6 Ways to Establish Healthy Sleep Habits for Baby
Does your baby leave you feeling tired? You’re not alone. For exhausted parents everywhere, sleeping through the night on a regular basis may be one of their baby’s most anticipated milestones.
How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?
This varies greatly between babies, especially during their first few months of life, but in general, most newborns require 14 to 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Those sleep hours are broken into shorter stretches to allow for eating, diapering, and family time. Nursing infants typically wake to eat more often than bottle-fed babies, about every two hours instead of every three hours.
Around three to four months of age, many infants can sleep for five hours at a stretch. At some point before their first birthday (exact timing can be a little different for every child), your baby should be able to sleep for about ten hours a night. That said, other issues such as illness, teething, sleep regressions, or growth spurts may cause some temporary setbacks and nighttime awakenings.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to develop good sleep habits early on so that you and your baby get the sleep that you need and deserve. Here are six tips to help your baby establish good sleep habits.
Create a Routine
At around eight weeks of age, your child can begin to recognize cues that bedtime or naptime is on the way. Baby’s sleep routine should be soothing and predictable. It may include bathing, cuddling, rocking, singing, playing quiet music, listening to white noise, or reading a story. Nursing or bottle-feeding is okay to include at this point, but by about 12 weeks of age, it should not be the final activity before your baby falls asleep. Begin the process before your baby is overly tired in a quiet, softly lit room. Ideally, the routine should take place in the same room where the baby will sleep.
Provide soothing comfort to your baby at night with the Tiny Love Meadow Days Sound 'n Sleep Projector Soother. This rechargeable smart-soother's built-in sensor automatically activates soothing music and projects soft, starry lights when baby cries, helping lull them back into a peaceful slumber.
Put Baby to Bed Drowsy
Your baby should be sleepy but still awake when you lay them down. This creates an association with the bed and the process of falling asleep. This also helps your baby feel less anxious if they wake up during the night and you aren’t there, which may make them more likely to fall back asleep without needing your help.
Always place your infant to sleep on their back. According to the National Institute of Health, “The single most effective action that parents and caregivers can take to lower a baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is to place the baby to sleep on his or her back for naps and at night.” Once babies are older than one year, the back sleep position is no longer necessary.
Always place your baby on a clean, firm flat surface to sleep. Keep soft materials like blankets, bumper pads, and stuffed animals out of a baby’s sleep space as these items pose a suffocation risk.
Give Baby Time to Settle
Your baby may cry or fuss a bit before discovering a comfortable position and drifting to sleep. If your baby continues crying, check on them, try soothing them, and step out of the room. Sometimes all it takes is a loving pat from mom or dad to ease into sleep.
Offer a Pacifier
If your baby is having difficulty soothing themselves, you might try offering a pacifier. Pacifiers have a calming effect and help babies better cope with distress and discomfort. In addition, research has shown that pacifier use during sleep reduces the chances of a baby suffering from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by 90 percent.
The FRIGG line of natural rubber pacifiers has been thoughtfully designed for your baby's comfort. The outward curve keeps the pacifier off their delicate skin, while features like air holes and a security handle ensure your baby stays safe. Available in a range of soft colors, FRIGG pacifiers make a beautiful addition to your collection of baby essentials.
Stay Quiet and Low Key
When caring for your baby at night, keep the lighting soft and dim. Speak in calming tones and use gentle, soothing movements. This helps your baby understand that it’s still sleep time, not playtime.
Naps are an essential part of your baby’s development. While newborns tend to eat and sleep around the clock, by about four months of age their sleep rhythms start to settle. By this stage, most babies sleep for longer stretches at night and have two to three daytime naps.
Interestingly, a tired, over-stimulated baby will have much more difficulty falling asleep than a well-rested one. This is because cortisol, a stress hormone, kicks in to fight fatigue and further hinders your baby’s ability to fall asleep. Watch your infant for cues. A sleepy baby may exhibit the following behavior:
- Refuses to eat
- Is difficult to calm
- Arches their back
- Shifts their face away from stimuli, including the breast, bottle, sound, or lights.
- Sweats (again, due to cortisol release)
Having a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night yet isn’t an indicator of your parenting abilities. It just takes time. Be patient and learn your baby’s signals so that you can help them become a better sleeper. If you have concerns, consult your pediatrician. Establishing healthy sleep habits at an early age helps discourage sleep issues from becoming long-term problems that are more difficult to resolve.
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