Struggling when the baby cries during the bedtime routine uncontrollably? Learn how to keep evenings calm when you put her down before sleep.
Everyone says to get a bedtime routine going for your baby. To create a calm, relaxing environment at the end of the day so that she knows it’s time to sleep.
But what do you do when she cries hysterically during before bed? The minute you bring her into the room and turn down the lights, she senses that bedtime is coming and starts to cry. The more you try to soothe her, the more upset she gets.
You lay her down under the mobile, hoping she’d transition into a sleepy state, only for her to whimper and cry. Just when you thought she was sleepy after a feeding session, she’d wake up and cry the minute you put her down to sleep.
This happens at every night time, too. She seems to hate the whole ordeal, from changing diapers to getting swaddled. She cries and doesn’t stop until she’s so worked up that she just conks out.
And forget about bath time—what everyone said would help her relax has only riled her up even more.
When your baby cries during the bedtime routine
So, what gives? How is bedtime going to get any easier when the routine leading up to it is making your baby miserable?
Bedtime doesn’t always come easily for many of us. Thankfully, there are a few adjustments you can make to turn things around.
Bedtime should be a relaxing transition to sleep, not one filled with anxiety and frustration. By making a few change before and during your bedtime routine, you can help her sleep soundly. Take a look at these tips to see how:
1. Separate activities your baby doesn’t like
Which bedtime activities get your baby riled up and crying uncontrollably at night? Is it bathing in the bathroom, or getting her diaper changed? Take note of which activities aren’t fan favorites and separate them from your bedtime routine.
For instance, if she hates taking a bath but you’d still like her to take one daily, try bathing her in the morning. If diaper changes send her screaming, change her a good 30 minutes before your official bedtime routine starts.
That way, she doesn’t associate activities she doesn’t like with what should be a pleasant, relaxing part of her evening. And even if she does cry during those activities, at least you’d have done them early enough for her to calm down.
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2. Start with favorite activities
It’s not easy when your baby starts crying at bedtime the instant she senses that the routine is starting. But what if you began with activities she loves?
Let’s say she enjoys reading books with you, but you tend to save that toward the end, right before you turn off the lights. See what happens if you start the routine by reading books instead. She just might take to it more so than if you’d started with what you normally do.
Or let’s say she likes nursing. While feeding is usually reserved for the end, there’s no rule saying you can’t start off with nursing instead. This could help her calm down for the rest of the evening while you do the other activities to get ready for bed.
3. Do the routine where your baby will sleep
Do you do the bedtime routine in a separate part of the house from where your baby will eventually sleep?
For instance, you might change diapers and nurse her in your room before carrying her to the crib in hers. Or you read books in the living room before transitioning over to where she’ll sleep for the night.
The trouble with this is that the room she’ll be sleeping in might feel so different from where she had been doing the routine all this time. Imagine relaxing with a good book in the living room, only to have to get up to sleep in your bedroom.
If you find that she gets upset when you put her down in her room, try doing the routine there instead. That way, she had already been in her room for the whole evening—the transition to sleeping will feel much smoother.
4. Spend time in your baby’s room during the day
How much time do you spend in your baby’s room during the day? If you’re like me, perhaps not much. You might do tummy time or fold laundry in the living room. Save for diaper changes and, of course, sleep, you might hardly spend time where she sleeps.
You can imagine how unfamiliar her room might feel. No wonder she cries the minute you step in to do the bedtime routine.
Today, try to spend time in her room beyond what you usually do. Play with toys, read books, make funny faces—all these experiences will help her associate her room with something positive.
That way, she doesn’t see her room as just for sleeping or, worse, time away from you. Instead, it’s a source of joy and fun as well.
5. Start the routine earlier
One of the biggest culprit of a bedtime routine gone wrong is that your baby is already overtired by that point. Nothing you do will matter—even her favorite activities—if she’s already miserable to begin with.
If you suspect that she’s simply too tired, start the routine earlier than usual. Watch for tired signs that signal she’s ready to wind down, and start the routine before you see too many of them.
You can also track the time. If she can only stay awake for two hours and your routine takes 45 minutes, start the bedtime routine an hour and 15 minutes before you put her down.
Either way, aim for an earlier bedtime to help her catch up on lost sleep should she need to. An earlier bedtime could mean avoiding potential crankiness in the early evening.
6. Experiment with a night light
For some parents, the bedtime routine goes much smoother once they installed a night light. Babies don’t always understand object permanence, or the idea that something can still exist even if they don’t see it.
Installing a night light can help your baby see her room, easing fears she might have that come with the dark. The room should still be dark enough that she knows it’s time for sleep, but a night light will avoid leaving it pitch black.
7. Keep evening activities subdued
One simple hack that can help your baby stay calm is to simply keep your activities subdued. Keep at least those 20 minutes before you start the routine calm and relaxing. You might want to dim the lights, lower any sounds, or keep your movements slow-paced.
You can also hold her on your shoulder and drape a blanket over her to block out stimulating sights. Being held in your arms while keeping her environment dark and subdued can help her settle into the routine.
It’s pretty hard to rely on a bedtime routine when your baby wants nothing of it. Thankfully, you can try a few tricks to help her take to her evening rituals.
Don’t feel compelled to include activities she doesn’t like into your bedtime routine—it’s totally fine to do them at another time. If she cries the instant she senses the bedtime routine, start with an activity she likes.
Do most of the routine in her room (or the room she’ll eventually sleep in) so the transition doesn’t feel so different. In fact, spend time in her room during the day so she associates it with positive experiences. If you suspect she’s overtired, start the routine earlier while she’s still content.
Experiment with a night light to ease fears of the dark she might have. And lastly, keep your evenings subdued—this will help her calm down enough to start the routine.
Bedtime routines are important—and now you can finally say you have one that works.
Get more tips:
- Top Children’s Books about Bedtime
- Baby Playing in the Crib Instead of Sleeping? Here’s What to Do
- Effective Techniques to Help Your Child’s Separation Anxiety at Night
- Adjusting to Motherhood and Life with a Baby
- A New Mom’s Guide to a Baby Fighting Sleep
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