As any parent knows, a good baby sleep schedule is crucial for the well-being of the entire family. Obtaining healthy, consistent sleep may sound like an impossible and unachievable goal for new parents! I’ve been there. But as the newborn days pass into a more regular schedule, it’s possible to encourage your baby into a sleep schedule that will serve everyone. Getting your infant into a sleep rhythm will also make for a happier and more well-rested baby and parents. These tips will help you help your baby (and family) sleep at predictable and reasonable times.
I am not an expert on infant sleep. I speak from my experience with our three kids. All three have extremely different sleeping habits but are great sleepers overall because of these tips! I hope they can help other caregivers find peace with their decisions.
Watch Your Baby – Not the Clock
Getting your baby on a consistent sleep schedule begins by first taking time to observe them. What are their biological rhythms already communicating? When they wake in the morning, note how long they are alert and happy before showing signs of sleepiness. These signs are usually eye rubbing, crankiness, yawning, or “zoning out” and are easy to notice. Red eyebrows are also a (weird but accurate) signal that your baby is getting sleepy. Instead of forcing them into a rigid schedule, use these natural rhythms as your cue. At the first sight of these signals, you can lay your baby down, and let them rest.
Wear Your Baby Out for a Predictable Sleep Schedule
Before your desired nap time, make sure your baby has had enough stimulation to tucker him out. Very young babies require very little stimulation, so don’t overdo it. Reading picture books with your baby, playing with a toy, doing tummy time, and dancing while singing songs are just some examples of ways you can make sure your newborn burns some good energy before their nap. Watch for signs of overstimulation, such as frowning or pouting, turning his head and looking away, and of course, crying.
Do Not Let Your Baby Become Overly Tired
One would think that the best nap would follow the most active, stimulating day out and about, but this usually is not the case. A baby that is wound up from too much excitement is usually the hardest to put to sleep. Errands out of the house are enormously stimulating and tiring for young babies, so limit these as much as possible. The phrase “sleep begets sleep” rings true for babies of any age; the more quality daytime sleep they get, the better their nighttime sleep will be. Watch diligently for cues of sleepiness when you know it is nearing the time that baby will need a nap and put them to sleep before they get overtired. Do not miss the window for a smooth baby sleep schedule!
Eat, Play, Sleep for a Predictable Baby Schedule
A good schedule to try and establish with a young baby is to eat upon waking up, have some playtime, then be soothed into sleep. The goal is to avoid training your child to only go to sleep on a full stomach or to require being nursed to sleep for each nap and bedtime. If your baby is accustomed to these things, it is more likely they will take shorter naps that are the length of only one sleep cycle, which is usually around 40 minutes. If they require food to go back to sleep, they may struggle to connect their sleep cycles for longer naps. Other tools to help them connect baby sleep cycles are black-out curtains to keep the room as dark as possible and a sound machine to soothe the other noises of the house while they nap.
Establish A Naptime and Bedtime Routine to Ease Into a Baby Sleep Schedule
Just like adults, babies need time to wind down from their activities and get into “sleep mode.” You probably have a routine before sleeping, like washing your face, brushing your teeth then reading in bed. A routine helps your baby know exactly what’s about to happen and signals to him that he will be sleeping soon. A routine for an infant before sleeping does not have to be long or drawn out; a simple one is fine. An example is: change their diaper, read a story, turn on the sound machine, swaddle (if not rolling over yet), rock while singing a certain song, then lay the baby down with a kiss.
While there is no “magic trick” to get the perfect baby sleep schedule every day of their life, these tips are good to establish early in their life to get them accustomed to a routine from their earliest days. Keep in mind that flexibility is crucial to every aspect of parenting. There will be some seasons when your baby will nap beautifully, and some days that are simply hard on both of you. Sleep regressions happen periodically as your little one hits new milestones – but can be overcome by calm and consistent parents. Keep implementing these tips and enjoy the quality of life that comes with a well-rested, happy baby.
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