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Baby sleeping soundly

Before you begin a bedtime routine here are some factors to think about to help your baby get ready for bed

Sleepy foods

If your baby is older, include sleepy foods in their diet. There is an amino acid called tryptophan found in some foods that is thought to help with children’s sleepiness, particularly if a child has difficulty falling asleep at bedtime. Tryptophan is found in warm milk, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, oats and any kind of wholegrain cereals, making them good pre-bedtime snacks.

Foods to avoid

Never give your baby drinks that contain caffeine, such as cola, tea, coffee or sugary drinks. Avoid food that may be very high in sugar or stimulants or colourants.

No lights or electronics in the bedroom

At least half an hour before you want your baby to go to sleep, make sure that the TV, tablets or any other electronic devices are turned off. This is because our brain’s sleeping rhythm is affected by light entering the eyes. Dimming light stimulates your baby’s pineal gland in the brain to produce melatonin, which is the main sleep hormone. If your baby is looking at a screen this will suppress the melatonin surge they need at bedtime to help them fall asleep.

Help your baby distinguish day and night

Newborn babies often seem to have nocturnal habits, meaning they are awake more at night than during the day. This may be because when you were pregnant, they slept during the day when you were walking around and ‘rocking’ them and became active when you were lying in bed and still.

In those first few weeks, try to teach your baby the difference between day and night. By about 10 weeks old, most babies are more settled; more awake during the day and more asleep at night, but you can help your baby with that.

At night-time:

  • Keep it very dark.
  • Minimal interaction
  • Only changing a nappy if you really feel you need to
  • Try to keep the baby in the cot or the Moses basket as much as you possibly can

During the day:

  • Let your baby get plenty of light by going outside. It’s really important for helping to regulate your baby’s body clock
  • Have daytime naps in a room that is slightly darkened but not as dark as at night-time
  • Have lots of stimulating play and interaction during the day

All these associations help to signal the difference between day and night to your baby.

What bedtime routine works best to encourage a baby to sleep?

  • A bedtime routine is a series of stages that you follow through, every night, in the same order
  • Your baby’s bedtime routine should only take 30 minutes from beginning to end
  • Very long, drawn-out bedtime routines do not trigger sleepiness
  • Keep the routine gentle, quiet, focused and calm
  • Stay in the bathroom and the bedroom area
  • The optimal bath is nice and warm – not too hot – and lasts just five minutes (this causes a drop in your baby’s body temperature, which promotes sleepiness)
  • In the bedroom, quietly and tenderly put on your baby’s nappy and sleep babygro or pyjamas
  • Give him his bedtime breastfeed or bottle if he still has one
  • If your baby is a bit older, read him a story. Another lovely trigger can be a favourite lullaby
  • Then a kiss, a cuddle, a ‘good night’ and pop him down to bed
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