From the moment you start painting your child’s room, the reality can dawn on you that the baby is not necessarily very good at sleeping. We hear about this, but we never feel prepared for just how exhausting it can be. Having a baby that doesn’t sleep is one of the biggest emotional and physical obstacles any new parent can have, which is why we need to know the best ways to put a baby to sleep. There are so many guides out there that talk about the “one true way,” but the reality is that there could be a combination of methods that you need to practice. Let’s show you some of the best methods.
Start a Routine (but Remember, It Won’t Happen Overnight)
A baby needs to learn that it’s time to go to sleep and you do this by providing cues within the environment. There are a few things that you need to consider at this point, including the right lighting, the comfort of the bed, and the appropriate rituals. Comfort is such an important thing so you may benefit from organic crib mattresses and softer materials, but you also need to remember that a routine needs to be stuck to exactly the same way every night.
Approximately 30 minutes before bed, make sure the noise goes down and the lights are dimmed. Lighting is so important because we are trying to set the baby’s internal clock. So turning the lights down low at night (and exposing them to bright lights when it’s time for them to wake) will make everything easier. After doing this, you can start to introduce other calming practices such as lullabies or a warm bath. It’s important to get this started as soon as possible, preferably by the time the baby is between 6 and 8 weeks. But you have to remember to do the same activities in the same order every single night.
Have an Early Bedtime
Timing is just as important as having a routine. By the time the baby is 8 weeks old, their melatonin levels increase. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that we all release. So if you keep them up late, this can overstimulate them and can make it harder for them to go down for sleep. Their melatonin levels rise around sundown which can be different depending on the time of the year, but you’ve got to stick to the same bedtime. If necessary, get blackout blinds if the sun is still out.
It’s also important to look for the signs that the baby is ready for sleep. If the baby is less active or they look bored, now is the opportunity to start the bedtime routine. Our internal clock always tells us when we need to be awake and when we need to be asleep. So you have to strike as soon as possible.
Do Not Neglect Naps
Overtiredness is a very big thing for young children. Regular naps are so important to get your baby to sleep. By the age of 2 months, a baby’s optimal awake time is only 90 minutes between naps. It’s not until they are 4 or 5 months that they have the ability to stay awake for longer. So rather than skipping those naps thinking they will sleep longer in the night, this actually doesn’t work. Because when a baby is overtired, the stress hormones increase and when they actually go to sleep it’s unlikely they will stay asleep for longer because the stress hormones are waking them up in a lighter sleep stage. This is why you need to see how long has passed, because if 90 minutes go by and they are looking like they could sleep, put them down for a nap!
It is also important to remember that quality naps are important. You may think it’s a good idea just to let them sleep wherever, but you need to aim for one nap a day in their crib. The very first nap of the day is the most mentally restorative and this will dictate how the rest of the day goes. By the time they hit 3 or 4 months, they are going to be awake for longer which is where you can work out a nap schedule. This is the perfect time for you to start practicing putting the baby down when they are drowsy. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is holding onto a baby until they fall asleep and then putting them down. Instead, you need to put them down for a nap when they are drowsy and awake. When you do this during the day, it helps you pick up on the right cues (and you can think more clearly).
Don’t Feed Them To Sleep
While newborns may fall asleep while they are feeding, it’s important to remember that the baby may think they need to eat so they can get back to sleep. One of the best ways to combat this is to move the feeding earlier until they get through it without drifting off.
It’s also important to note how much they feed. It’s definitely not easy during the first couple of months if the baby doesn’t latch on when you are breastfeeding, but if they are eating every hour they might not be having enough because they are feeding little and often. So you need to make a note of how many ounces they are having roughly. Because if the baby is eating well during the day, they should be able to sleep for a solid stretch of time. This is where you can space out the meals to make sure that they are hungry every time they feed.
It’s also worth feeding the baby in a darker and quiet room because this can help them in the run-up to sleep. It’s not the easiest thing by any stretch but during the first few months, you may think that the baby needs to sleep for at least 8 hours every single night but it’s important to note that you might be overthinking the situation. Rather than trying to put them to sleep every single night, remember that when it comes to putting a baby to sleep it can take a while for their sleep to even out.