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Setting A Bedtime Ritual

By Brandon C. Hall

Any casual glance at child rearing guides will reveal that particular attention is paid to baby sleep habits. The reason is fairly obvious: one of the most difficult things for a new parent to get used to is dealing with constantly being awoken in the night by a newborn. There are no hard and fast rules to getting your baby to sleep well, as all newborns are different. There are, however, some baby sleep tips you can employ that will help. The important thing is to understand that your judgment as a parent is paramount: don't get stubborn with tips that don't seem to work, and try a wide variety and things to find out what works best for you and your baby.

A good place to start, in terms of baby sleep tips, is to establish a bedtime ritual for your baby. The reason that your newborn doesn't sleep well through the night at first is because he is used to falling asleep with his mother. When he awakes in the night he naturally cries for his mother - the only way he knows how to go back to sleep. As your newborn grows older a slow transition will occur whereby he learns to go to sleep on his own, and - more importantly - when he wakes in the night he can learn to fall back asleep on his own. Your goal as a parent is to try and speed up this transition as much as possible, the result will not only be a good night's rest for you, but a development of better sleeping habits for your child in the long term.

To get your child to sleep well on his own, focus on a consistent bedtime routine. Babies are very dependant on routines - their world is so narrow that they generally focus on only a few things throughout the day - the way to create transitions in their day, therefore, is to change how these things are presented to them.

For example, your bedtime routine may consist of a warm bath, a feeding and changing, and some rocking before bed. If you repeat this every night your baby will slowly begin to associate these things with sleep. Every night, then, your child will naturally start to fall into a "sleeping mode" when you do these things. If you are inconsistent, however - if, say, you only bathe him on odd nights, or change the order of bedtime events - you will confuse the child and he will be unsure of what happens next: he won't know whether he's going to sleep after his bath, or being read a story.

A bedtime routine should also employ spending a good amount of time with your baby. Even from a very young age, babies will learn to manipulate their parents, and if you don't spend enough time with your baby before he falls asleep, he will start to stretch out the bedtime ritual in order to spend more time with you.

In establishing a bedtime ritual for your child, you primary concerns should be to make it consistent. To ensure better sleeping habits for your baby, don't focus so much on what you do before bed, rather, pay attention to doing the same things in the same order every night.

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