Need More Sleep? Raise a Good Sleeper With These Expert Tips!
Nearly every new parent has researched “baby sleep training” only to find numerous approaches and no one clear path to getting their baby to sleep better. All humans, even tiny babies, are wired to want to sleep because we all need it, even if it's tempting to fight it off from time to time (or nightly). Most little ones need help to become a good sleeper. However, parental behavior can get in the way of a baby's sleep. Parents may not realize that some of the bedtime habits they think are helping their little one are actually training them to be a bad sleeper. Here are the best ways to raise a good sleeper according to DockATot founder and mom-of-two, Lisa Furuland.
Baby Sleep Tip: Put Baby to Bed Awake, But Drowsy
As new parents, we've all fallen into the trap at some point–mostly out of desperation–of rocking baby to sleep and then setting them down. There's clear evidence that putting a baby down already asleep affects their overall sleep time. A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics showed that “parental presence until sleep onset” was a key factor in preventing babies from getting at least six consecutive hours of sleep a night. It takes practice, but letting your baby get herself to sleep independently will have a huge payoff in the end. Put your baby down when she is almost, but not quite, asleep. This will help her become a good sleeper.
Baby Sleep Tip: No More Middle of the Night Feedings
Remember the movie Gremlins, when those cute fuzzy little animals turned into scary trolls if they were fed after midnight? Scary, right? Feeding your baby in the middle of the night can have a negative effect, too. It can turn both you and your little one into sleep-deprived monsters. In the JAMA Pediatrics study above, the authors found that “the factor most strongly associated with not sleeping at least six consecutive hours per night at five months of age was feeding the child after an awakening.” Experts say babies are ready to wean off their “dream feed” around four to six months old, as long as they get enough calories during the day. But you know your baby best. If your baby needs that middle of the night feeding, go ahead and give it to him. When in doubt, always consult your pediatrician.
Baby Sleep Tip: Understand How a Baby Sleeps
The longer your baby sleeps, the more she will sleep. Keeping a baby awake in hopes of tiring her out will actually result in over-stimulation. If that happens, your baby will experience difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep. It is very likely that an over-tired baby will sleep shorter, not longer. The old adage that sleep begets more sleep is true! Pay attention to your baby's sleep habits. You will likely find that the nights she sleeps the worst are the days she slept the worst (or skipped a nap).
Baby Sleep Tip: Consistent Bedtimes and Rituals
Babies who enjoy consistent bedtimes and familiar going-to-sleep rituals are usually good sleepers. Because of modern lifestyles, consistent and early bedtimes are not as common as they used to be. Busy two-income parents often don’t get home until six or seven o’clock in the evening. Older babies and toddlers tend to procrastinate their bedtime ritual. This is prime time with their parents and they are going to milk it for all they can. Sometimes, a later afternoon nap and a later bedtime are more practical for busy families. Familiar bedtime rituals set your baby up for sleep. The sequence of a warm bath, rocking, nursing, lullabies, etc. set your baby up to feel that sleep is expected to follow. If you can't fit in all of those steps, don't worry. The important thing is to establish some sort of routine that indicates to your baby that it is time to settle down and sleep. Even if your routine just involves changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading a book, just stay consistent. Be sure to follow the same steps in the same order each night and you should get a good sleeper.
With a little practice, the whole family can be sleeping soundly. Good luck!