July 13, 2023
Navigating the world of baby sleep can feel so complicated! There’s so much information available on the internet, so many books available, so much advice from pediatricians, friends and coworkers; often you can end up feeling just more confused than when you started. While every baby is different, there are a few basic principles that can help you on your way to better and more restful sleep.
I’ve worked with dozens of families, and I know just how difficult sleep can be to come by when you first bring your little home. By taking the guesswork out of a few basic elements of sleep, you can help your little one on the path to a restful night’s sleep. Here are my top 10 tips for getting baby sleep right, from the beginning.
From as young as 6 weeks, your little one is seeking patterns and cues for what comes next. Establishing strong routines for before each sleep can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Generally naps have slightly shorter versions of bedtime routines. These routines may include activities like a gentle massage, reading a book, or singing a lullaby, with a warm bath added to the routine before bedtime.
Remember that baby sleep is not an exact science. There will always be times when sleep is disrupted, whether this is because your baby is too young to connect nap cycles, or they’re experiencing a regression or illness. Tweak nap schedules to help your little one get the sleep they need, when they need it. This might mean shortening wake windows to accommodate greater sleep needs in times of illness, or shifting bedtime to adapt for an event. No matter the reason, as long as you are consistent with your approach the rest will follow.
Ensure that your baby’s sleep environment is set up to offer them the best possible chance for restful sleep. To help with wind down, keep the room dimly lit in the lead up to sleep. When it comes time to put your little one down for a nap or bedtime, ensure your sleep environment is *pitch* black, with ongoing white noise and a nice cool temperature.
Babies thrive on routine, so establishing a consistent sleep schedule is extremely helpful in setting them on the right path for solid and restful day sleep. Depending on your child’s age, aim either for consistent wake windows or a clock schedule for naps, ensuring your little one is getting the right amount of sleep for their age.
Good days lead to good nights! Ensuring that your little one is on an age appropriate nap schedule is one of the best ways to help nights come together. Use wake windows to nail your timing, and ensure you are putting your little one down at the right time in the right environment. If your little one is older than 5 months and taking cat naps, you can adjust schedules and give space for them to learn to connect sleep cycles.
When your baby wakes up during the night (and they will), do your best to soothe them back to sleep without relying on rocking, walking and feeding. For younger babies, try first to use shush and pat, bum pats, a little jiggles or the nose rub to see if your little one will fall back asleep without too much intervention. For older babies, or those who have sleep trained previously, you can wait a few minutes or run timers to give your child the opportunity to fall back asleep independently.
Safe. Sleep. Matters. I cannot say it enough. Ensure your little one is in a safe sleep space, separate from your own. This includes placing your baby on their back to sleep, using a firm mattress with only a fitted sheet, and avoiding loose bedding, pillows, and stuffed animals in the crib. Use a swaddle if your little one hasn’t learned to roll yet, otherwise use a sleep sack for warmth in place of loose blankets.
Remember that often by the time we put our little ones down to sleep, they are already overtired. Pay close attention to your baby’s tired cues, such as eye rubbing, yawning, or becoming fussy. Putting your baby down for sleep at the first signs of tiredness can help prevent overtiredness, making it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
You can help your little one practice independent sleep from as early as a few weeks old. There will be times when your little one falls asleep easily on their own, and others where they need more help. As your baby grows, you can offer more space for them to be independent as they learn to fall asleep. This means giving them the opportunity to fall asleep on their own without always relying on external soothing measures. From four months of age you can sleep train, setting your little one up for ongoing success with independent sleep.
Babies’ sleep patterns can vary, and it may take time to establish consistent sleep habits. Be patient, adapt your approach as needed, and remember that each baby is unique. Seek support from healthcare professionals or sleep experts if you’re facing persistent sleep difficulties.
Looking for more information on Wake Windows? You can download our free wake windows guide to help ensure your little one is always getting the right amount of daytime sleep. As always, if you’re looking for more tailored help you can get in touch to book a discovery call! I’d love to talk to you about different ways I can help get your little one the restorative sleep they need.
When it comes to baby sleep, there is no one size fits all approach. By ensuring you have the right foundations set, you can help your little one learn to soothe independently. For some babies, this means simply allowing them a little bit of extra space at naps and in night wakings, and for others you may find your little one needs a less hands on sleep training approach. Remember that there is no wrong answer.