4 Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep Better
Editor’s Note: I’m very excited to welcome this guest post from Dana Obleman from SleepSense.net. Dana is a parenting and sleep consultant and is here today to talk about one of my favorite topics: how to get your little one to sleep better! You can check out her Sleep Sense Program here.
“What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.”
If you’re the parent of a child who isn’t sleeping, you might not need a lot of motivation to make a change. You’re probably dreading another night of laying baby down in her crib and then sitting quietly in the most soundproof location you can find, watching TV with the closed captioning turned on and furiously scanning the road outside the front window so you can catch the UPS guy before he rings the doorbell.
I want you to cling tightly to that motivation, because parents are resilient creatures, and we can adapt to almost anything, including sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, requests for advice on the subject are typically met with unhelpful clichés like, “Welcome to motherhood,” or “Enjoy it while it lasts! Before you know it they’ll be wrecking your car.” Ha ha ha! Nobody appreciates a dumb, moldy joke like someone on two hours’ sleep.
While it’s true that a lot of new parents are going to miss out on some sleep, and that kids eventually stop demanding their parents’ attention at night, people who try to tell you that there’s nothing you can do to help your child sleep through the night are, quite simply, wrong. Sleeping is a skill, and like any other skill, it needs to be learned and practiced.
Now, I won’t kid you into thinking everything will be fine overnight, but I do know a few troubleshooting techniques that often show dramatic improvement right away.
You read that right. These tips are going to improve your baby’s sleep, starting tonight.
1. Hello darkness, my old friend.
Light, natural or artificial, sends a message to our brains that it’s daytime, and not time to sleep. Melatonin production is triggered by darkness, so start turning down the lights an hour before you plan to put baby down. (Especially electronic screens, which emit a blue light that is particularly inimical to baby’s shut-down process.)
For babies who wake up early, invest in some blackout blinds. You can get a decent set for under $30, and I’ve had many parents tell me it’s the best money they ever spent.
2. Turn down the heat
New parents can be obsessive over their babies’ comfort, and making sure they’re warm enough while Mom and Dad are out of the room for the night is such a basic instinct that people tend to overdo it.
Babies, like their grownup counterparts, sleep best when they’re warm and snuggly inside of a cool environment. A warm nighttime onesie and a cool nursery, somewhere around 65°F and 70°F (18°C – 21°C) is the best way to ensure that baby remains comfortable through the night.
3. Keep it boring
I know we all love the look of a cute, elegant mobile over the top of our baby’s crib, or the sounds of the little faux-aquarium with the little plastic light-up fish, but even though they may seem soothing to us, they can be a real source of fascination for your little one, which is great! Just not when they’re trying to sleep. To a baby, they can be the equivalent of a big budget action movie, so keep visual stimulation away from the crib.
A white noise machine can help to block out any outside noise that might jar baby into waking up, and a yellow night light can keep toddlers from getting spooked by the darkness, but other than that, the more boring your child’s bedroom is, the better they’ll sleep.
4. Be predictable
A well-planned, consistent bedtime routine is conducive to a good night’s sleep, no matter what your age, but particularly with babies. Once their bodies and brains start to recognize the signals that indicate an upcoming bedtime, they will start preparing to pack it in for the evening as soon as that first step begins.
Their energy levels will start to wind down, melatonin production will kick in, and muscles will start to relax, so by the time you’re giving them a goodnight kiss, their system should be all set for a long, restorative sleep.
Teaching your child great sleep skills isn’t a one-night operation. It takes some time, a lot of repetition, and plenty of discipline and diligence on the part of the parents, but for those of you who are desperate for just a little bit of relief, these tips should help you and your little one get a few more hours of shut-eye, starting tonight.
You can work on the rest of if once you’ve had a little rest.