The ABCs of Zzz
Getting baby to bed is probably the most important routine of the day. You'll have a more consistent sleeper and happier household if you stick with the same routine night after night. Babies love predicability!
Your Best Bet
Between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. tends to be a drowsy time for babies, when they're most likely to go down for a good night's sleep, says Dr. Sears, adding that if you let your baby become overtired, you may have a tougher time getting her to bed. Watch for signs she's getting sleepy, such as rubbing her eyes and becoming cranky. An hour or so before bedtime, start the routine — it could include a bath, a lullaby, dim lights, snuggling and reading. “Make sure you read something calm in a soothing voice,” says Dr. Sears. “This isn't the time to do your wild and crazy Dr. Seuss reading.” It doesn't matter what you do as long as you follow the same sleep-lulling steps most nights.
Don't freak out if your baby falls asleep nursing during the early months; it's common and there's no harm done. However, between 2 and 6 months old, he should no longer fall asleep with breast or bottle in his mouth. “This trains him to want stimulation to go back to sleep when he wakes during the night,” says Dr. Wood, who stresses the importance of forming good sleep habits early. “I advise parents to put babies down when they are semi-awake so they can learn to fall asleep on their own.”
Fun in the Tub
The bathtime routine can be a refreshing wake-up or a prelude to a good night's sleep, depending on if he finds a bath stimulating or relaxing. It's not just about how it makes him feel; it's also a great time to bond.
Your Best Bet
Baby's temperament and your schedule will determine the best time of day for a bath. Keep that time more or less consistent, and bathe your baby when you aren't rushed; handling a wet, wiggly infant can be stressful to new parents. Have tub, shampoo, body wash, lotion, towel and diaper arranged before you even undress him. “Don't just plop the baby in the water,” says Ruskin. “Gently take off his clothes, and talk in a soothing voice while you're bathing him.” And since eye contact and touch are key to bonding, bathing serves double duty — a great activity for dads.
Don't freak out if your baby doesn't love the bath right away. Getting undressed and wet can feel cold and uncomfortable to babies. If he really seems upset by the tub, stick with a warm sponge bath for a few weeks. Keep in mind that babies, and especially newborns, do not need to be bathed every day, says the AAP. Every other day is plenty.