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“Put the baby to bed drowsy, but awake.”

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Welcome! I’m Lauren Tamm, and I’m passionate about helping parents, teachers, caregivers and military spouses discover simple tools that minimize stress, create peace and build connection. Learn More

Create a predictable bedtime baby sleep schedule and routine

Consistency and predictability (once again) are really important factors for babies and toddlers. When they know what to expect at bedtime, it makes it easier for them to make the transition from being awake to falling asleep. This is precisely why creating a bedtime routine is essential for a successful night of sleep!

A good example of a bedtime routine might look something like this:

6:40 p.m. Bath time

6:50 p.m. Put on pajamas

6:55 p.m. Lots of cuddles & kisses (a story or two for toddlers and older children)

7:00 p.m. Into crib awake*

*If over 3 years old, place in a toddler bed with bed rail for safety.

For a toddler 2 years and up, a 7-7:30pm bedtime is ideal. I would not recommend anything past 7:30pm for a good few years. Once your child stops taking naps altogether, I suggest pulling bedtime back up to 7pm. This will help a school-aged child who will need the amount of sleep!

Your bedtime routine shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, and it’s very important that the routine is the same every single night. The repetition and predictability are what let your child know that he or she will soon be expected to fall asleep.

My staple rule of thumb with every family I work with is to ensure bedtime is sooner, rather than later. Meaning, if your child did not take enough naps, woke up too early that morning, feeling sick, etc. it is always wise to bump bedtime up by about 30 minutes or so. Bumping bedtime ensures the child does not get over-tired, which makes falling asleep an even bigger challenge.

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Baby Sleep

At around four to six-months-old, babies begin to develop their internal clock. They begin to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. Melatonin is triggered by sleep cues like darkness at night, and bedtime routines. It’s around this time that most full-term babies are ready to sleep through the night.

Drowsy but awake at this point really means that a child is fed, dry, warm, loved, and aware they are being placed in their crib. Honesty, the phrase should probably be changed to calm but awake.  A soothing routine and an ideal bedtime are great habits to begin teaching self-soothing. This routine, and calm behavior from parents and caregivers will set the stage for sleep training.

Is your baby ready for night-weaning? Read: Night Weaning After Six Months: How to Gently End Night Feedings

How long does sleep training take?

After three to four nights of methods like Ferber or cry it out, many babies are sleep trained (save a few minutes of fussing or wails before drifting off).

Other training methods — in particular bedtime fading, the chair method and pick up, put down — will likely take longer, and some methods won’t work at all for some babies.

Be consistent with the sleep training method you’ve chosen for two full weeks to give it a chance to work.

So, What Is Drowsy But Awake, Exactly?

Your child should go into their crib calm and not too sleepy. You want them fed, dry, warm, loved and  awake enough to know what’s going on. If her eyes are drooping, her body is kind of limp or she falls asleep in less than five minutes, she was probably too drowsy. Try the next night with a slightly more calm but awake child.

Not sleepy enough? Make sure you have figured out the ideal bedtime, that the afternoon nap didn’t go too late, and that the calming bedtime routine was, in fact, calming.

Ideally have your bedtime routine in your child’s room with the lights on and shades down. Have quiet play, read a book or a final feeding —but no falling asleep during feeding — and then kisses, into the crib or bed and lights out.

3. Put Your Baby Down Awake

When you feed your baby to sleep, rock your baby to sleep, or bounce your baby to sleep, this sets expectations for what they should expect when they wake up. These are called sleep associations and are the most common reason for babies to wake at night (besides hunger).

Newborns need help falling asleep but once your baby hits the 4 month sleep regression, it’s important for your baby to know how to fall asleep on their own. When your baby can fall asleep on their own, they can learn how to go back back to sleep on their own. This is the cornerstone of sleeping through the night.

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Sleep Training Guides

Emphasising the difference between night and day

Your newborn doesn’t understand the difference between day and night. It’s quite common for newborns to be wide awake during the night and then sleepy during the day.

In these first six months, here are some things you can do to help your baby get used to the idea that night is different from day, and that night is a good time to sleep:

  • During the night, keep the room dark or dimly lit, and quiet.
  • Use a dim light when you need to attend to your baby during the night. Try not to turn on a bright overhead light.
  • At night, respond to your baby’s cries quickly, and settle or feed baby as soon as you can.
  • Give night feeds in the bedroom. This will help to keep these feeds brief and make them different from daytime feeds.
  • At night try to be soothing and quiet when you’re with your baby. Try to keep play for daytime.

From three months on, try to make a quiet, dark place for your baby to nap during the day. Babies become more awake and alert as they get older, so they don’t sleep as well in places that have a lot of light and noise, like the family room.

Pacifier

A good, clean pacifier should be part of the routine. Keep a couple of extras in the bed in case you need to find one in the dark. I was surprised to learn that pacifiers are recommended by pediatricians to protect against SIDS.

Once your baby is asleep, you don’t have to stick the pacifier back in if it falls out. See also our recommendations of the best baby pacifiers.

Getting a Baby to Sleep Through the Night

As tempting as it is to rock your baby to sleep and then gently slide her into bed, doing that every night makes your little one more reliant on your help during those little middle of the night wakings. Of course, you can enjoy letting your baby sleep in your arms, but I suggest you also help her develop the skill to fall asleep on her own—and she can!

Diaper

The importance of diapers for sleep is something you might not fully appreciate. Usually, changing a baby right before feeding and burping is just fine, as long as it’s not noticeably wet or dirty.

If you find that your baby often wakes up with a very wet diaper, look into Huggies Overnites
. These have extra padding to wick away more moisture during the longer sleeping hours. We used them from size 3 to size 5.

baby sleep schedule Should begin between 6 and 8pm

The best time to put your baby or toddler to bed is sometime between 6 and 8 PM. This ensures that your child will be able to get a solid stretch (in hours) of sleep during the night*.

Children should be in bed no later than 8pm up to the age of 10 to ensure a school-aged child is getting proper amount of sleep, to keep up with studies.

*Refer to the table above for age specific hours.

When to call the doctor

Never hesitate to check in with your baby’s doctor if you want guidance on when and how to begin sleep training. If you follow a sleep training method consistently and it’s still not working after two weeks, you may want to call your doctor for tips and advice.

And while it’s not usually a health concern if baby spits up or throws up once or twice while crying it out, it can be upsetting and jarring for everyone involved. Plus, if it happens more than once, it could be a sign that baby is sick or that this isn’t the right approach for your family. Talk to your pediatrician to see what’s going on.

Sleep training often involves tears for both you and your baby at first. But with time, consistency and a bit of luck, you’ll soon be sleeping peacefully, and your little one will have learned the valuable life skill of how to fall and stay asleep all on her own.

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