When B was a newborn and still doing 3AM feedings, I read so many blog articles about sleep. I was well aware that she was still very small, and that those feedings would eventually stop once she got older. But babies are super unpredictable, and it's really hard to know if you'll get a "good" sleeper until they're much bigger. There's tons of things you can try, a few things that actually stick, and a lot of sleepless nights while you work everything out. I remember reading one blog post in particular written by someone with a baby a few weeks older than B, and they already had established a great bedtime routine by the time their baby was ONE month old. As much as I wanted to incorporate that into our lives, it felt pretty much impossible at the time. We didn't start any bedtime routines until we decided to start putting her in her crib at three months old, and that worked really well for us for a number of reasons. For starters, we were co-sleeping before this. Putting her down for bed felt really weird in our room, but it worked perfectly in her room because the flow in there is totally set up for baby. Another reason it worked was because she was becoming more consistent with sleep so it was becoming easier to know what time she could go down for the entire night. Finally, when she was a newborn, she slept best with us. But as she got older, she started to associate Mom and Dad with playtime not bedtime. I knew it was time to move her to her crib when she cooed and kicked next to me for an hour past her normal bedtime.
Below, I've written out our usual bedtime routine partly to keep for my personal mommy memories, and partly to help anyone wanting to start their own routine for their little one. (Disclaimer: I swear I'm not this OCD with any other part of our lives... Seriously, I should include a picture of my side of the closet just to prove it! Babies just love consistency, so I keep things reallllll tightly wound. I'm 100% okay with the level of detail that we put into bedtime because, in my experience, she sleeps much better that way.)
- Bathtime - When B was really small, we did baths a few times a week at random times of the day. Then I realized one night that she slept much better after a bath in the evening, so we started doing a bath every evening. Bathtime is the kickoff to our bedtime routine every night. I use a few drops of lavender essential oil (diluted for use with a baby) in her bath before she gets in - it's a good relaxing oil and I like that the smell is associated with bedtime. We have a few fun bath toys she can play with, and she loves to splash around in there while I wash her.
- Nursery - Once we're done with bath, we go to B's room and stay in B's room. It's cozy and quiet in there, with minimal distractions. The Dohm white noise machine is already on by this point, and it drowns out anything happening outside of the nursery.
- PJ's - After bath, I make sure B gets lotioned up before getting into her PJ's since nightly baths can really dry out baby skin! Aveeno has worked really well for us. She wears the same types of PJ's every night (Kickee Pants footies are our favorite!) and then gets into her cozy sleepsack.
- Bottle - Usually by this point, B's ready for her last bottle of the day (she hasn't been waking for middle of the night feedings for quite a while!) Even before we started formula feeding, B always got a bottle before bed. That way we knew she was getting enough, and she usually slept better with a little extra in her tummy.
- Bedtime Story - This is my favorite part of the night... We have a few favorite books for bedtime, and they're really short, simple ones that repeat a lot of sleepy words ("Goodnight Moon" being my favorite). We curl up in her rocker with her pacifier and security blanket, and read her book. She really does love the bedtime story - she listens quietly and sucks her pacifier while I read (it's so stinking cute... I love it.)
- Rocking - We usually rock for a short time before B goes down for the night. Sometimes she'll crash before I get her in her crib, and sometimes she's just really drowsy. All of the sleep training websites say to put them down before they're fully asleep, but I usually fall into temptation getting all the baby cuddles in before I put her down ;).
I hesitate to post this because I don't want to jinx anything, but Brooklyn has always really been a good sleeper. She had plenty of night feedings, especially when she was younger, and even around 3 months she still needed the occasional night feeding due to a growth spurt. We've been really lucky in that regard, and since implementing the bedtime routine, putting her down for the night has been a lot easier. We've hit a few bumps with different milestones since she's gone to the crib, like when she learned how to roll over, and after a few days of weird sleeping she's gone back to her normal good-sleeping self.
I will also say that while routine is awesome (we're big fans of what it's done for us) I don't 100% credit myself for B being a good sleeper. Yes, consistency helps us a ton. Yes, we've worked really hard at teaching B learn how to sleep by herself. But not all babies respond to sleep training/routine like B does, and that's okay. Take my advice with a grain of salt, and know that we still have our fair share of weird nights - it's not always 12 hour nights over here. Good luck, friends!