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Establishing a Bedtime Routine

Establishing a Bedtime RoutineBefore I had my daughter I never lived by much of a routine. Being self-employed, I set my own hours and had freedom to vary the structure of my days. It wasn’t unusual for me to stay up writing until 3 AM  to make a deadline and then sleep until eleven the next day or to work regular office hours when I had to be available for interviews.  I never understood the value of a strict predictable (read: boring) schedule.

During my daughter’s first three months of life, we still didn’t keep a schedule. I fed her on demand, let her nap when she wanted, played with her when she was alert and bathed her when she looked like she needed it–no less than every three days.

I also woke up happily for late-night feedings, early-morning diaper changes and every thing in between.

Around her three-month birthday and as she approached ten pounds, the lack of sleep started getting to me, as I’m sure it does too many new moms. It seems unfair that this is also the time many moms must return to work. Anyway, I decided it was time to start encouraging the baby to sleep through the night. How would I do this? First, by  establishing a bedtime routine.

At around the same time, I read an advertising insert in a Johnson’s Baby Shampoo gift set, touting the benefits of Johnson’s Bedtime bath bubbles and Bedtime lotion. The products, when used together, are clinically proven to help baby sleep better. At the same time, I received a flyer from Babies R Us, advertising a sale on all Johnson’s products. Was the Universe giving me a hint?  It couldn’t hurt to try.

Now our bedtime routine, which we’ve been doing for a week, is as follows:

  1. She watches her Winnie-the-Pooh mobile while I prepare us for bed. I fill the humidifier, get into my pajamas, make sure the bathroom is warm and lay out her pajamas in the bedroom.
  2. I bathe her with the bedtime bubbles. When she’s dry she gets a new diaper and her favorite hooded towel, “Lambie.” This is her favorite part.
  3. Give her a massage with bedtime lotion. If she’s hungry after the bath she eats first. She added this part of the routine herself!
  4. We lie in bed together after her massage. While she nurses, sometimes I will tell her a story or sing a song, but I confess I often check my e-mail, surf the Web or write using my iPod touch. It’s a time for us both to wind down; I never do anything strenuous or stressful, just fun projects like writing for this blog.
  5. When she is close to falling asleep, I play Billy Joel’s Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) on my iPod, which usually puts her to sleep for the night. Then she goes into her bassinet right beside the bed.

Does the routine work? I don’t know if I just started the routine at the same time she was going to begin sleeping through the night anyway. Doctor’s say 10 pounds is that “magic number” when a baby can sustain themselves without a meal for more than six hours. But she’s slept at least five-and-a-half hours every night this week. Three nights ago, she slept for six hours. Two nights ago, she fell 15 minutes shy of a full 7 hours. And last night, she made an all-time record of seven-and-a-half hours of sleep without waking.

My next bedtime goal is to get her to go back in her bassinet rather than sleeping with us after she wakes for that early morning feeding. Although I have to admit, waking up on this lazy, snowy Sunday morning with the baby stretched out on her back between myself and my sleeping husband makes me not-so-eager to give up those special moments too soon.

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