Baby sleep routine

Baby sleep routines

Establishing a baby sleep routine will really help for smooth bedtimes in the future.

When it comes to bedtime, one thing is for sure: babies love routine.

Routine is vital for babies because once they know that they can expect a certain thing to happen every day at the same time, they will begin to realise that it will be a regular occurrence. Don’t worry too much about routine when your baby is very young. Newborns sleep for up to 18 hours out of 24 but wouldn’t sleep for more than three to four hours at a time. Although it’s possible that baby may sleep through the night at eight weeks old. You’ll be glad to know that the erratic sleep stage doesn’t last forever – by three to six months babies will usually develop regular sleep patterns. There are ways to help your newborn establish a sleeping and eating routine. From about four to six weeks on, you can look at implementing a routine around sleep

For example, an example of a baby sleep routine could include the following:

When your baby wakes up:

  • Offer a feed.
  • Change your baby’s nappy.
  • Take time for talk and play.
  • Put your baby back down for sleep

Establishing a regular bedtime routine

While the full routine is not always required, you should try to develop the same habits when putting your baby down for their nap or night time sleep. It could be something as simple as lying them down in the cot, tucking them in and saying ‘sleep well, I love you’.

  • Feed your baby after a bath or after you change her into pyjamas.
  • Use a dim light to feed your baby at night. A light that is too bright may over-stimulate your baby.
  • Do not talk out loud when you feed your baby at night. It’s better to whisper as talking might encourage your baby to stay awake.
  • Reading your little one a story, no matter what stage they are at, can be a really special bonding time for all to enjoy. If your baby is breastfed, story time can be a nice activity for daddy and baby to have together.  Your child’s bedtime routine should be consistent and it’s important to keep it as calm and peaceful as possible.

How will I know if my baby is tired?

A newborn baby’s (0-3 months) tired signs:

  • Fluttering her eyelids
  • Jerking of arms and legs
  • Arching her back
  • Having a worried expression on her face
  • Yawning
  • Sucking on her fingers
  • Difficulty focusing her eyes

Older baby’s tired signs:

  • Crying easily
  • Looking for constant attention and becoming clingy
  • Losing interest in toys
  • Becoming fussy with feeds
  • Displaying grizzly behaviour

How to reduce stimulation at bedtime:

  • Speaking in a soothing, quiet voice.
  • Using soft lighting.
  • Closing the curtains and blinds.
  • Taking your baby to their cot.
  • Calming your baby with a cuddle or by reading a story or singing.
  • No television or screen time of any kind at least two hours before bed.
  • Encouraging an end of day activity like tidying toys away before going upstairs (and they do not return downstairs again). This will be more suitable as your baby gets older.
  • Always putting your baby down awake. They may grizzle a little, but listen to your baby without letting them cry or becoming upset. This teaches them to self-soothe and to become comfortable in their sleep environment.
  • Having a flexible bedtime routine so that it can be used on holidays or in relatives’ houses; the familiarity of their routine will help your little one to settle well in a strange place.

“I wish I hadn’t been so hell bent on getting my baby into a routine. At the beginning, they are just too young. They settle into it themselves and trying to force an eating/sleeping routine at the start is only going to upset you and your baby. Go with the flow. I wasted so much time and energy trying to enforce a routine and when I stopped my baby settled into her own.”

– Emma Coogan

Young infants don’t sleep for long periods of time in the beginning, but from six months onwards, it is reasonable for new parents to start to get longer, more consolidated stretches of sleep. Here are a few ideas to help the situation:

1. Regular sleep times are key.

Waking and going to sleep around the same time every day helps to regulate the body clock and promote good sleep. However, all wake and sleep times are not equal and the time that your baby wakes and sleeps has a significant impact on the quality of that sleep and therefore the duration. Waking by 7.30am is a good anchor to help get the day off to the right start and most young children from four months onwards, benefit from a bedtime in the region of 7pm-8pm.

2. Ensure your child gets appropriate daytime sleep.

If your baby doesn’t get enough sleep during the daytime then you may find that they wake more frequently over night, and even stay awake for long periods overnight as a result. It’s a good idea to fill their daytime sleep quota to promote great night-time sleep.

3. Read their language for sleep.

Recognising your baby’s sleepy cues can enable the onset of sleep, which prevents them from struggling to fall asleep. Brief eye rubs, decreased activity, staring into space often represent sleep readiness and would be the optimum time to begin a sleep time. Intense eye rubs, big yawns, agitation and fussing are typically too far gone and may either cause a resistance to sleep and/ or short naps and frequent night awakenings

4. Have a peaceful bedtime ritual that signals to your baby ‘it is time for sleep’.

Do this in the bedroom, with the lights turned down. Your task here is to relax your baby in advance of sleep but beware of putting them all the way to sleep at the same time. Young children who are parent dependent at bedtime will be more likely to wake overnight than those who are not. Give your child the opportunity to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep.

Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC., Paediatric Sleep Consultant, birth to six years +35387 2683584

More like this:

Help your baby sleep through the night
No more broken sleep
Top tips on getting baby to sleep


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.