You did it. You survived the chaos of the holidays and now it’s a new year! What are your new year’s resolutions? Do they include cleaning out your closets? Starting (and finishing) a good book? Or maybe you’re looking to finally lose that last bit of baby weight before the summer. But have you thought about any of your long-term new year’s resolutions? And do any of these including getting more sleep?
As I’ve said before, sleep is extremely essential to our well-being. We need it to function, to stay healthy and to thrive. If you’re thinking about how a lack of sleep effects your day-to-day life, think about how it must be affecting your little one’s life. Our children need sleep just as much, if not more than we do, in order to be happy and growing little people. Whether your child has never slept well or things are upside down from the craziness of the holidays, the new year is a great time to start fresh on such a goal. So let’s get back to basics with my 7 tips for a fresh, new start towards better sleep!
- Teach your baby to fall asleep independently-forego the sleep prop!
I know. This one is definitely easier said than done. But believe it or not, this is the most important step to a better-sleeping baby. As I’ve talked about before in my blog about sleep props, these are anything your child relies on to fall asleep. If your child is relying on a sleep prop to fall asleep, he finds it difficult to get back to sleep without it, and this is why he wakes several times in the night. One of the most crucial elements for teaching children to go to sleep and stay asleep is eliminating sleep props and instead, helping them develop self-soothing strategies.
- Implement a consistent bedtime routine
A consistent bedtime routine is also a great way to help your little one develop good sleeping skills. Not only is it a great opportunity for your child to wind down before bed, but it also cues his sleep signals and makes falling asleep much easier. This routine should be about 20-30 minutes in length and be implemented the same way every night. In time, bedtime will be a smooth-sailing process because your child will know what is coming next.
- Put your baby to bed at an early hour
Many people think that the later you put your child to bed, the more solid he will sleep and the later he will wake in the morning. However, for babies and children alike, this is virtually the opposite. Little ones tend to wake up at the same time every morning, no matter when you put them to bed. Therefore, by putting them to bed later, you’re really only eliminating hours that he could be spending sleeping. The earlier you put your child to bed, the more efficient he will sleep. Anywhere from 7-7:30pm, and no later than 8pm is a great time for bed.
- Eliminate night feedings
For a baby that wakes often in the night, he is most likely still being fed during those wakings. After all, as long as a baby is being fed at every night waking, he will continue to wake up for those feeds. Makes sense to me! By eliminating these feeds, whether you offer your child a bottle or your breast during the night, you’re simply training him to fall asleep without having to be fed (hello, sleep prop!). It’s important to note that babies over 13 pounds can sustain an entire night’s sleep without being fed. So if you have a baby that less than this weight, you should continue to feed him. Once he is of a healthy weight, he really should be sleeping during the night…and doing nothing else.
5. Eat, Play, Sleep
I’ve written another blog here about this routine concept. By putting distance between your child’s feeding and bedtime, you’re eliminating their association that sleep must come right after a feed. When your baby wakes in the morning, feed them breakfast and then play with him until his first nap of the day. Once he wakes from that nap, offer a feeding again and repeat this routine until bedtime.
6. Avoid overtiredness during the day
Remember this golden rule: sleep begets sleep! If your child gets little to no sleep during the day, you should expect him to have a hard time sleeping that night. Keep in mind the amount of awake time your child can handle before he ready for sleep again. Staying within these windows will help you avoid an overtired baby and therefore, ensure a good night’s rest. See below!
Newborns (0–12 weeks): 45 minutes of awake time
3–5 months: 1.5–2 hours of awake time
6–8 months: 2–3 hours of awake time
9–12 months: 3–4 hours of awake time
13 months to 2.5 years: 5–6 hours of awake time
- Keep a dark room
In many instances, any amount of light could be the cause of your child waking up too early. Keeping his room very dark helps produce melatonin hormones, which are the vehicles to sleep. This is especially important for naps. Not only are you dealing with daylight, but children are naturally more stimulated during the day and can use all the help they can get for sleep!
Of course, make sure to stay consistent when implementing these tips. Introducing any sort of change to your child’s routine can be challenging. But with time and consistency, he will develop the necessary skills he needs to sleep well. Expect the process to be a bit of a roller coaster ride for the first while; he may have a good night, then a not so good night, and so on. This is very normal so try not to get discouraged. Every child has the ability to learn healthy sleep habits if given the opportunity!
Contact me if you think you may need some help implementing these tips for your little one!