Top Baby Sleep Tips
Natalie Herman is a Certified Baby Sleep Consultant. Natalie is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants. She is based in Melbourne, Australia.
In the early days when a strict routine is less likely, what are some ways you can make your days easier? Is there anything you can start to do to get your baby to nap better during the day?
Here are Natalie's top tips:
- Swaddling: Swaddling your baby from day 1 is one of the most important tips I can give you. Babies love it! The swaddle recreates the womb like feeling which babies desperately crave in what we call the ‘4th trimester’ or the first 3 months of life. Swaddling also minimizes the startle reflex which can be really unsettling for a baby while they are asleep and cause them to wake up too early.
- White noise: Playing music in general around your baby is a great idea, but specifically white noise. Each time you put your baby to sleep (including nap time) play some white noise. The sounds of waves or rain are very soothing and remind them of the womb like sounds they are missing.
- Teach them to differentiate between night and day: Your baby’s circadian rhythm will not likely kick in to they are about 6 weeks old so they will need your help to differentiate between night and day. During the day try feeding them outside of their room and putting them to sleep in a dark room. At night, make sure their room is always very dark so there is no morning sunlight seeping in to the room and causing them to wake up. It is also a good idea to take your baby for a walk during the day to expose them to sunlight.
- Give them a comforter: Giving your baby a safe comforter is an excellent soothing mechanism. As early as 4 months (not before) place the toy in your baby’s crib and over time he will most likely attach. Keep the comforter in their crib for all sleeps including day time naps. By giving them that extra comfort you are helping your baby to become an independent sleeper.
- Follow their sleep window: A sleep window is the ‘optimal’ time to put a baby down for a nap and bedtime. It is generally more important, especially in the younger months of a baby’s life, to focus on putting your baby to sleep at the right time of the day, rather than obsessing HOW you are doing it. That work can come later. It’s crucial not to give your baby too much awake time, so following the sleep window will ensure that you are not putting your baby to sleep in an overtired state. If you are even 30 minutes outside of the sleep window you have already missed it! An overtired baby has a high amount of cortisol released into their body and this is often why they become irritable and cry a lot. In these situations parents think it is as a result of gas or colic when often it’s just a case of a baby having missed their sleep window.In general you should be making sure you put your baby down every 1- 2 hours (including feeding them) and then from 3 months onwards this can be stretched out to 1.5-2.5 hours.
- Look out for tired signs: It’s important to study your baby during the day and look closely for tired signs such as: rubbing their eyes, ears, yawning, arching their back or playing with their hair. If your baby is displaying these signs they have already hit the tired phase and need to be put down to sleep.
- Don’t create too many sleep spaces: As new mums, none of us like being stuck inside all day with a baby. It can get quite depressing and lonely especially with the monotony of having to do household chores each day. It’s healthy and recommended to get out of the house either to meet friends, take a class, or do exercise, just be mindful that it’s not at the expense of your baby’s sleep. If you can work towards a schedule that includes at least one nap a day in your baby’s bed then you will be doing them a lot of justice. They not only get better quality sleep in a bed rather than a stroller but they also start to understand the direct association between their bed and sleep time. It is an important sleep cue to start implementing very early on in your baby’s life. It’s not as crucial which nap you choose, just make sure you stick to the same schedule each day ie: in the morning you put your baby to sleep in their bed and for other naps, in their pram. This consistency will give your baby more structure and will help them to understand what is going to happen each day.
- Make sure you are feeding your baby well during the day so they are full in time for bedtime: You ideally want to get yourself in to a routine where your baby eats well during the day and sleeps well at night, so make sure to fill them up very nicely during the day especially right before bedtime.