Every day, someone messages me asking, “How do I get my little one to sleep?”
Although my answer varies based on the situation, there are certain sleep fundamentals I refer back to regularly. These sleep fundamentals are little things every parent can do to help their baby develop independent, consistent sleep habits.
Sleep is so important to babies – especially in the first year of life!
While they sleep, they grow, recharge, heal, and restore. This is why babies will nap anywhere from 3 to 5 times a day for the first 7 to 9 months of their life.
At around 7 to 9 months, they will usually drop down to two naps a day and by 15-18 months most babies transition to one mid-day nap.
It’s important that we offer our babies the opportunity to sleep throughout the day, not just for growth and development but also because great nappers tend to become solid night sleepers! The more consistent we can be with our baby’s sleep routine, the more sleep our baby will tend to get.
Here are some of my foundational sleep tips. Utilize these with your baby to start establishing a solid sleep routine.
First things first — make sure that your baby’s room is ideal for sleep. You will want a dark room that is not too hot or too cold - ideally 68-72 degrees, along with a loud sound machine.
It should be pitch black so that no light comes in from the outside (you shouldn’t be able to see your hand when held up in front of you). This will help to extend naps but also to keep the light out in the early mornings so your baby doesn’t wake too early.
The sound machine will run the duration of the nap or bedtime, and it will help block out noise, and also comfort your baby. Make sure you use white noise or rain, as you want the sound consistent without variation that can impact the sleep cycles.
Lastly, you want to make sure that the temperature of the room is not too hot or too cold. A baby’s temperature fluctuates through different sleep cycles so you want to make sure the room feels just right.
Put your baby down awake, always.
Don’t rock or feed your baby to sleep. That teaches your baby to rely on you to fall asleep. Instead put your baby down awake, to help your baby learn how to put themselves to sleep. This builds a lifelong skill and will ease your burden, as babies who can put themselves to sleep, can also do so during the night when shifting between sleep cycles.
Make sure your baby is full before putting him or her down at night.
Once your baby is old enough and big enough (given your doctor’s approval) they can begin consuming all their calories during the daytime hours, so that they no longer require a nighttime feed. Full feedings throughout the day help to ensure your baby is well fed before bedtime, which means they have the potential to sleep all night long.
Don’t let your baby get overtired.
The wake time of your baby will vary depending on their age, ranging anywhere from 35 minutes to four hours. You want to find their ideal wake time and follow their sleep cues to get them down for both naps and bedtime more easily.
We all struggle trying to wind down when we are overstimulated and overtired and it is even harder on our little ones! Their brains are growing constantly and giving them time to gently fall into sleep rather than passing out from exhaustion greatly impacts their nightly sleep patterns.
Routine. Routine. Routine.
Establishing a sleep routine for both nap time and bedtime is huge. Babies LOVE routine and knowing what to expect. Knowing what to expect builds security and confidence.
Make your routine sustainable, with lots of affectionate and soothing tones, and get in all your cuddles before bed. The things you do will start to become sleep cues for your little one, making the process of putting them to bed easier with consistency. Plus the songs or prayers, the affection, and winding down after a long day are a great way to bond with your little one.
As you begin to implement these sleep foundations with your little one, give you and your baby some grace as you make these adjustments. Baby steps for the baby — and for mom and dad. Try and be consistent and you will slowly start to find your rhythm. If you need more support send me a DM on Instagram @sleepshopconsulting or email me from my website www.sleepshopoc.com.
I am passionate about sleep but love more than anything helping families find a routine that works for them and I am here to support you every step of the way!
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