Written by: Rachel Norman
I may be THE cheesiest parent in my county. The wind-down time for babies prior to naptime and bedtime is one of the sweetest parts of motherhood to me.
It is so sweet and sentimental to me that I’ve created a song for each child that I sang at every nap or bedtime for years.
I would take the baby into the room with their crib, sing while I changed their diaper, lay down on the bed and snuggle and cuddle baby, and then swaddle baby up to get ready for sleep. I’d hold them and rock them and say things like, “I can’t believe everyone doesn’t love babies!” and “I have the best babies in the whole world!”
Not only was it a good time of peace for myself and the baby, but because I was calm, peaceful, and happy, my mood affected baby’s mood.
Babies need sleep and mamas need sleep.
But sleep, unfortunately, isn’t always easy to be had. If only it were so easy to just put baby down for a nap without any struggles.
The good news is this: everyone was born to have regenerative sleep.
One way to help babies get in the mood for sleep is to have a consistent bedtime wind-down routine. This means you can’t take them from a living room full of the other screaming family members and then put them in a dark room ready to sleep in 2 minutes.
In the same way we can’t go from a stimulating environment (loud noises or bright lights) then lay down and sleep immediately, neither can babies.
A Wind-Down Routine:
● Helps signal bedtime is coming,
● Is consistent,
● Calms the baby,
● Gives opportunity for physical touch and togetherness, and
● Helps the baby become drowsy, but not fully asleep.
Why A Wind Down Routine?
More research comes out every year showcasing the importance of “brain training.” What we do over and over again becomes second nature to our brains. They go on autopilot. The same happens with our children and the habits we help nurture each day. If you want your baby to wind down well to help promote healthy sleep, there are certain behaviors that will help do this.
Turning the lights lower in the evening, whether by lighting a candle or turning on a lamp instead of the ceiling light, can help signal to the brain that it is time to produce melatonin. This is the drowsy hormone and helps calm the body down in anticipation of sleep. Instead of an overhead light, turn on a lamp. During the night if you need something, use a flashlight, a night light, or app on your phone. Avoid turning on the overhead lights which will wake up baby.
This can be difficult if your baby has older siblings, but it’s important we allow baby to have adequate time to calm down. Avoid loud music, TV, or activities that stimulate. You may need to do a calm down trick to help everyone in the house simmer down, but it’s worth it.
Avoid having anything too mentally active or stimulating in the wind-down routine. Reading a book is a perfect wind-down routine element because it’s easy focus, particularly for babies and children. They can look and listen but don’t have to do anything “active,” yet the activity itself is calming. Singing a song, or gently rocking until drowsy are great things to do during the 20 minutes or so before bedtime.
Studies have shown that some scents (lavender, for example) actually serve to decrease the activity of the nervous system, helping lull you into a sleep-ready state. Diffuse essential oils, light a lavender-scented candle, or put lotion on baby to help ease particularly difficult sleepers into a calmer state.
If your baby has been struggling with sleep, it’s important to set aside 20 minutes or so for a wind-down routine before you want to put baby down for a sleep. It is a nice time of bonding and will help baby relax enough to fall asleep.
As part of the wind-down routine I recommend turning on white noise using the SoundBub white noise machine. Not only does this familiar sound serve as a sleep association, it is also a soothing to both baby and mama. There is something powerful to be said for creating a familiar environment during this important time.
Using SoundBub’s white noise machine and Bluetooth speaker, you can play familiar albums, songs, or even have your baby fall asleep to a story you’ve recorded beforehand. Babies were used to hearing your voice the entire time they were in your tummy, they may listen to your voice as they fall asleep even now!
The SoundBub white noise machine integrates with the VoiceShare app to help you choose what you think would help baby calm down best and fall off to sleep.
This post is part of an 8-post series:
Part 1: What To Focus On During The First Week With A Newborn
Part 2: The Importance Of Swaddling: How And Why
Part 3: How To Create A Wind-Down Routine For Baby (you are here)
Part 4: The Sleep Window: How To Recognize Baby’s Sleep Cues
Part 5: Classic Signs Of Overtiredness And How To Prevent It
Part 6: A Surefire Way To Help Baby Sleep More Soundly
Part 7: Early Morning and Dream Feeds: How To Do Them And Wean Them
Part 8: The Art Of Teaching Baby To Sleep On Their Own