It’s the perennial question that new parents ask: How do I get my baby to sleep? It can sometimes feel impossible to get your baby to sleep, let alone help him stay asleep, during the first few days, weeks, or months of being with you. Because no two babies are alike and there is no single strategy that will work for all, it’s important to remember that no baby can sleep at night without help. There are general guidelines that can help set the scene for good sleep. For expert advice on practical ways to increase your baby’s chances of getting some sleep, read on.
How Much Should a Baby Sleep?
Edward Kulich, MD is a New York City-based concierge pediatrician, and baby consultant. Sometimes it can take weeks or months before baby’s sleep patterns settle down. Kulich points out that in the beginning, babies’ sleep patterns are unpredictable because babies have small stomachs and cannot go more than four hours without eating. But, by three months, babies will be able to “get into a more consistent rhythm” and will take three to five naps per day.
Some babies will even sleep through the night. He describes sleep through the night as baby sleeping 7-12 hours consecutively, which is a great stretch for any parent. How do you and your baby get to this point? “Routine is key,” Kulich says. Kulich says, “Consistency is the most important thing.” While there are many methods that can work, none of them will work if everyone uses it consistently.
Tips to get your baby to sleep
Baby’s awareness of the world and their surroundings grows, making it easy for them to be both cautiously curious and overstimulated. James McKenna PhD, a professor of anthropology and director of the Mother/Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab, says that infants’ social, emotional, and intellectual skills slowly mature in the first months of their lives.
New daily experiences can cause babies to create new worries, fears, and awareness during these crucial developmental years. Also, just as for Mom (or Dad), baby can have an impact on their nighttime sleep by being stressed out during the day. Baby needs the comfort that only you can offer. What can you do for baby to get some sleep? These are some tips to help baby sleep better.
Clear out the clutter
The nursery should be used for sleeping, not playing. Avoid toys and other distracting items in the crib area. Conner Herman, a sleep expert who co-founded the baby sleep consultancy dream Team Baby says that crib distractions can confuse babies. They’ll wonder if this is a playpen or a place for sleeping.
Room-share–but don’t bed-share
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that baby sleeps in the exact same room as you, but not in the same bedroom. The benefits of sleeping in the same room as your baby include breastfeeding and a longer sleep time. It can also reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). McKenna states that having parents close to a baby is a great way to protect them. She also notes that it helps regulate their breathing, temperature, and nervous system reactions.
Keep your baby cool
Baby sleeps well when the temperature is between 69 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Baby shouldn’t be too bundled. Instead of wearing heavy clothing, you should dress baby in layers so that you can adjust baby’s temperature as well as comfort levels. Kulich suggests that baby should wear whatever is comfortable for them, plus one layer, such as a sleep bag. Baby should wear more clothing if they feel cold. They may need to be more covered if they are sweating.
Herman advises that you pick a spot that’s not directly in front of heating or air conditioning vents. This is because sudden temperature changes can cause baby to become anxious and disturbed. To protect your baby from noise and drafts, the crib should be away from windows.
The swaddling can help babies sleep better and for longer periods of time in the first months of their lives. Kulich states that it works well for some babies for the first few months. However, it may not work for all babies. Kulich says, “If your baby responds to the idea, that’s great. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work. And remember that what works today might not work tomorrow. Kulich states that it is okay to stop swaddling a baby who doesn’t respond to it. “Infant Sleep, like Childhood, is a moving target.”
Sound can soothe the soul
Baby’s perception of what they hear (or don’t hear) is as important as their perceptions of what they see. A white noise machine can be purchased to help your baby sleep better. It will cancel out noises from cars, houses, and other distracting sounds. Baby will associate consistent, constant sound with sleeping. White-noise machines can play lullabies or nature sounds.
However, simple white noise will bring baby back to the womb and soothe her. You can use the portable machine to recreate the nursery sounds when you are away from home. It’s important not to turn the machine too high as it can damage baby’s delicate ears. Kulich advises that the machine should be kept at the lowest setting, in the far corner.
Dim the lights
Baby’s daytime light signal to them, so it is important to block out the sun. You should actually cut off all light possible. Even the night-light should be cut out. Babies won’t fear darkness until they are at least 18 months. Attach a dimmer switch (or a lamp) to your baby’s night-time nurser and slowly turn the light on and off for nighttime feedings.
Allow your baby to soothe itself
Some babies are able to fall asleep on their own while others need help from sleep training. This can happen at any age beyond 4 months. Kulich recommends that parents refrain from picking up their baby to soothe them, then placing them back to sleep. He says that a baby should fall asleep in their crib on their own. They shouldn’t be rocked to death or put back in the crib. Give baby time to settle down. Do not rush to get them in and don’t pick them up.
Separate your family
After baby turns six months old, you can start to settle them in their own room. Co-founder of Dream Team Baby, Kira Ryan and co-author The Dream Sleeper, a three-part plan for getting your baby to love sleep recommends that you allow your baby to take at least one nap per day in their own room. This helps baby get used to their own room and allows them to be comfortable being alone.
Ryan suggests that you put up a partition or screen to separate your baby from the rest of the family, even if they sleep in your bedroom. Ryan states that if baby wakes up in the middle of the night and sees you it will be easy for them to trust you to get back to sleep. Baby who is able to go back to sleep will make everyone happy.
Plan and stick to it!
Talk to your partner about what to do if baby wakes up in the middle of night. Also, agree on who will do it. Ryan states that the number one way to fail, Ryan. Set a date on your calendar for when you will start and stay consistent. This will make it easier for your baby to learn.