How to Establish a Sleep Routine?

Postnatal, Your questions

If you would like hints to help your baby’s sleep, go to How to help my baby’s sleep?

Updated article on March 15, 2021

How can you establish a sleep routine? Here are a few suggested things you can do:

    1. Calm activities early evening;
    2. Feeding;
    3. Baths;
    4. Massages;
    5. Sleep.

bebe_prend_son_bainFinishing with the bath and massage can relax and lead to sleep. Feeding them earlier prevents the baby from falling asleep on the breast or their parents’ arms with their bottle. Why? Because over time, they learn to associate sleep with feeding (something in their mouth) or their parents’ arms. They will develop this habit to fall asleep.

The baby has to learn to fall asleep alone without calling on their parents. Parents aren’t being mean when they do this…it’s NORMAL! You can rock them, sing them a soft lullaby. Preferably, you should lay them down in their bed, with nothing in their mouth, before they fall asleep in your arms. For example, when they’re drowsy. They see themselves in their bed before sleeping, with your calming hand on their chest. You can gently rock them before the sleep fairy takes them away and you leave the room.

  • For a baby between 4 and 12 months:

Starting from four months of age, the schedule should be more predictable, regular, both for naps and their sleep routine. You have to understand your baby’s biological clock, their sleep needs and signs of fatigue, such as:

  • Yawning;
  • The baby is calmer, listless, fixed;
  • Eye rubbing;
  • Starts complaining, grumpy, cries a bit.

Avoid waiting too long until the baby’s overtired. This is when their reactions will be more intense. They will be agitated, cry, scream louder. You might get the impression that they’re fighting their sleep. A baby that’s put to bed too late or when they’re too tired will have difficulty falling asleep alone. They will cry more and for a longer period. To develop the best routine for your baby, you have to test different times during the day and check the results. It’s often suggested starting the sleep routine around 6:30/7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. maximum, because you also have to count the time it will take for them to fall asleep in their bed.

According to authors I consulted, from 4 to 12 months a baby can develop associations that can lead to bad habits.

Also, a healthy term baby aged between four and six months receives sufficient caloric intake during the day for their growth. They don’t need any more, and as such don’t need to drink at night. I know, I can hear some of you saying, “What? My baby can’t sleep a full night?! Why aren’t they then?”.

How can you know if your baby’s ready and able to sleep five or six hours in a row? It’s simple! If they have already done it by chance, they can do it again. At six months, 85% of babies can sleep at least five hours in a row at night. For a one month old baby, neurological maturity may allow him to sleep up to 6 hours in a row, at 3 months 9 hours in a row, and at 6 months of age, the consecutive sleep time may be up to 12 hours.

Does your baby have difficulty falling asleep alone? If yes, continue reading with Sleep Problems in Babies from 0 to 1 Year. If the baby’s sleep still seems restless, we can see if there is no ferritin (iron) deficiency which could explain, at least in part, the clinical manifestations observed and also, if there is a family tendency to the nighttime bustle.

To improve your knowledge on the subject, I also invite you to watch the video on the Sleep of babies.

Talk soon,

The Baby Expert

References :

  • Challamel, M-J et M. Thirion. Mon enfant dort mal. Éditions Pocket, 2015.
  • Crichton, Georgina E. et B. Symon, Behavioral Management of sleep Problems in infants Under 6 months-What Works, Journal of dev. behav. Pediatrics, volume 37, p. 164-171, 2016.
  • Gradisar, Michael et al., Behavioral Interventions for Infant Sleep Problems: A Randomized Controlled Trial, American Academy of Pediatrics, mai 2016.
  • Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Guide Mieux vivre avec notre enfant de la grossesse à 2 ans, section sur le sommeil, p. 248-262, 2016.
  • Langevin, Brigitte, Le sommeil du nourrisson, nouvelle édition, Éditions de Mortagne, 2016.
  • Magazine Enfants Québec, De belles nuits à tous âges, octobre 2013.
  • Martello Evelyne, Enfin je dors… et mes parents aussi, 2e édition, Éditions CHU Sainte-Justine, 2015.
  • Mindell, J. A. et J. A. Owen. Clinical guide to Pediatric sleep: diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems. 2e édition, Lippincott William & Wilkins, 2010.
  • Revue Bien grandir, En chemin vers de belles nuits, novembre 2011.
  • Revue Naître et grandir, Mieux comprendre le sommeil, octobre 2016.
  • Pantley, Elizabeth, Un sommeil paisible et sans pleurs, Éditions ADA, 2005.

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How to Establish a Sleep Routine?

Par Marie Fortier Temps de lecture: 3 min