How to create a baby sleep routine that works for your family

Sleepless nights are par for the course when you have a bebé. But until you’ve actually experienced multiple sleepless nights on end, you don’t realise just how brutal they can be.

It’s not the nights with no sleep that are the hardest part. It’s having to face the day, caring for a newborn and possibly older children too, when you’ve had little to no sleep. Utterly brutal.

It’s something Baby Sleep Consultant, Lise Dinnie from Cherish Your Sleep is all too familiar with. With more than 20 years of experience working in childcare and three children of her own, Lisa started Cherish Your Sleep to help other parents and their bebés to get the sleep they need.

“Sleep is like a puzzle. You need to take a holistic approach. If you don’t get every piece of the puzzle fitting together, you won’t have a good sleeper.”

Lisa shares her top tips for creating a baby sleep routine that works for your family.

Baby sleep routine

Establish healthy sleep habits

Have you ever tried to settle a screaming, overtired baby who fights sleep? Not fun, is it?

Lisa says that one of the first things you can do, even from birth, is to set up healthy sleep habits. 

“An overtired baby isn’t going to sleep well,” she explains. “What you might not realise is that newborn babies only have an awake window of about 45-60 minutes between naps.”

For a good newborn baby sleep routine, Lisa suggests firstly understanding what your baby’s wake windows are and also identifying their sleep cues. Then it’s a matter of keeping an eye on the clock and on your bebé so you can get them to bed before it’s too late. 

“As your baby gets older, their wake windows will widen until they start staying awake for longer and having less naps during the day,” adds Lisa.

These healthy sleep habits are the foundation of your baby sleep routine. 

newborn baby sleep routine

Recreate the womb environment

The womb is warm, dark, noisy and snug. When your bebé is born they enter a world that is, by comparison, cold and bright without that same cosy feeling they have only ever known.

According to Lisa, a good baby sleep routine involves somewhat recreating the womb environment.

“Babies are used to noise so playing loud white noise is a good idea,” explains Lisa. “Also, make sure they’re swaddled. The swaddle should be loose around their hips and tight around their shoulders to prevent the startle reflex which would otherwise wake them up.

“You also need to make sure they’re warm enough. Knowing how to dress baby for sleep can be confusing. If you think of the swaddle as how you keep them nice and tight so they feel safe and secure. But they also need to feel warm like they would in the womb. This is where clothes and light breathable blankets come in.”

As much as you’re attempting to establish a good baby sleep routine, Lisa also recommends that you have realistic expectations.

“As much as we can establish healthy sleep routines, we also need to be respectful of the fourth trimester. Some babies do and will need to be held a lot. They like to hear your heartbeat and enjoy skin-on-skin time. All of this is completely normal and completely ok.”

good baby sleep routine

Eat, activity, sleep

As for routines, Lisa says that it’s best to have something that’s workable and flexible around your lifestyle and activities rather than a strict schedule. 

“Routines help you to understand what’s coming next in the day,” explains Lisa. “They can also help you understand why a baby’s crying and help with establishing those healthy sleep habits.

“The baby sleep routine I suggest is eat, activity, sleep. When your baby wakes up, feed them, then play with them and then put them to sleep when their wake window is up. Your baby won’t wake up at exactly the same time every day and they won’t nap for exactly the same length of time. This style of routine gives you structure without being too rigid.”

As your baby’s wake windows change and they start to drop naps, you can still follow the same eat, activity, sleep routine. It just means they will be playing for a longer time.

Lisa also recommends having a really predictable evening wind down so your bebé knows what going to bed at night looks like.

“After dinner, having playtime, a bath, massage, milk feed, story, song and cuddle. Ideally, if your baby has got the memo, then it’s bedtime and off to sleep.”

Help with baby sleep

Nothing is a problem until...

… whatever is happening with your baby’s sleep is no longer sustainable. Lisa has some parents who come to her after six months of no sleep who can no longer keep it up. For others, it’s only been a few weeks. Either way, Lisa says that you, as the parents, need to be ready for change.

“A lot of my clients come to me for help with baby sleep when their baby is going through a sleep regression. The first thing I always suggest is looking at when you last assessed and changed their routine. The regression could be a sign that they need more awake time or more solids or that it’s time to drop a nap.

“Regressions are always short lived. I like to look at the fact that if they’re regressing, it also means they’re developing. At the end of the day, you need to be consistent in your baby sleep routine so they know that changes are ok. 

“It’s not your job to get your baby to sleep. It’s your job to give them a safe place to sleep and reassurance to go to sleep themselves.”

About Lisa

Based in Melbourne, Lisa is a certified maternity and child sleep consultant. Taking a holistic and open-minded approach to sleep, she is conscious of the emotional wellbeing of the family and enhancing the parent-child connection in everything she does. The result is sustainable solutions for sleep that work for the whole family. You can learn more about Lisa and her services on the Cherish Your Sleep website

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