Bedtime Routine? Yes, Please!

For the first five weeks or so, my baby had a very predictable routine. She woke up early in the morning around 7, took a few cat naps here and there between then and noon, and then, after her maalish and bath that started at noon but went on till 1 PM, she would sleep for a good 4-5 hours at least only waking up to feed. Then she would play in the evenings, but feed every one hour till around 10:30 or 11 PM and when she would fall sleep only to wake up once in 4 hours – at 2:30/3 AM and 6:30/7 AM. 
During those days, I was well rested since I got to sleep in two 4-hour long stretches every night, and had quite a bit of free time at hand. Of course, those days my mother was here too. That made a BIG difference since I had to do nothing in the kitchen or any other house chores. Once I was done feeding and changing the baby, I didn’t even have to get her to go to sleep because there were others more than eager to hold her.

And then my mother went back to work. 


No big deal. I can handle this.
And I did. For the first week or so, because she continued to follow that predictable pattern.
Then one day, she decided that it would be fun to wake up at 5:45 AM and play. Till late afternoon. She napped in between, but only when she was in someone’s arms. The minute we put her down, she would be awake, or if not immediately, within minutes of it. By the time she fell into a sleep deep enough to keep her sleeping for over an hour, it would be 2 or 3 PM. And then she’d be in such a deep sleep that even Metallica couldn’t wake her up. 

//’d then wake up only by 8 or 9 PM, play for a couple of hours, and sleep around 11ish.

On Diwali day she broke all her records and didn’t take any long naps till 9 PM! When we dressed her up and started calling people to wish them, she fell asleep!
I was majorly sleep deprived at this stage because even though she slept for a long stretch from 2-8 PM, that’s when I got to eat, bathe and do other stuff around the house now that my mother had gone back to work. And considering she woke us up before daybreak, you can only imagine how the day went after that.

The next phase that started after Diwali (when she was around 8 weeks old) and lasted till she turned 12 weeks was a bit complicated. It was super difficult to get her to fall asleep and it would be 2 or 3 AM by the time she actually slept. But the good thing was she slept for a good 10-11 hours and it was 11 AM, sometimes even noon by the time she woke up fully. This meant that she had, at the very least, figured out the difference between day and night. Just that her night started very, very late.

So when she slept until 11 AM or noon, aside from our cook showing up at 7:30, there were no distractions till we decided to wake up, and as my husband was around that time, I could sleep it off as well.

Sometimes I woke up early and utilised that time to have coffee and breakfast in peace, do some lettering. Sometimes I went back to bed after the cook left and slept for a few more hours.

A photo posted by Nikita Azad (@nikee_taa) on Dec 1, 2016 at 5:07am PST


A photo posted by Nikita Azad (@nikee_taa) on Dec 7, 2016 at 12:34am PST

// Her afternoon naps didn’t happen anymore, though. Somehow, she refused to sleep for more than 15-20 minutes, so I could barely do anything during the day. Sometimes, I had to have lunch while I held her.

When we went to the doctor for her 10 week vaccinations, we expressed our concern over her sleeping habits. “She sleeps like an adult who parties too hard every night,” were my exact words, I believe. He told us to bathe her before her bedtime. And because Mumbai weather isn’t too cold, he said it shouldn’t affect the baby. Also, he suggested that we try and wake her up fifteen minutes earlier than the previous day to ensure that her body clock matches ours, slowly but eventually.

After we came back home, we started a new routine. I had read about Bedtime Routines but wasn’t following one because I didn’t think a 10 week old would understand. Wrong!

We didn’t want to switch to a 10 PM bedtime immediately because we figured we’d do the same ‘fifteen minutes early’ thing with her bedtime too. So the first night, I started her new routine around 12:30 AM.

I gave her a sponge bath, I massaged her with baby oil (as it’s not too sticky and gets absorbed fairly quickly), put on a fresh diaper and clothes, brushed her hair, and fed her. This took almost 30 minutes. It didn’t work immediately because she was still playful after that. But after an hour or so (around 2 AM) she was asleep. This was a stark contrast to our joint efforts of rocking and singing to her, then laying her on the bed only to have her open her eyes multiple times a night.


So I began to do this every day, adding a song or a story to her routine every few days and it seemed to work. Her bedtime was still past midnight but at least it involved way less effort and didn’t test my patience as much.

Then came the game changer. In the first week of December 2016, my husband had to go out of town for a good five days. Ordinarily, I would have called my mother or sister to come stay with me. But I decided that I didn’t need anyone around to coo or play with the baby when I’m trying to get her to go to sleep.

As much as they mean well and intend to help, they’re the first ones to get excited when she opens her eyes after you put her down. “Oh, she’s awake. She doesn’t want to sleep.” Nope. She just doesn’t know how to fall asleep yet.

So I got a bit sneaky and didn’t tell anyone that I was home alone.

The first day, I finished my dinner by 8 PM so I could take as much time with her routine without worrying about how late it was getting. That night she was asleep at 11 PM. The next was slightly harder as it was just after midnight by the time she actually slept. By the fourth day she was asleep at 10 PM. I couldn’t believe how much free time I had at hand because after she fell asleep, she only woke up around 12:30/1 AM for her next feed.

Then, miraculously in the second week of December, at almost 13 weeks old, she started sleeping well in the afternoons as well. The first time she did that, she slept for a good four hours and my sisters were here. When they saw she wasn’t going to wake up anytime soon, they decided to nap as well whereas I? I took a reaaaaalllly long shower.


Since then, she has been sleeping for at least 1.5-2 hours in the afternoon and unless something messes with our schedule, she is in bed and asleep latest by 10 PM, and that leaves me with a good 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time to have dinner, watch some TV and get some work done before she wakes up to feed again.

But since I don’t have someone to cook for me anymore, I have been utilising most of this free time to make dinner. And because she sleeps around 10, it’s almost 11 by the time we eat. I guess I’ll have to start her bedtime routine around 7:30 PM now. Let’s see how that works.

In conclusion, having a bedtime routine prepares your baby for bedtime. Ensuring that you perform the same activities in (almost) the same order at (around) the same time every day, helps your baby understand what’s about to happen because s/he knows what to expect. So when you start your routine, your baby knows that at the end of it all, s/he has to sleep.

As far as my baby is concerned, on most days, she falls asleep as soon as I turn the lights off and start feeding her. Sometimes, she’ll be playful while she feeds and will need to be carried and rocked for a few minutes. Then, when she’s fed again, she’ll fall asleep.

I’ll be making a separate post about what our bedtime routine (both, for afternoon naps and for the end of the day) includes. Till then, if you don’t have a routine and your baby has trouble falling asleep, you can try starting one. There are a lot of articles about bedtime routines that one google search will throw up. I don’t know if this will work on babies younger than 2-2.5 months old because that’s when we started ours, but you can try. At the same time, if your baby is older than 3 months old, it still may not work because all babies are different. You just have to figure out what works for your baby through trial and error. And be prepared for more errors. I guess that goes with the job of being a parent, eh?

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