Putting Baby to Bed


During most of the first year, you may find a pacifier more trouble than it's worth. If it falls out of her mouth while she's going to sleep or later, in the middle of the night, she probably won't be able to find it herself. Who do you think she'll call for help?

It may help to scatter half a dozen pacifiers all over her crib. If she rolls over on top of one, it's not likely to disturb her sleep. But if she loses the one in her mouth, she may be able to find another without your help.

The other elements of your bedtime routine should all aim toward establishing a calm, quiet, and happy atmosphere. Your bedtime routine can include any of the following:

  • A long walk with your baby after dinner (yours or hers). The rhythmic motion of riding in a stroller can soothe your baby and approaching darkness can draw a curtain on the day.
  • A warm bath an hour or so before bedtime. A bath will not only get your baby clean, but will probably relax her as well.
  • Changing into nightclothes. Having certain clothes that your baby only wears at bedtime can help her get in the right mood.
  • Reading books or nursery rhymes. Reading simple storybooks or reciting nursery rhymes allows you to soothe your baby with the calm of your own voice.
  • Rocking in a rocking chair; walking with a slow, swaying motion; or holding your baby and doing gentle, rhythmic knee bends. The rhythmic swaying of these actions can have an almost hypnotic effect on your baby. (That's why so many babies fall asleep in a car seat or an automatic baby swing.)
  • Snacking before bed. If your baby eats solid food, a snack, especially one that includes formula, milk, or other protein, will help fill your baby's stomach.
  • Nursing or bottle-feeding before bed. A full stomach can often bring on a case of drowsiness. (Just think how you feel after Thanksgiving dinner.)
  • Music. Your own singing or a tape or CD of lullabies (or folk rock or country songs) can carry your baby off to dreamland. Don't be shy about singing to your baby. Even if you're tone-deaf, she'll love to hear you singing to her.
  • Comfort items or transitional objects. A soft blanket, a favorite stuffed animal, or anything that your baby finds calming should stay in the crib with her.
  • Massage. A brief and gentle in-bed massage or some loving caresses can relax your baby's body and mind.
  • Sucking. Giving your baby a pacifier or directing her to her thumb will allow her to soothe herself through sucking.
  • Saying good night. Gentle parting words offered with hugs and kisses can end your quiet time together on a calming note. You might want to encourage your baby to "say good night" (with a hug, a wave, and/or a kiss) to you, too. She can also say good night to a few stuffed animals, dolls, and other objects (a la Good Night, Moon).

Pick a few of these suggestions (or add a few of your own) and build a bedtime routine around them. Keep it simple and soothing. Remember, you'll be doing this every night for months-or even years-to come.

More on: Babies

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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