Bedtime Routines: How to Ensure Your Baby Stays Awake Until Lights Out

July 28, 2023

bedtime routines blog post image; sleepy baby drinking a bottle while being held by mom

Let me know if this sounds familiar; you are working hard at establishing a rock solid bedtime routine for your baby and no matter how hard you try, they seem to nod off to sleep before the routine is even over.  This occurrence can be both perplexing and frustrating for new parents.  In this post I will be providing you with tips to help establish that healthy bedtime routine while also keeping your baby awake during all parts (especially the feed).  

Establishing an age appropriate bedtime routine

Many parents reach out to me and ask, “What’s the perfect bedtime routine for my baby?” Now before I answer this question, I want to first discuss when you should try establishing a bedtime routine with your baby.  The answer is, while they are still a newborn.  The first few week after your baby is Earth side, it’s all about getting used to this new little person and their adaptation outside the womb.  The expectation is lots of feeding and lots of sleeping (in short durations) and that should fully be supported.  By the time your newborn is about six weeks old, I recommend beginning to loosely construct the foundations of the bedtime routine. It should be calming and include a bath (on bath night), a relaxing lotion massage followed by diaper, pajamas and swaddle and then a feed and song.  If the baby gets drowsy or falls asleep while feeding, that’s ok for now but over the next few weeks, work on moving the feed a little further away from going into the crib and keeping the baby drowsy but awake.  

By the time the baby is about 3 – 4 months old, you can now step up your bedtime routine game and work on establishing a consistent routine that supports the pathway to sleep but also keeps the baby awake.  

Identify the reason(s) why your baby is falling asleep during the routine

Identifying the reasons behind your baby’s drowsiness and falling asleep during the bedtime may be more involved than just the routine itself.  The most common reasons for babies falling asleep during the routine are that the last awake window before bed is too long, that they aren’t getting enough quality daytime sleep, and that the last feeding is too close to falling asleep. Now the first two reasons I shared can lead to a vicious cycle of overtiredness that can actually increase middle of the night wakings and then interfere with good naps the next day, so my advice here is to break the cycle and be sure to pin down the correct awake window for your baby based upon their age.  I offer a great freebie that provides sample schedules for babies based upon age.  You can access this document by clicking here.  

Tips to keep your baby awake during the bedtime routine

I’ve already covered making sure your baby is not overtired at the start of the bedtime routine as the first step in keeping your baby awake during the routine, but now I’ll address how to resolve the other main culprit that creates drowsiness or induces sleep…the last feed.  My recommended solution, move the feed EARLIER in the bedtime routine.  When I am working one on one with my private sleep coaching clients, I suggest it to be the first step in the bedtime routine.  Even before the bath.  This will allow your baby to get the last feed to top off their tank for the night without becoming too drowsy that they fall asleep before finishing the feed…which then can lead to middle of the night hunger where they might have been able to sleep for longer with the full feed.  So in this example the bedtime routine would look similar to below: 

I also advise to steer clear of any rocking before bed as this too can cause drowsiness to take hold.   

Be consistent with the routine! 

Consistency is so important with all things concerning your baby.  It’s how they know what’s happening throughout the day and can be ready for it.  Consistency leads to peace and calm because nothing changes abruptly in you baby’s life.  This couldn’t be more true for the bedtime routine! By stepping through the bedtime routine in the same order every night at a calm and relaxing pace, you’ll set the tone for preparing for bed.  This in turn will create a relaxing and bonding moment with your baby that you will both fully enjoy.  My final tip is to aim to have this consistent bedtime routine last approximately 30 minutes start to finish. Make sure the room is calm and although the lights are still on, they are a bit dimmed to signal to the brain that sleep is near.  

What to do if you can’t break the falling asleep at bedtime cycle

If you’ve tried to implement these suggestions and you are still facing a too drowsy baby by the end of the bedtime routine, I invite you to reach out to me so we can talk it through.  My wish for you is that your bedtime routine be a relaxing experience for you and your baby and to promote healthy sleep for all.  Consistency takes time to establish so I also recommend you be patient and persistent in your endeavor, but know I am always here to be a calm and guiding presence if needed.  You don’t have to do it alone, help is available by clicking this link. I offer one-on-one coaching programs and expert coaching calls to dig deep and find sustainable solutions.

As your ally in healthy sleep, I hope this post has offered some insight into what may be the cause of your little one falling asleep during the bedtime routine.  I remember all too well when I was faced with this as a new mommy and it wasn’t until I prioritized healthy sleep for my baby (and myself) that I was able to make the changes necessary to her sleep and we were all the better for it.  I hope you find this as well.  

Hey there!  I’m Jenn, a mom of two amazing daughters and a postpartum depression and anxiety survivor.  My journey into motherhood was a bumpy one and that is why I have devoted my life’s work to help support other moms who have found their transition into motherhood to be not as they had planned or expected.  Sometimes we need to pivot but you don’t have to just roll with it when it’s not working for you.  When I am not trying to change the world one tired family at a time, you can find me acting as my teen and tween daughters personal Uber driver, riding my Peloton, reading a book while sipping on my chai tea, or watching home improvement shows with my awesome husband.

Are you ready to get off the Crazy Train and have the whole family sleeping better? Follow the link below to schedule your complimentary consultation with Jennifer today!

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