Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in life! Amid all the congratulations and excitement, it is inevitable that people will also offer the advice to “get as much sleep as you can now!” as if you will never sleep again!! All of that advice gave me great anxiety before we had our first son. Thankfully, I learned that babies can be taught how to sleep– it takes work and consistency, but it can be done! As a professional sleep consultant, I have seen countless babies learn to sleep better using the following tips!
Here are 3 hacks to help improve nighttime sleep for your baby (and ultimately for you!)*
One of the most important practices you can implement when teaching your baby how to sleep is a bedtime routine. You want to create a bedtime routine that is predictable, short, and happens about the same time every night. This bedtime routine will help baby begin to recognize that it is time to go to sleep. Some bedtime routine ideas include a diaper change, baby massage, putting on pajamas, reading a book, singing a song, nursing or bottle feeding, putting on a sleep sack/swaddle, and turning on the white noise machine. What you decide for the bedtime routine is up to what is best for the family–but whatever you decide, you want to be consistent so baby can start to learn the routine! The bedtime routine should last anywhere between 20-30 minutes, long enough to help baby wind down from the day, but short enough to not feel like bedtime is dragging on and on. You will want to make sure you include the bedtime feeding in the routine! You want your baby to have a full belly to help them sleep longer through the night–just don’t let them fall asleep while eating!
Another crucial step in helping your baby sleep better at night is ensuring he or she gets restful, restorative naps throughout the day! An overtired baby at bedtime will have a harder time going to sleep and staying asleep. The age of the baby affects the amount of daytime sleep that is needed. For example, a 3 month old baby should get about 4-5 hours of daytime sleep in naps. A 6 month old baby needs about 3 hours of daytime sleep in naps and that amount continues to go down as they grow. Helping baby learn to take good naps will ultimately help baby get better nighttime sleep as well! Sleep begets sleep meaning, the more your baby sleeps, the more your baby will sleep. Sleep is so important for so many reasons–so really try to get good, solid naps that last over an hour to help your baby sleep better at night!
After a good day of naps and a solid bedtime routine, you are now READY to lay your fully fed baby in his or her crib awake. Lying your baby in the crib awake and teaching him to put himself to sleep is one of the most important ways you can encourage your baby to sleep well in the long run. All babies (like adults, although we often do not even remember it because we quickly can put ourselves back to sleep) will wake up in the middle of the night, and when babies are able to put themselves to sleep for bedtime, they are able to put themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night! Being able to do this will help baby get better consolidated sleep throughout the night because they will not need to rely on outside factors such as a bottle, nursing, or rocking to put them back to sleep!
Here’s to a good night’s sleep–for baby, and for you!
*please note that it is normal and expected for newborns and infants to wake to eat in the middle of the night. This tips here are to help encourage your baby to sleep better and longer when they are able to go longer between feedings. If baby is hungry, always feed baby! Consult with a pediatrician before working to drop middle of the night feedings.
Abby is a professional sleep consultant with Sleep Baby Sleep Consulting. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and two boys (ages 2 and 7 months!) Abby loves helping moms and dads teach their babies to sleep! Check out the website at www.sleepbabyconsulting.com, the facebook page at facebook.com/sleepbabyconsulting, or feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.