One of the greatest challenges for new parents is when their baby won’t sleep. So often new parents are told to “sleep when baby sleeps.” But what happens when your baby just won’t sleep or at least won’t sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time? That is often when parents start to research how to help their baby sleep better.
Teaching your baby to learn healthy sleep habits is something the whole family benefits from. Your baby is not overtired or quite as fussy and mom and dad feel like they are able to better parent their baby when the whole family is getting some sleep. For those you who might be struggling with a poorly sleeping baby, here are 5 tips to help your baby go to sleep easier:
1. Develop a Good Sleep Routine – Babies and toddlers thrive on routine and predictability. With good nap and bedtime routines, your baby or toddler will know what to expect and will start to welcome sleep as part of their day. We recommend starting your bedtime routine 20-30 minutes before bedtime and can include diaper and pajamas, breastfeeding/bottle/cup (for babies under 2), teeth brushing, potty (if applicable), reading, cuddling, and then lights out. Your nap routine will be similar to the bedtime routine, but is usually about 10 minutes long.
A sleep routine does not have to include a bath. Often a baby or toddler does need a bath each night and, if a child is spirited, a bath may actually do more to energize the child than calm him. Consider moving bath time to the afternoon if you think it’s not a good fit with the bedtime routine.
2. Schedule an Early Bedtime – You’ve likely heard it before: Sleep begets sleep. An early bedtime is a key element to a good night’s sleep for baby. When babies and young children become overtired, they often have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep or will wake too early in the morning. Sometimes parents are told to keep a baby up later as way to get him to sleep later, but the opposite is actually true. An earlier bedtime is usually recommended to help with early morning waking.
3. Ensure Baby Takes Naps – Good naps during the day are also essential to better sleep at night. We recommend that naps last at least an hour and are in a quiet place. Moving naps, such as in a car, stroller or swing are not quite as a restful. Shorter, more frequent naps are quite common for babies under 6 months of age. Awake time for newborns can sometimes be as short as an hour before they need a nap. Learn and watch for your baby’s sleep cues to help find a good nap schedule for your baby.
4. Avoid Sleep Associations – Babies, like all humans, have natural sleep cycles, which means that they will wake periodically during the night. Often new parents will use a soothing device or action, like a pacifier, bottle, nursing, or rocking to help their baby sleep, which baby cannot replicate on his own when he awakens between sleep cycles. When baby cannot go back to sleep, he will likely cry out for Mom or Dad to help him. Sleep associations are often at the root of many baby sleep problems. This is why you will so often hear the advice to put baby in bed drowsy but awake. This is so he is given the opportunity to learn to fall asleep on his own which will also help him be able to go back to sleep at night when he wakes.
5. Manage Night Feedings – Through the first nine months, it is considered normal for babies to eat one or two times during the night. Some babies stop much sooner on their own or with a little nudge from mom. If your baby is eating more than 1 to 2 per night or she is older than, you may want to consider cutting back (or cutting out) night feedings. All babies are different and experts disagree as to when feeding baby at night should stop. As parents, we know our babies best and we are the ones who are best able to determine whether our baby still needs to feed at night, More than two feedings after three months old though and you will likely want to assess if there is a developing sleep association with nursing or the bottle.
Every family’s situation is unique and our philosophy is that there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to your baby’s sleep. It takes courage and dedication to work through your baby’s sleep issues but the time you spend teaching your baby healthy sleep habits will be worth it for both you and your baby.
For additional help in creating a plan to help your baby learn to sleep better, we offer The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep eBook . This eBook offers a judgment free approach to helping your baby sleep through the night and is designed to condense all the baby sleep information out there so that you can be better informed to make the right decisions about your baby’s sleep that find what works for your family.
The Giveaway – 2 Winners
The Prizes (2): One (1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card + one (1) winner will receive The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep eBook.
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Giveaway ends: June 19, 2012 @ 11:59 PM EST
The Baby Sleep Site™ is owned and operated by Nicole Johnson, a baby and toddler sleep coach, wife, and the mother of two young boys. Thousands of parents visit The Baby Sleep Site™ each month to find solutions for their children’s sleep problems, including personalized, one-on-one sleep consultations, comprehensive e-books on sleeping through the night, improving naps, and establishing routines and schedules, free articles on timely topics, and a strong community.
image: “Baby Maximus” by bonesdog (cc)