The end of the day, when parents return from work and siblings come home from school, can be a high-stress time for everyone, including a baby.
The key to a smooth transition at this time of day is to follow a routine and keep things simple.
Frequently, one parent takes over baby care while the other prepares the evening meal. If the parents haven’t seen the baby all day, the reunion can be pretty exciting and, sometimes, overstimulating for the baby. General fussiness, long bouts of crying, and difficulty getting down for the night are frequent results.
To avoid this unpleasantness, look for signals that your baby may be getting frazzled and try to adjust your approach accordingly.
Watch for yawning, fidgeting, flushing or mottling of the skin, and reluctance to look you in the eye and smile. If the baby shows any of these signs, tone down the environment, cutting out excess noise and activity.
Some babies, of course, are more adaptable than others and actually seem to thrive on end-of-day excitement. If yours is one of these, enjoy. If not, try to adjust your evening activities to accommodate the baby’s needs.
Whether you include the baby in the family meal by giving her a bottle or nursing while you sit down at the table is a matter of personal preference.
If you prefer a quiet, uninterrupted dinner, it’s probably better to put off eating until the baby is sleeping (but that may not happen until fairly late).
Either way, a soothing bedtime routine just before or after the baby’s last nighttime feeding will be helpful. You may want to include a bath, depending on whether the baby responds to water by relaxing or getting wound up.
A diaper and clothing change should also be part of the routine, as should a period of rocking, listening to soft music, or other quiet activity. Do not, however, get into the habit of nursing or rocking the baby to sleep at night.