Babies and sleep are tricky. Sometimes they sleep when you don’t want them to, while others don’t really sleep much at all. The key to forming good sleep habits is to get your baby on a routine. This can take time, practice, and most of all, patience.
When a baby is first born, they often have day and night confusion. This means they are up during the middle of the night, and they sleep all day. This can be reversed with some efforts and time.
For example, you should keep your house lit up and airy during the day. Your baby should be stimulated, played with, and put on a regular feeding schedule. Try to keep them up as long as you can.
At night, your home should be filled with dim lights or darkness, quiet voices and environment, and filled with soft, soothing lullaby tunes in the background. Eventually, your baby will pick up on these cues and get things straight.
But, what happens when your newborn isn’t “new” to sleep anymore? Meaning, they start to test the waters when it comes to being put down for nap and bedtime. There are a few key things you can do to help them be comfortable taking a rest.
You can give them a bath before bedtime. Fill your tub with warm water and massage your baby with calming lavender lotion to initial sleep. Rock them in your arms or let them sway in your baby swing.
The important thing to remember is babies love routine and rely on it daily. So, whatever you do before your baby goes down for the night, you should be doing religiously every night.
You could also start to try sleep training methods such as the Ferber method. This involves meeting your baby’s needs through feeding and diapering, and then letting them put themselves to sleep by self-soothing.
Sleep training is usually introduced around six to nine months of age, and is very effective.
Here are some important do’s and don’ts when it comes to getting your little one to sleep:
- Stay calm. Your baby will pick up if you’re feeling stressed, angry, or frustrated.
- Play background noise. The womb is a pretty loud place, so when you remove sound, silence can actually be scary to a baby. A good sound machine will do the trick.
- Feed your baby before putting them to sleep so they are full and tired from the process.
- Make sure your baby is nice and dry. Always change their diaper before going in their crib.Try to tire them out before bed. There’s nothing like a dose of fresh air to make them totally exhausted.
- Swaddle your baby. This helps reduce any waking reflexes and keeps them bundled up nice and tight like a burrito.
- Try aromatherapy. Whether you massage your baby with soothing lotion or diffuse calming scents, aromatherapy can make a baby sleepy.
- Keep your baby’s room a nice and even temperature. Not too warm and not too cool, 68-72 degrees will do the trick!
- Let them cry it out for 10 minute bouts (if you're up for it). Eventually when your baby learns you are nearby and are not going to pick them up, they need to work it out and go to sleep.
- Ignore your baby if they are wailing for an hour. They may need something or be sick.
- Always give your baby a pacifier to go to bed. They will never learn to self-soothe and put themselves to sleep.
- Give your baby a pillow. Pillows, crib bumpers, and stuffed animals can restrict airflow in the crib and contribute to SIDS.
- Put your baby in their crib right away. Keep your baby in a bassinet near your bed so you closely monitor them and feed them with ease, at least for the first month.
- Dress them in long sleeves or heavy fabric in the summer. This may lead to lack of sleep, or overheating.
- Put your baby to bed with a bottle. Not only is it a choking hazard, it could lead to poor dental hygiene, aka bottle rot.
Bedtime should be a pleasant and soothing experience for your little one. It helps them (and you) get some much needed rest and relaxation.
While getting your baby to sleep through the night and self-soothe can take some time, it will happen.
Be patient and follow some of the do’s and don’ts outlined above to get off to a great sleeping start!