Helping Your Baby Sleep
In the first year of life a baby changes rapidly, growing and learning at a remarkable pace. As a parent it is your job to teach and facilitate learning for your baby.Sleep is one of those things that you have to teach your baby how to do more often than not. Knowing how baby sleep cycles change throughout the first year of life can help you be successful in creating healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime!
Let’s talk newborn sleep!
From the ages 0-4 months a baby’s sleep schedule is unstructured. You will find your baby will sleep most of the day waking for brief periods to eat. During this time don’t expect for your baby to be on a set sleep schedule. Sleep is typically unpredictable and fragmented (yes even during the night). While it is still too early to sleep train at this age, there are some things you can do to start to lay the foundation for good baby sleep habits. The first thing you can do is get your baby on an eat-play-sleep schedule. This means you will feed your baby when he awakes from a nap versus feeding to sleep. This will help to prevent him becoming reliant on feeding to go to sleep. Another thing we recommend is offering at least one nap a day in your baby’s bassinette or crib. This is to prevent him from becoming dependent on only one way to fall asleep (for example a swing). We also recommend following the AAPs recommendations for safe sleep, also known as the ABCs of safe sleep (Alone, Back, Crib). Lastly, it’s ok to let your little one fuss for a few minutes when you put him down to sleep, sometimes he may need just a little bit of space to figure things out. During this time it is important to not stress about “spoiling” your baby. Most babies are incapable of sleeping through the night during this time period, so just enjoy your baby and do the best you can.
The dreaded 4 month sleep regression!
I’m sure most of you have heard about the 4 month sleep regression. We like to refer to this as the 4 month sleep milestone. While it may seem like your baby is having a sleep set back with at this age, it’s actually an indication your baby is ready and capable of sleeping through the night and following a set sleep schedule. Knowing how to adjust your baby’s sleep at this time can help make this a smooth transition. It’s at this age your baby is ready to follow a schedule. From now until about 8-9 months of age your baby will follow a sleep schedule consisting of one morning nap, an afternoon nap, a catnap in the early evening and an early bedtime.
Our tips for success!
A set schedule – From 4 months on you should be following a set sleep schedule. That’s right we want you to watch the clock. Putting your baby down at the same time each day for naps and bedtime will help set your baby’s sleep-wake cycle also known as circadian rhythms. This will make it easier for him to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- A consistent place to sleep – Having a consistent baby sleep space helps to facilitate restorative sleep as well as making it easier for him to fall asleep. His room should be dark, cool and quiet. He should always be placed on her back and alone in her crib with no loose bedding, bumpers or toys.
- Put your baby down drowsy but awake – They key to helping your baby sleep through the night is letting him put himself to sleep so when she awakes at night he is able to roll over (maybe just figuratively roll over at this age ;)) and go back to sleep. If your little one is having trouble with this we suggest putting him down awake and giving him some time to try and do it himself. You can always implement timed checks if you find it hard to let him work through this on his own. We suggest starting with 5 minutes, so this means once you put him down for the night you would give him 5 minutes to try and go to sleep on his own. After the 5 minutes are up you can go in and pat him on the back and tell him he is ok and it’s time to go to sleep. You then leave the room and set your time for 6 minutes. After the 6 minutes are over you can repeat what you did for the first check. When you leave the room this time you will set your timer for 7 minutes and repeat the above. Each check after this will be after 7 minutes. The next day you would start checks at 6 minutes, then 7 minutes, and then 8 minutes. The third day checks would start after 7 minutes, 8 minutes, and then 9 minutes. After a few days your little one will be snoozing like a champ and so will you ;)!
- Consistency – Babies thrive on routine and feel safe when they know what to expect. We recommend being consistent with your baby’s daily sleep schedule as this is the most effective way to creating and maintaining healthy sleep habits!
Sleep from 9 – 12 months
From 9-12 months of age your baby will continue to follow a set schedule consisting of a morning nap, an afternoon nap and an early bedtime. If you baby is still not napping well or sleeping through the night at this age just follow our suggestions above. It’s never too late to get things on track!
The best laid plans…
Sometimes even the best laid plans fall apart. The best thing to do is to take a step back and regroup. It’s of utmost importance that you and your partner are on the same page. Talk to each other about baby sleep issues and come up with a clear plan that both of you are comfortable with on how to tackle it get your little one snoozing. Throughout the process support and help each other get through it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it and together you can do it!
Bridget Bowling is a pediatric sleep specialist and co-owner of Little Snoozers LLC. For more information on infant sleep or sleep training for your child 4 months or older you can reach Bridget here. Little Snoozers offers a free 15 minute consult to answer your sleep questions.
Nurtured Foundation is dedicated to providing pregnancy and postpartum services and information to the Cleveland and Akron areas. More information on our services can be found here.