Learn some of the best tips to get your baby to sleep from a pediatric sleep consultant. Put these into place and you’re on your way to your whole family getting the rest you need!
Baby sleep is complicated!
There is a lot of information out there regarding baby sleep habits (and how to fix them), but these are the tips that I always start with—no matter how old your child is!
Whether your baby is four months old or four years old, these sleep secrets can really make a difference in getting your child a better night’s sleep.
1. Sleep Environment is Everything
Setup a healthy sleep environment for your baby and you’ll be halfway to a goodnight’s rest! No matter how old your child is, these elements can make a huge difference in the quality of your baby’s or toddler’s sleep:
- Nursery Blackout Curtains—Get a good pair of blackout curtains the first time around! I went through three pairs of curtains in three years until I finally found these curtains that were truly dark enough. We struggled with early wake ups with my daughter off and on and I’m almost positive the sunlight poking through in the wee hours of the morning was the culprit.
- White noise sound machine—Sound machines are one of the most overlooked baby registry items and yet they are so important! Babies are used to loud noises in the womb and are more comfortable with noise as they adapt to life on the outside. Sound machines can help drown out noise from siblings, dogs, and doorbells even as your baby grows.
- Spend time in the nursery—Being in a new place can feel a bit uncomfortable. If you never spend time in your baby’s nursery (or toddler’s room), then how can you expect them to sleep there all night? Do feedings in the nursery, play in the crib, etc. Spend a lot of time in your baby’s room so it’s a safe and comfortable place for them to be all night.
#2. Nutrition is Equally Important
Our bodies can’t function properly without proper nutrition. Sleep and nutrition go hand in hand, especially for babies and toddlers.
When babies are too tired, they don’t eat well. And when they don’t eat well, they don’t sleep well—it really can be a vicious cycle!
If your baby is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, try to focus on giving him full feeds. This means he is emptying the breast and eating until he is full as opposed to snacking throughout the day.
#3. It’s All About Eat Play Sleep
As a baby sleep consultant, the issue I see parents needing help with the most is trying to get their baby to stop nursing in the middle of the night. I have helped moms wean night feeds with babies as young as six months, all the way up to 18 months.
Did you know we all wake up several times in the middle of the night? We just put ourselves back to sleep and don’t realize that we ever “woke up.”
The difference for babies is that when they are fed to sleep they start to need that same thing to get back to sleep. They can wake up in the middle of the night and feel like they are in a different sleep environment entirely.
Perhaps they fell asleep in mom’s arms or on the breast. Now they are in this flat crib and everything looks and feels so different!
#4—Routine, Routine, Routine
Having a consistent routine can make a huge difference in preparing your child for sleep and avoiding bedtime battles in the first place!
Children feel safe when they know what’s coming, so having a predictable routine can help set everyone up to thrive.
This doesn’t mean you have to do the same things everyday. It can look like following eat play sleep and having a nap and bedtime routine in place.
Doing the same 3 to 5 activities each night can help wind your baby down from the day and actually cue to their brain that it’s time to sleep!
You don’t need a long drawn out bedtime routine each night full of massages and lullabies (although those are great activities if you want to do them!).
Even putting on a sleep sack can be a repetitive action that helps prepare your baby for sleep. The magic is in the consistency of the same events happening most nights. (Because of course there will be off nights).
#5. Wake Windows Can Make A Huge Difference
If you took a nap at 6 PM, would you be able to then go to sleep for the night at 9 PM? (Maybe if you’re an exhausted mom, but probably not!). Your baby’s wake times or wake windows work just like that!
Babies and toddlers (and even adults sometimes!) need a certain amount of active awake time before they can settle down for a good nap. This awake time will vary based on your child and their age, but generally falls within a range.
Even an extra 15 minutes of awake time can make a huge difference in the quality of your child’s sleep. Put them down too soon and they’ll be under tired, leading to a short nap. Put them down too late and they’ll be overtired, making it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep!
If your baby only naps 30 minutes, evaluate their wake window!
The younger your child is, the more sensitive they’ll likely be to wake times.
Do All Kids Need Sleep Training?
A question I get asked frequently is: Is sleep training necessary? And the answer is No! It’s not always necessary to sleep train or hire a sleep consultant in these two instances:
- If you aren’t bothered by your child’s sleeping habits and can survive with little to no sleep. (Some parents do this for years and I have no idea how!).
- If you lay the foundation from a young age and set up healthy sleep habits early on.
We never sleep trained our daughter and have had three years of consistently good sleeping habits. Sure, there are rough patches and sleep regressions here and there, but overall she’s a great sleeper!
I really didn’t even know what sleep training truly meant until I became a certified sleep consultant! (And no, sleep training doesn’t mean cry it out).
Sleep training can be incredibly effective if you’ve let bad habits go too far or are ready to make a change with your child’s sleeping patterns.
But if your baby is younger, or you’re expecting a baby through pregnancy or adoption, you can set up healthy sleep habits from the beginning and avoid sleep training altogether!
If you need help with your baby’s sleep, I would love to schedule a free call and chat with you! As a sleep consultant, I am passionate about helping families get the rest they need. I truly believe good sleep can transform your whole family!