One of the issues new parents talk about is baby sleep.
Since every baby is unique, you’ll know what works for your little one as you go along. Yet all babies have some common denominators. One is that they get tired eventually and need to sleep!
Start by making sure you get enough rest. One of the telltale signs of a tired baby is moodiness during the day. Parents are no different when tiredness catches up with them.
Here’s what you can do to help prevent that:
- Resist the urge to clean the house and fold laundry at the expense of a good nap.
- Delegate chores, including walks with baby, if that is what it takes for you to have an uninterrupted nap.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule at least for the first year. It helps both you and baby.
7 steps to help baby sleep
Though the many milestones in a baby’s first year of life will alter their sleep schedule, having a routine in place will make it easier to get back on track.
Here are the steps that can help you and baby get closer to restful nights.
1. Learning about daytime versus nighttime
A newborn’s understanding of day and night is rather limited. They feed, sleep, dirty their diapers, and then repeat without much consideration about whether it’s day or night. That is until you help them learn the difference.
Newborn babies sleep for approximately 16 or more hours every day, broken into six or seven naps and longer sleep episodes. In order to help your little one learn about daytime versus nighttime, allow for some noise and light during the day. Make sure you take them outside, as natural light helps their internal clock make proper adjustments. Get them used to napping with house sounds, and don’t pull the curtains all the way.
Nighttime sleep, on the other hand, should be in a quiet location, with lights off and noises kept to a lower level if possible.
2. Naps during the day
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but a tired baby won’t settle easier or sleep better at night. Newborn babies will sleep when tired, period. From 4 months to 1 year, most babies have two naps a day but some go for three or even four.
Keep the nap time regular but remember that babies change their habits when they teethe, have a cold, or travel. Naps should not go over more than three or four hours, especially the last nap of the day, as it can interfere with nighttime sleep.
3. Keep a log
Whether you keep a journal or not in general, get one going for baby’s naps and sleep times.
You can keep track of changes and patterns, and you can always look back when the times are challenging. Also, should you need to consult a professional, you’ll have a helpful tool at hand.
4. Bedtime routines are a must
If there’s one thing that you can gift your child (and yourself), it’s a bedtime routine:
- Get baby in a bath, followed by a soothing massage using baby oil.
- Dim the lights and get ready to nurse them or give them a bottle, but not in bed and lying down, as that will encourage them to fall asleep.
- Snuggle with baby to read a bedtime book. Choose one with images and few words and one that is charming enough since you’ll be reading it again and again for a while.
- Sing them a lullaby and get them drowsy enough but not completely asleep as you put them down, so that they’ll notice the transition but not stir enough to cry or come fully awake again.
- Keep it short, sweet, and consistent. Knowing what to expect next will help your little one be calm and feel safe as you exit the bedroom. Every baby is different and some are more anxious than others. Be ready to spend a while gently patting their back and singing them a lullaby until they’re calm and sleepy enough.
5. No falling asleep while eating
Unless you’re willing to put yourself and baby through the misery of having to get the baby weaned off of one major source of comfort later on, don’t let them fall asleep at the breast.
While some babies can do well with weaning themselves off the habit as they grow up, some will become very dependent and therefore use it as a sleep prop for a long time. Remove the breast or bottle gently before the deep slumber. Start this as early as you can, as babies’ sleep routines get well-established by 4 to 6 months.
6. Stick with boundaries
Rocking a baby to sleep is the perfect thing to do on any given day, and for a reason. Hugging baby will help them calm down and feel safe. The bond with mom will only grow stronger due to the hormone oxytocin, secreted during nursing and cuddling.
Bedtime and nighttime snuggles should not get them completely asleep so that they end up alone and cry for help. Whether you opt to have baby in your bedroom or in a nursery, keep the routine consistent, even at 2 a.m. when determination levels are low. It pays off in the long run as your baby begins to sleep for longer stretches. Five hours is considered sleeping through the night for a baby 4 months and younger.
7. Be flexible, but stick with the routine
Having a cold will disrupt baby’s sleep for a while. So might teething, traveling, moving, and other unforeseen events that break the routine, including having a babysitter.
Do your best to keep their hours consistent and the steps leading to bedtime unchanged.
Cry it out or not?
Some parents swear that letting their babies cry it out teaches them self-soothing and encourages them to become independent.
While research other than anecdotal is scarce, opponents argue that crying alone can harm a baby’s trust and sense of safety, as babies normally cry as a way to communicate. It may also distress the parent during a process that should be calm and pleasant for both parent and baby.
All babies go through ups and down as they learn to settle to sleep. The newborn slumber might become a restless process for a while, then go back to sound sleeping. The good news is that most children will eventually sleep at night, unless medical issues cause them to have a troubled sleep. Contact a doctor if you suspect a sleep disorder.
The magic of getting baby to sleep lies with you ensuring a consistent routine that allows them to relax and feel safe. Remember to get your sleep. Most of all, remember that no matter how challenging some baby days and nights may be, you will one day miss it all, sleeplessness included.