The reality of habits is that (a) they can be hard to break and (b) they are not always bad. Take away one habit and you often need to find something to take its place. In the case of the bedtime breast or bottle, be reassured that we don’t intend to leave you empty-handed once you take away your baby’s primary source of bedtime comfort.
These 4 B's of bedtime will provide you with a soothing substitute that has proven to be one of our most tried-and-true routines for bedtime success — both for babies and older children.
- Bathing. Baths are a soothing, hygienic, and decisive way of separating the evening’s eating activities from sleeping. No way aroun it—only the unbelievably fatigued child will sleep his way through a bath. That means that when feeding time is over, your child will get the message that eating is not in any way, shape, or form a cue to go to sleep.
- Brushing. Whether you choose to brush your child’s teeth (or gums) right after the last feeding or just before the actual bedtime itself, we strongly encourage you to get in the habit of having a toothbrush (or washcloth or gauze) be the last thing in your baby’s mouth at night (other than, perhaps, a clean pacifier during the first year as an added method of sudden infant death syndrome prevention).
- Books. We’ve found nothing more suitable as a breast/bottle stand-in than books at bedtime. Since you don’t want food or drink to become your child’s bedtime source of comfort, books can serve as the perfect cue that it’s time to cuddle up and go to sleep. Think about what happens when you’re tired and you try to read? Bingo—you fall asleep. When it comes to lifelong healthy habits, we can’t think of a better one.
- Bedtime. Short of drugging kids (which we don’t condone, no matter how tired or tempted you might be), it’s mighty hard to force a child to fall asleep. We suggest you stop trying and instead stick to implementing a routine time for your child to get ready for and get into bed. Once you’ve set the stage so that bathing, brushing, and books signal bedtime, you should just let your child fall asleep independently. Sure, this may involve some additional challenges, protests, and even the need to consult additional parenting resources (of which, we can assure you, there are many), but in the end we have always found that if you do a good job of making the bed, your child will learn to lie in it.