that in mind, and most importantly, try to organise help so you can get some good sleep yourself.
As they get older (some professionals recommend around 4-5 months, though this may vary), you can begin incorporating new things into their nighttime routine, so they get used to recognising when it’s time for longer sleeps, and when it’s time to wake up and play. A common part of many bedtime routines is having a warm bath. This doesn’t necessarily mean they need cleaning – babies tend not to get very dirty, and soap is often not recommended when they’re very young as it’s not good for their delicate skin. That being said, a quick soak in warm (not hot!) water can be just as relaxing for our wee ones as it is for us as adults. A great end to bath time is a baby massage. Haakaa’s Sweet Dreams Lotion Balm smells amazing, and because it features lavender, it helps to soothe bubs even more. Having a quick bath followed by this calming scent during a baby massage can really help little ones settle down, ready for a lovely, dream-filled night.
Dimming the lights while you’re going through all the motions of getting ready for bed is another visible reminder that it’s time to start winding down for the day. Incidentally, this is true for adults as well! Light with a lot of blue in it—including device screens—will often trick our brains into thinking it’s still daylight. Turning off televisions (and other screens) and having dimmer lights in warmer colours can help signal to baby’s brain that the day is over and it’s time for sleep.
While you’re putting baby to sleep, reading a book or singing songs is another long-used method to help lull little ones – and with good reason. Many babies find these types of gentle, rhythmic sounds relaxing, leaving them feeling safe and secure. The best part is, it doesn’t really matter what you read or sing, as long as your voice is quiet, calm and not likely to startle them. That means you can sing your favourite song or read your favourite book; they’re just happy to hear your voice. It doesn’t have to be lullabies and baby books – not while they’re still little.
Another option is using a pacifier. They can be an absolute lifesaver for some families, while for others they might not work at all. It’s entirely up to you whether you try, but bear in mind that not all babies are happy to take a dummy. That being said, for those babies who do enjoy using them, they often provide a means for a baby who doesn’t need a feed to self-soothe, eventually letting them fall back asleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. There are even specialised newborn pacifiers, so this is something you don’t need to wait until your child is older to try if you think using one is right for you.
Brushing teeth before bed is part of pretty much everyone’s bedtime routine – and it can be for your baby as well! Yes, that even includes before their teeth pop through. In fact, it’s often much easier to get your children into the habit of brushing their teeth while they’re still little – they grow up accustomed to the sensation, and having good oral hygiene habits ingrained in them from their early days can only be a good thing. Haakaa has a set of toothbrushes specifically designed for infants and toddlers, making things even easier. The Finger Toothbrush is precisely that – a special silicone toothbrush that fits over your finger, giving you incredible control over where it goes, letting you easily clean and massage your baby’s gums and tongue. The Contoured Toothbrush is perfect for teething babies, as it is shaped to follow the line of their jaw, with bristles on three sides. As they chew on it to deal with their sore gums, the bristles get to work. Finally, the 360° Toothbrush helps older toddlers learn how to use a toothbrush by themselves, while remaining soft and preventing them from accidentally choking themselves.
These are only a very few of the things you might want to incorporate into your child’s bedtime routine. There might be things you did as a child that you want to pass down, or your friends who already have children may have mentioned ideas that seem like they would be effective. Overall, it comes down to what you find works for you. And don’t forget – baby’s bedtime is as much a chance for you to wind down from the energy it requires to be a parent as it is about getting them off to sleep; making it enjoyable for you is just as important.