Great infant sleep is something that is attainable. The simple truth is that babies just don’t know how to have a good night's sleep. Following our Sleep Steps will help your child get good restful sleep.
Create the right environment
If you’re at your wits end when it comes to good sleep for your baby, one of the fastest ways to successful sleep is with the ideal sleeping environment. Just as you (or your spouse!) prefer a certain temperature, lighting, and atmosphere for your room, so will your baby. It’s a matter of finding the right fit for your family!
The essentials for a cozy, sleep friendly environment are:
Keep the little one in a dark room
Even the tiniest bit of light peeking into a room can make it difficult for baby to stay asleep. Light is stimulating for babies and just as it does with adults, it turns off the sleep hormone, melatonin, in the brain. In the evening, verify there is no light in the room by turning off all of the lights. Then look for any brightness illuminating from devices such as humidifiers, video monitors, light switches, or sound machines and cover them. Black electrical tape will work well for this.
Add white noise, especially while sleeping
Having a white noise machine running can be beneficial to the baby’s sleep and yours, if you are room sharing. Keep in mind the womb is loud, so having no noise once the baby enters the world is jarring to their ears. Don’t shut off the sound of white noise during naps and nights, as it can disrupt a baby’s sleep. Bring the same white noise for travel because it maintains a sense of familiarity and doesn’t break established sleep patterns.
A cool temperature prevents restless nights
The ideal temperature for the baby’s room is 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you have an accurate reading of the actual temperature of the room your baby is sleeping in, rather than relying on a thermostat in another room. Don’t know if your baby is the right temperature? Feel the back of his or her neck. If it is cool add a layer. If your baby is sweaty or seems flush, remove a layer. Your baby’s hands and feet may seem cold. Their circulatory system is still developing, and blood is directed to more vital organs.
Keep your baby in a snug swaddle
Swaddling provides the comforting embrace that babies crave. Being snugly wrapped helps a baby sleep longer and more soundly. Other benefits of swaddling your baby include:
- Limiting startle reflexes which prevents unnecessary wake-ups
- Helping with discomfort from colic
- Keeping a baby “organized” and calm, especially during fussy or overtired times.
A swaddle every night keeps your baby sleeping!
Establish a safe place for baby
Whether you choose a crib, bassinet, or playpen, having your baby sleep in the same safe place each night is important. Whatever you choose for your baby to sleep in ensure that the sleep surface is flat and firm, without any loose bedding. Keep toys and other items out of the sleep area. Finally, infants should always be placed on their back to sleep.
Upgrade your sleep environment with the Crib Cuddler
As part of creating the right environment, make use of the Crib Cuddler. It’s fixed U-shaped feature, or the Cuddler, mimics the cradling sensation of being held. The Crib Cuddler has no loose or movable parts and it’s Cuddler is sewn directly into the mattress pad. It comes in a crib or playpen edition to help keep your baby’s environment the same. Wherever you are, the Crib Cuddler keeps your baby feeling cozy and nestled.
Pick the right schedule
Create a schedule that works for your baby and family. Babies thrive when provided consistent schedules and routines. You can start bedtime routines as soon as seven to eight weeks old. If you don’t know how to begin that is fine. Here is a basic schedule you can use initially. You will need to make adjustments as you go.
Here is a basic schedule you can use initially. You will need to make adjustments as you go:
Feeding + bed
When you first bring your baby home, their awake times are much shorter than the schedule above. Every individual is different and for the first few weeks of life, a routine is tough to stick to. As they get older and gain weight, their awake time starts to increase a little more each week. As you learn to recognize your baby’s hunger and sleep cues you can adjust your schedule accordingly. When you do start to have regularity with a nightly routine you’ll want to decrease nighttime stimulation as well.
More about picking the right schedule
Making small changes to your baby’s schedule can make a huge impact. You will start to see results as you are consistent. Note that even when you’ve established a routine, there may be times where you regress. Don’t forget that some days will be better than others and you are not alone in this! It may be frustrating, but it is also normal. Continue following your routines and schedule and good results will come.
Here are some guiding principles to help you define your sleep schedule:
Keep sleep routines simple. Naptime and bedtime routines do not need to be fancy or particular. While there may be elements in the routine that vary, like reading a different book or taking a bath before starting the bedtime wind-down, consistency in activities at the end of the day is key.
Your routine should be less than 30 minutes. For your sanity as well as to match a baby’s natural brain function, you will want bedtimes to be within a 30 minute range each night.
Sleep begets sleep. A later bedtime results in more wake-ups at night and creates a restless baby. Focus on good daytime sleep, this builds a habit for consistent nighttime sleep. The length of the naps is nothing to stress about. Continue to offer naps and they will start to consolidate with longer times and less frequent naps.
Afternoon naps can be hard. Don’t give up! Many of the issues parents face with bedtime are tied to the afternoon nap. Sometimes the last nap doesn’t exist, or it was short, or it started just before bedtime, or maybe the last nap was just a struggle. The last nap of the day, the ‘bridge nap’, can often be a challenge for babies and their parents. You are not alone if you struggle with this!
Breaks in the routine happen. Routines help babies feel comforted and safe. Remember that babies’ schedules can be flexible. On occasion, you might have to pick up your other kiddo at school, have an appointment, or want to run out for lunch one day with a friend. These are all ok and you can adjust naptime around getting out of the house.
Bedtime doesn’t have to be late. Bedtime is typically between 7 to 8:30 pm for most babies. However, for some, bedtime can be as early as 6 to 6:30pm. Earlier bedtimes work well for certain families, or on certain days. The time you start your bedtime routine can also depend on when the last nap ended. If you find your baby waking early, try adjusting their bedtime.
Don’t overlook your child’s age! Every baby, depending on their age, will have different waking times, awake hours, and bedtimes. Your desired wake time, commonly referred to as DWT, can be a little different for your 3 week old from when they are 3 months, your schedule can be flexible. In infancy, you may offer feeds every two to three hours while you also look for the hunger cues to feed more often if needed. Once your baby is a little older, be sure to check with your pediatrician, it might just be time to quit waking your baby to feed at night... and time to get some more sleep!
Use the same place every night. The number one thing to remember is to do the routine in the same place each night, or as often as possible. This builds a sense of familiarity for your baby. It is confusing if you rock your baby to sleep, place them in the crib, and they then wake up and wonder how they got there. It works the other way too, if your baby falls asleep in their crib and then wakes up in a different place confusion is often caused. Imagine going to sleep in your own bed and waking up at the neighbor’s house, it would be confusing (and not fun to explain to your family either)!
A quick reference of Crib Cuddler Tips & Tricks for your sleep schedule:
- Establish a bedtime routine around seven to eight weeks of age weeks
- Keep it simple
- Keep it short, around 30 minutes
- Have bedtime be around 7 to 8:30pm
- Sleep begets sleep. Offer naps.
- Afternoon naps can sometimes be hard. Keep trying.
- Allow yourself to break routine / schedule on occasion.
- Bedtime doesn’t have to be late
- Keep baby’s awake time appropriate for their age
- Put them to sleep in the same place every night
Eliminate Sleep Crutches
While they seem handy at the time, sleep crutches do not pay off in the long-term. Sleep crutches, also known as a negative sleep association, can lead to conditioned habits that inhibit quality sleep. Building habits which always require feeding, rocking or holding can result in sleep “struggles” as your baby gets older. This is because your child learns to associate sleep with other habits and motions, so their brain learns to expect a sleep crutch prior to winding down. Other common crutches include feeding to sleep, bouncing on a ball, driving your baby in a car, rocking baby to sleep, or sleeping in a swing, bouncy chair, or car seat.
Teach your baby to fall asleep on their own
Learning to fall asleep on their own helps babies have nighttime sleep success. Let it be your goal to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own. Not only does this help your baby, it helps you! You’ll be grateful to yourself once you establish the routine. You can use swings and bouncy chairs during awake times and during the daytime. This way your baby can still enjoy the movement but he or she won’t be dependent upon the movement to go to sleep, or fall back asleep when they wake up between sleep cycles.
If you are already in the habit of using sleep crutches, now is the time to eliminate them. Just as you can build a habit, you can break one too! If you always rock or bounce your baby to sleep, start eliminating that step and put them down drowsy and have them try to go to sleep independently. If your efforts are met with crying, rather than sleep, pick them up, calm them down, get them drowsy and try again. It may take a few days for the transition.
When eliminating sleep crutches it can be helpful to focus on a more sustainable routine. Instill a healthy sleep routine by including some of the following steps: a diaper change, changing into PJ’s, reading books, turning the lights down low, feeding, turning on a noise machine or swaddling.
Conditioned habits are easily created! Don’t be discouraged if there are circumstances where you may rely on a sleep crutch a time or two. For example, your baby might have severe reflux, a tongue tie, be on oxygen, or even have a case of severe gas. There will be times a baby may not be comforted unless they are picked up and held. During these unusually tough times, sleep crutches can happen. Don’t know what to do? If you are stuck in a rut full of sleep crutches, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you get back on track!
Helpful checklist for your bedtime routine
The mind and body start to wind down when you are consistent. Use this checklist before bed, or even naptime. It never hurts to help cue your baby when it’s time to snooze.
- White noise turned on
- Blinds closed
- Lights turn off or low
- Read a book
- Sing a song
Be consistent for long-term success
Being consistent with your baby’s schedule can seem fruitless, especially if you’ve put in the effort for a few days in a row. Do you wonder why your baby is always fussy, seems like they are always tired, has a hard time connecting sleep cycles, has trouble going to sleep independently, or struggles to stay asleep? Being consistent can help with all of these.
A sense of security and stability is established when you develop consistent routines before sleep.
More about consistency
- If you skip a nap, you can expect their next nap may not be as long or restful.
- If you put your baby to bed later than usual, just like adults, they get overtired and overstimulated, struggling to stay asleep.
- If you put your baby to bed later than the desired time one night, they will still be getting up at the same time the next morning. Their internal clock won’t change just because of a later bedtime!
You can’t always be home for every nap and every bedtime. If you know you are going to miss bedtime, try squeezing in a later catnap. And while you’re out on your late night, try to sneak away from your festivities, do a quick bedtime routine, and put your baby to sleep.
If you’re one who is typically out and about during naptime, consider updating your schedule / habits to have naps be 75% at home and 25% on the go.
Efforts to maintain consistency will go a long way to make your baby a great sleeper.