This is a guest post by Veronica Mitchell of MyParentingJourney. Read her full bio at the end of the post. With tired, bleary eyes parents feed and soothe their baby back to sleep, hoping the day comes soon when he will sleep through the night. Sometimes the baby is waking for no reason but to see you it seems. If this sounds too familiar, you may be wondering how to help the baby develop healthy sleep habits so that this doesn’t just become a bad routine.
Put the Baby Down
If you have a baby that loves to lay on your chest and doze off into a deep sleep, you may be running into the issue of not being able to put your baby down for fear of waking him. You don’t have to continue this practice of holding the baby while he sleeps. If you time it just right, you should be able to put your little one down in his bed (whatever that may be) and he can sleep there.
You need to watch for signs of drowsiness such as ● Rubbing your eyes ● Yawning ● Slowing down in movement ● Slower rate of blinking ● Thumb sucking or wanting his pacifier for soothing
If you notice these things starting to happen, it is time for a nap. Get your baby to his bed as soon as you can and lay him down gently. Walk away without a word. If he fusses, give him five minutes to attempt to settle on his own before going back in.
Develop a Routine
This is important not only for bedtime but nap time too. A routine before naps or bedtime gives your baby a clue that this is now time to sleep. It doesn’t have to be a long-drawn-out affair. You could do something as simple as putting him in his sleep sack, giving him his soother, and rocking him gently for a couple of minutes. You could pick one song you always sing right before sleep. These give your baby “cues” as to what you expect.
Have a Comfortable Sleep Space
Just as you enjoy a comfortable bed to sleep in, so does your infant. He may not want a lot of space like most adults would, but you can opt for a bassinet in the early days to give him that cozy, safe, and secure feeling he remembers from the womb.
For safety sake, you shouldn’t have lots of loose blankets in your baby’s bed. He could pull them up over his face, creating a suffocation danger. They can also be too warm for sleeping. Babies are sensitive to temperature.
Make sure your baby has a comfortable mattress or mattress pad to lay on. Many of the bassinets on the market come with very thin mattresses, so it’s a good idea to replace that with something a little more supportive and soft. You can get a regular one or an organic baby mattress depending on whether your baby is allergic or not.
Consistency is Key
Being consistent with your baby around naptime and bedtime is the key to successfully developing healthy sleep habits. All habit-forming behavior requires consistency, sleep is no different.
Try to keep these points of consistency in mind when helping your wee one develop healthy sleep habits:
● Try to have him in his own sleep space as much as possible instead of in a car seat, on the go or at a friends house while you visit
● Look at the clock when your baby wakes for the day. Count 1 hour and 30 minutes ahead. At that time start watching for sleepiness clues as mentioned previously. Babies tend to be awake for 1.5 to 2 hours before needing a nap again.
● Keep the same “sleepy” routine for each nap and bedtime
● Only go in to soothe your baby if you have waited about 5 minutes to see he will self-soothe
● Try to stick with a morning nap, afternoon nap, and until your baby outgrows it, an early evening nap. These naps help your baby get better nighttime sleep
Things to Avoid
As tempting as these things may be to try and help your baby sleep, they may actually sabotage your efforts to help the baby develop healthy sleep habits.
● Putting Baby to bed with a bottle
● Rocking him to sleep every single night
● Letting him fall asleep in your arms before putting him to bed
● Putting him in a car seat and driving around to soothe to sleep
● Laying him on the couch with you while you watch TV and have him sleep there a while
● Letting him scream for long periods. Also known as crying it out. This might work for some people, but it can be very difficult and stressful for both parents and babies.
● Giving your older child toys to play with in bed
Have Faith…You Can Do This!
It may seem like you will never sleep properly or soundly again once you have a baby, but trust me that it will get better. I can’t promise you will sleep in quite the same deep slumber you may have once upon a time, but you will eventually get to a “sleeping through the night” stage. The key is patience, consistency, persistence and perseverance.
You can help baby develop healthy sleep habits and get yourself some uninterrupted sleep once again. Just believe in yourself and your parenting skills–you CAN do it! Hopefully this has helped you make a plan and you feel better about how to get there. Please leave a comment and let us know!