Finally, your baby seems to drift off to sleep and you lay your little one down in the crib for the third time. Your arms ache and your back hurts. Despite how peacefully your 6-month-old seems to be sleeping now, you wonder how long you have to get some shut-eye before your little angel will be up screaming again. This is a nearly universal story in parenting. We’ve all been through those sleepless nights.
Here at Picniic, we know that improving baby’s sleep is a concern for most parents. What is it that’s so tricky about babies and sleep? If you’re like most new parents, racoon eyed and sleepy, you would do just about anything for a beautiful 8-hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep. When will you achieve this seemingly unattainable goal? Is there any way to make it happen sooner? Will the day really finally arrive when your baby sleeps through the night?
Before we share some great routines that can help set the stage for a great night of sleep for baby, it’s important to make sure you have realistic expectations.
Typical Baby Sleep Patterns
- Newborns have tiny tummies and need to be fed every 3-4 hours tops. This means at night too, so, it’s normal that your baby may not sleep for stretches longer than 4 hours.
- Around 6 months of age, babies can go for longer between feeding times and may sleep up to 5-6 hours at a time.
- By the time babies are 1-year-old, the majority are sleeping up to 8 hour stretches. According to a study, 86% of 1-year-olds reportedly slept for an 8-hour-period.
- Keep in mind that when research talks about “sleeping through the night”, this usually means sleeping from midnight to 5 am.
Bedtime Routines to Improve Baby’s Sleep
Despite the fact that it’s developmentally normal that babies may not sleep for an eight-hour stretch each night, there are some things you can do to encourage your kids to reach this milestone:
Dim the Lights
Newborns may have their days and nights reversed. To help them get back on track, keep the lights low during sleeping hours, using only a minimal night light. During the daytime, make sure your baby gets some sunlight. Melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain, is released in dark environments and makes you sleepy. You can ensure proper melatonin production by exposing your baby to light in the day and keeping things dark at night.
When your newborn wakes up to feed, whether you breastfeed or use formula, avoid turning on bright lights. Instead, use a lamp or a nightlight. This will show the baby that it’s still nighttime.
Keep it Quiet
Night time sleep should differ from nap-time in that things are both dark and quiet. This also means that you should avoid interacting as much with baby during their night wakings. Stay quiet while meeting baby’s needs such as feeding, changing a diaper and rocking or soothing the baby.
Then, during the day, show that it’s time to be awake by interacting with your child, talking and being more active. This will also help your baby get their nights and days straight. However, don’t limit naps in the daytime when your baby is young either. This can result in an overtired baby who will not be able to sleep well at night. You can, however, try to encourage baby to sleep at ideal times during the day such as a mid-morning nap from 10-11:30 and then an afternoon nap beginning no later than 3 pm.
Take a Bath
A warm bath can be the perfect bedtime routine to help relax kids before they head off to sleep. Make the bath extra enjoyable and relaxing by singing lullabies with baby in the tub or playing some soft music. After the bath, mom or dad can give baby a short massage with lotion to help them settle in for the night.
Read a Book
Bedtime stories are a classic and with good reason. Choose a quiet bedtime book or a longer picture book to read, even with an infant! The soothing sound of your voice can help your little one nod off to sleep quickly and happily. You can also try some song books that have illustrations to classic lullabies like “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Hush Little Baby”.
Watching videos or TV is not recommended for babies under the age of two. However, even if your kids are old enough, screen time is not recommended just before bed. Because of the light and stimulation, instead of calming your child, it may excite them and make them have a harder time falling asleep.
Keep it Safe
The most important thing about your bedtime routines is that when you finally put baby down, it’s in a safe space. Babies under the age of one shouldn’t sleep with any blankets, pillows or stuffed animals. Instead, use a sleep sack or warm pajamas if it’s cold. Also, remember to put your baby on their back to sleep. If your baby rolls over on their own, don’t worry about it. Just always start out with your baby on their back.
Over time, if you follow the same bedtime strategies night after night, your baby will become accustomed to the routine and fall asleep more easily every night. By keeping nighttime dark and quiet, you can also help ensure that your baby will sleep for longer stretches at night time.
If you have concerns about your child’s sleep patterns that you feel aren’t within the range of normal, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician. Sometimes medical issues such as acid-reflux or another condition could be affecting your child’s ability to sleep.
Parenting is a full-time job that involves night-time duty. Although it’s tough, before you know it, your child will be sleeping through the night without a problem. Use these helpful bedtime routines to help you on your journey and establish healthy sleeping habits that will serve your child throughout childhood.