One of the hardest things about becoming a new parent is establishing your baby's sleep pattern. Some babies are great sleepers while others take a little bit longer to find a nice routine - even within the same family. While it can be frustrating, improving your baby's sleep is essential for them to get enough sleep and you.
Babies need to sleep because that is when learning and growing happens. If they have a poor sleep schedule, then this can lead to some developmental delays that can be of concern. Also, if you're not getting enough sleep, then that can lead to higher levels of irritation, more disconnectedness from your child, and other negative consequences.
Here are a few tips to help you get your baby to sleep through the night.
Developing a rhythm
Newborns sleep more than 16 hours a day, but in a few stretches at a time. The pattern may be very random at first, but eventually as infants adjust to life outside of the womb, they will sync up with the light and dark 24-hour circadian rhythm. As a more consistent sleep schedule develops, your baby will mature and can go longer in between feedings.
By age 3-4 months, many babies can sleep for at least five hours at a time. At some point, during the baby's first year, they may even start to sleep about 10 hours each night.
Keep this in mind as you become frustrated with why your child won't sleep. They are used to living in a dark, warm incubator with no cues as to what time of the day it is. When they come out, they have to adjust to this and find a schedule that works. Have some grace and patience, while also staying true to a routine.
Many parents may want to move children into their own room too early. However, co-sleeping until the child is ready to sleep through the night may actually improve both you and the child's sleep. They are not very far, so if they start crying, you can soothe them quickly, and they know you're close and may not start to feel any separation anxiety.
For safety, it's important to have the baby sleep in their own bed, that only has a fitted sheet - no pillows or blankets. This bed can attach to yours as long as it is separate so you can avoid sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) from suffocation.
When your child begins to feel more comfortable and establishes a more normal pattern, then you can put them in their own room and practice that transition.
Encourage good sleep habits
For the first few months, when you have to feed the baby in the middle of the night, this can be disruptful for both parents and children. However, soon after you can establish some good habits and help develop a good schedule. Here are some ways to do that:
Follow a consistent, calming bedtime routine. This can include bath time, story time, or just quiet rocking time. Avoid over stimulating the baby with sounds and screens as this can make bedtime more difficult.
Put your child to bed when they are drowsy, but still awake. This can help your baby associate their bed with falling asleep instead of in your arms. Place them on their backs to avoid suffocation.
Consider using a pacifier to help calm your baby down and reduce the risk of SIDS.
If your child requires nighttime care, try to do it in a dark and quiet room to not over arouse your baby so they are ready to go back to sleep.
Respect your baby's natural clock. They may be morning birds or night owls, but by allowing them to function on their natural clock, it may make going to bed more peaceful and less of a fight.
Keep a good perspective
Your child's sleep habits are not a reflection of your abilities as a parent. Try to keep this in mind and be patient with both you and your baby. Take time to understand what influences your child's sleep habits and in what way so you can become more proactive and learn more about your baby. This helps sleep become a dynamic, continuously learning process instead of one where you feel like you're failing or any other negative feelings.
If you are having a lot of trouble developing a sleep routine for both you and your child, then please click the orange button below to take a fee online sleep test and speak with a sleep health professional who can assist you.