Don’t start a bedtime routine right away. No need to impose a sleep schedule on your newborn as soon as you bring her home. Your adorable bundle will likely sleep a lot those first few days. After all, she has to recover from the effort of being born (and truthfully, you’ll need to recover, too — so take advantage and catch up on your z’s now, while you can). Unfortunately, all that newborn sleep won’t come in long stretches of hours (sorry to say) because newborn eating — which will happen every two to three hours — takes precedence over a sleep schedule now. The fact is, it’ll probably be a few weeks before a pattern emerges (whatever it may be) to your newborn’s sleep.
Observe your baby’s sleep tendencies. Before you bust out with a bedtime routine, get a sense of when your baby usually goes to sleep for her longest stretch of the night (keeping a sleep log can often help with this). Once you figure out when your little one’s longest snooze is (you’ll be lucky if your baby sleeps five hours in a row during these early months), you can start to time your bedtime routine in advance of that. For example, if your baby tends to sleep her longest stretch from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., aim to start fitting in a bedtime routine around 7:15 or 7:30 p.m.
Start slowly. When you determine that you’re ready to start incorporating a bedtime routine into your baby’s life, slowly, over the next month or so, introduce the nighttime rituals that you want to be part of the mix. Tried-and-true bedtime charms include a soothing bath, gentle infant massages, a cuddly feeding (whether it’s from the breast or the bottle), reading a book or two, and singing lullabies (the songs and stories help your baby learn to take comfort in your voice, while the rhythm of your words will encourage her to drift off to sleep — especially when combined with cozy cuddles). Whichever rituals you choose to include, be consistent, and in time, your little sweetie will learn to equate those things with bedtime.