How to Settle Your Baby for Naps

As a new mom, I wish I would have known what a good wind down routine was - not just the generic phrase I kept reading "have a wind down routine" but an example of an actual, specific wind down routine.  Well, as a mom of a happy, healthy and thriving three and a half month old, I can tell you that I've finally found a routine that works for us and I wanted to share for others wanting to compare notes with what works for other folks.  My wind down process involves little to no fussing, a happy baby, and a contented mom who thoroughly enjoys the process! 

  • Step 1 / Prerequisite - I see my baby's sleep cues. She's begins to get fussy or it's been about 1.5-2 hours of awake time (she is only three months old so that is her average awake time). Read more about average awake times here
  • Step 2 - Prepare the Nursery - At this point, I grab a bottle (I use breast milk but pump exclusively), turn the iPod on in the nursery to our "Newborn" playlist of classical lullabies on piano, and turn on the low level lamp (very low warm light).  I also heat the bottle in the warmer that is in the nursery.  A lot of this is done with a baby in hand and/or I place baby in a safe spot for a few minutes to get this prepared.  (FYI - The music I have was found on iTunes.  The artist is "Newborn Baby Lullabies" and the album is titled "Sleep Aid for Newborn Baby").
  • Step 3 - Feed. In the calm, low level light, we do a feeding.  I do a feeding because this is simply what calms our baby down the best.  Some people disagree with feeding as a sleep cue but right now it works for us.  
  • Step 4 - Burp and pat for about 10 minutes. I do this for this short time because I'm going to keep her upright in the dance stage below.  In all, I like for Lexi to be upright or at an angle for at least 20 minutes before lying flat. 
  • Step Five - Swaddle.  I undress her to the diaper and then put her into the Loving Baby Swaddle Blanket, which is what she sleeps in (the blanket can be a touch heavy if used with clothes as well so I use it as the sole garment to sleep in).  At this time, Lexi is often fairly settled and we can exchange low key (quiet tone of voice) but very smiley coos and soft chats while dressing - and we will do this for as long as she gives engagement cues.  Probably after about five minutes the cues will change to disengagement cues and that's when we move on to the next step.  I may also do a diaper at this time if needed. 
  • Step 6 - I dim the lights further.  I turn off the low level lamp, leaving just the nightlight. 
  • Step  7 - We dance!  I hold her at a slight angle (so the milk can continue to digest) and then sway gently to the rhythm of the lullaby music.  It's fun and relaxing for me as well as Lexi!  I do this for however many songs are needed to "calm" her depending on whether we started the wind down process in a good state (tired but not overtired) or an overtired state.  Generally it's only a few songs until I  see her eyes drifting closed.  I will often give her a pacifier to suck on, especially if she was wound up
  • Step 8 - Dance some more. After her eyes close, I dance with her 1-2 more songs. 
  • Step 9 - Lay baby down. Finally I lay Lexi down gently in her crib on her back.  After she's down, I gently rock her body with my hand to mimic the dancing sways for about 30-60 seconds to make the transition less obvious / "irky".  Her eyes may be open and glazed or shut. 
  • Step 10 - I close the door and walk out! 

Overall it takes about 30 minutes for the wind down, but it is very enjoyable when timed correctly (ie - not overtired).  I love the gentle, peacefulness of the whole process.  What's important to remember is to take the time.  Thirty minutes is nothing, really.  Be unrushed and do the same process for all naps and your baby will begin to associate the whole routine with sleep and as a result will get to sleep faster because they will be conditioned to it.  

Obviously this routine works best for the stay at home child, but even if you work outside the home, you can reinforce a routine for all the evening and weekend naps or teach the same routine to a caretaker, if you have someone watching baby at your home.

Good luck and enjoy these precious moments!  Remember, you probably only have two years of this incredible infant cuddling and bonding time, after which your little one will be a little bundle of energy who is much more independent and more able to settle herself without your assistance.  So savor it!

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