Even though babies generally sleep a lot, they never have good sleeping habits from the beginning of their life. It takes some time for their body clock to kick in, so parents usually need to take certain measures at some point to help their child sleep more at night and less in the daytime.
After all, no mother will want her baby to snooze during most of the day and then spend the night wide awake, thus disrupting the sleep of everyone around. If it continues, the baby is likely to get improper sleep habits and fail to learn the difference between day and night. Since these kinds of sleep issues are likely to endure beyond childhood and have a negative influence on the child's emotional and behavioral development, parents need to start establishing good habits in their baby from the start.
Of course, getting that restful, uninterrupted eight-hour sleep when one has an infant at home, remains a fantasy. Little babies need to be fed every few hours and need their nappies changed every so often. But with time, the bedtime schedule should get more and more consistent. Eventually, moms should teach their baby that daytime is made for activities and a few naps, but at night they need to get all the sleep they need.
For those moms who don't know how to implement this uneasy task, here are 15 tips to help the baby sleep longer recommended by specialists, and five things that parents should avoid to ensure the good results of sleep training.
If you have a bedtime routine for your baby and follow it every night, it will certainly help your child prepare to sleep and fall into the arms of dream-land very quickly. What kind of routine is recommended, you might ask. Well, it's very easy!
Baby Centre suggests doing simple things like reading a bedtime story to your child, playing a quiet game, giving your baby a warm bath, or giving them a gentle massage. This way, your baby will soon realize that if mommy is reading a book to them, it means that soon they'll have to go to bed. It'll form a conditioned reflex so that as soon as you get a book in your hands, your baby's eyes will start becoming heavy and they'll get sleepy.
Swaddling creates positive associations for a baby because it resembles how they felt while in their mommy's womb. It keeps them warm, soothes, helps them sleep better and longer, and doesn't let them wake up easily. So if you want to make sure that your baby is feeling peaceful, swaddle them.
Swaddling can also become a part of a bedtime routine for you and your child. Just make sure not to swaddle them too tightly and watch that your kid doesn't turn onto their stomach in their sleep. Remember that a swaddled baby should always sleep on their back to be safe and avoid the risk of accidental suffocation and SIDS.
Lullabies exist for a reason. They do have a power to help your baby fall asleep faster, especially if you use the same lullaby to sing to your bump and then to your baby when they're born. In case you don't know any lullabies and didn't sing any to your baby during pregnancy, don't get upset. You can always find a ton of lullabies on the web and learn to sing them to your sweetie pie.
If you don't want to sing a lullaby for your child or think that you have no ear for music, find good peaceful music and play it before bedtime. It'll also help your child calm down and fall asleep easier.
At first, when you bring your baby home, it might seem that you know nothing about how you should take care of them. But little by little, you learn to understand your child better and look for the sings of what they want at the moment. For example, you begin noticing certain behavioral patterns signifying that your kid's hungry and feed them before they start crying. Similarly, you can learn to see the signs that your baby's sleepy and put them to sleep right away. Except for yawning, they can become too fussy, or on the contrary too quiet, and start losing interest in things or happenings around them.
Don't miss these signs, because it might make your baby overtired and keep them from sleeping.
You must have noticed that motion is soothing for a baby and it helps them fall asleep faster and remain asleep for longer periods. Whether the child is in a car, on their baby roller, or in a rocking chair in their mommy's arms, it usually helps a lot to keep them in slumber. It happens because while your baby was in your womb, your movements and routine activities would lull them to sleep.
Just try not to overdo with rocking your baby to sleep, because it can create the sleeping habits that will prove to be bad one day. We'll talk about it later in the article.
If you teach your baby differences between day and night, it'll eventually mean more sleep and less stress for both of you. You can start doing it, when your child is only a few weeks old. Follow three simple steps and you'll help the body clock of your child to kick in faster.
First, make sure that your kid gets a lot of natural light during the day. Go for a walk once a day, or at least ensure that your house has a lot of bright light at daytime. Second, think of different kinds of interactions and behaviors for day and night to let your baby see clear distinctions between them. For example, keep on doing your routinely activities during the day and dim the lights at night to create a peaceful and cozy atmosphere. And third, create some consistent bedtime habits for your child.
During the day, you are free to continue your routine activities, even if your child is sleeping. "Your baby needs to get used to sleeping despite noise, light and commotion around him," says Child Sleep Work's founder, Maryanne Taylor. "The last thing you need is a light sleeper!"
But at night, keep all noises away and make sure that your child is surrounded by a calming atmosphere. Switch the phones at home to silent mode and even turn off the Wi-Fi connection, so that no social media or email notifications could awaken your child. Besides, never wake your child up during the night, unless it's absolutely necessary.
When your baby is very small, they can't greet you or tell you something to let you know that they recognize you. But from birth the baby knows that you're their mommy because they recognize your voice and your touch, as well as your scent. In fact, smelling your scent associates with comfort and safety for your baby and it effectively helps them relax and fall asleep.
So if your child has problems sleeping, try to snuggle them with something that smells like you. The simplest thing you can do is place your unwashed t-shirt (of course, it has to be clean enough) in your baby's crib. They'll feel your scent on it and sleep much better.
Being a mom, you're going to have to practice multitasking every now and then, so why not start doing it from the beginning of your child's life?
So what different tasks can you do simultaneously? For example, you can learn to change your baby's nappies while feeding them. Even though it sounds like an impossible task, it's not only possible, but it's also a wise thing to do. After your baby is fed, they're likely to become sleepy, so you won't want to wake them up to change their nappies later.
So master the art of changing diapers with one hand and your baby will be happily asleep!
When your baby is asleep—especially at night—the last thing you want to do is wake them up. To realize why, recall how you feel when someone wakes you up in the middle of the night. You'd probably get irritated and anxious and find it hard to fall asleep again afterwards. The same thing happens with a baby. If something wakes them up, be ready to spend part of the night up, trying to soothe them and help them fall asleep again.
So never disturb a sleeping baby and don't try changing their diapers at night or perform any other activities. Thus you can save your baby and yourself from unnecessary stress.
On the other hand, sometimes it's a good idea to wake your baby up. For example, when your baby is still little, you need to feed them every few hours. So if your kid hasn't eaten in a couple of hours, wake them up. It's especially important to do it during the daytime, thus helping the child learn the difference between day and night.
Another instance, when you should wake your baby up is when they're on a nap schedule and they've slept past it. Again, it's essential that you do it during the day and especially when it's getting close to a bedtime to ensure that your baby will have a good sleep at night. The only case when you should let your child sleep longer during the day is when they're sick.
In our age of technologies, a lot of parents let their babies use their electronic devices, even starting from the early age. However, it's not a good idea to do it (especially in the evening) because if your child watches television or plays with your Smartphone before bedtime, it will probably damper their sleep and keep them from getting a good rest at night.
According to IFL Science, screen time can negatively influence your baby's sleep in many ways. It may lead to sleep delays and shorter sleep in general. Besides, the bright light of a screen will keep the baby alert and it won't let them fall asleep as fast as you'd want them to.
So make sure to limit screen time before bed and remove all electronic devices from your baby's room.
Co-sleeping is a largely debatable issue. Some people say that it creates bad sleep habits for a child or disrupts a mother's slumber. But others claim that sleeping next to a mom soothes the baby and helps them sleep better. In fact, co-sleeping has numerous benefits, because it helps reduce bedtime hassles, helps your baby fall asleep faster, and makes them feel secure.
If you want to avoid the risks of co-sleeping, it's a good idea to attach your baby's crib to your bed or just place it in your bedroom. This way, you'll help your little one feel closer to you and have a better sleep yourself.
It's important to watch your caffeine consumption when breastfeeding your baby. It doesn't mean that you're going to have to do without your morning cup of coffee, just don't drink too much of it. What you can do is opt for espresso drinks, such as lattes, because they usually have less caffeine. You may also reduce the amount of cups you drink per day or the size of one portion.
Since your baby's reaction to your consumed caffeine can be different, keep an eye on them and try to notice if they become especially cranky after you had a cup of coffee. If they do, try to cut caffeine out of your diet for a week and watch your child's behavior. Then start drinking coffee again and see what happens. This simple experiment will show you whether your baby reacts to caffeine or to something else.
What you eat or drink is extremely important for your baby because they get all the nutrients from your breast milk. So if you find that your little one is lying wide awake or uncomfortable after you fed them, think about what you eat and how you can change your diet. Apart from caffeine, a number of other foods can keep your baby from sleeping. But then again, it's all individual.
Do a similar experiment as described with caffeine. Ditch certain foods for a week and then start eating them again to see if your baby reacts to them with excessive alertness and trouble sleeping.
A lot of new parents think that it's okay to start giving toys to their child from the beginning of their life and place all these toys into their crib. However, it's not a good practice. It can even prove to be a dangerous one. The presence of stuffed toys and other objects in your baby's crib can increase the risk of SIDS and lead to accidental suffocation, especially if these toys have straps. Besides, toys might also have sharp edges or can break down and hurt your baby somehow.
If you change your baby's nappies while they're sleeping, you will surely wake them up, so all specialists recommend to avoid doing it. One thing you can do instead is change the nappies while breastfeeding (as it was recommended in one of the previous entries).
Another thing is swaddling your baby in a way that will let you open their bottom without fully unswaddling them. If you're quick enough, you can change the diaper and then snug them again to keep on sleeping. It's a good idea to keep the room dark while you're doing it. It might help your baby to stay asleep throughout the entire procedure.
Of course, rocking a baby to sleep is an effective way to make them drowsy, but it's better to save this method for emergencies, like when the baby's sick. In other cases, it's better not to do it because it might create an unhealthy habit.
The thing is that the baby quickly gets used to being rocked to sleep and it's likely that they won't be able to fall asleep without it at some point.
Even though you might think that walking and rocking your baby is very easy, soon you'll want to have a break from it. At some point, you might realize that no sleeping aids help your baby to sleep and you just can't rock them every night. So better don't even start doing it.
Similarly to rocking your baby to sleep, holding them in your arms can feel very nice for a baby and will probably help them fall asleep faster. I know that if it happens, you'll feel so proud of yourself because you're a good mommy who can soothe a child with a simple touch. However, it also creates bad sleeping habits and can lead to over-dependence on you. In other words, one day you'll notice that your baby doesn't fall asleep without you holding them in your arms.
Specialists recommend to only hold the baby in your arms until they become drowsy and then put them in their crib to let them fall asleep by themselves. Thus, you'll help your child create a good sleeping habit.
You should remember that your child has a strong connection with you. They don't only depend on what you eat or drink. They also depend on how you feel. They know when their mommy is happy, they rejoice with her. And they also know when you're anxious or upset and can react to it with excessive alertness and disrupted sleep.
Recently a study held by Pennsylvania State University confirmed that maternal depression and anxiety affects the child's sleeping habits. Researchers found out that it mostly happened with mothers who had depressive symptoms and would interact with their infants more during nighttime and check on them without any need, thus disrupting the baby's sleep.
So look after not only your baby but also yourself. Believe me, it'll make everything easier for your entire family!
References: Baby Centre, Healthy Children, Quora, Mother and Baby, How to Adult, Today's Parent, IFL Science, Mom Junction, Sleeping Should Be Easy, The Bump, Telegraph