If you’re like most new moms, you’re not thinking about how you’re going to get your newborn to sleep once they’ve arrived. In fact, you’re likely thinking that sleep is the one thing that your baby will be really good at once they’re born! And you would be right, newborns are usually good at sleeping without much help, at least in the early weeks. However, things can quickly change as they get older, which can affect your child’s ability to sleep well.
The trick is to be able to teach your baby how to be an independent sleeper. This would allow you to be able to lay your child in their crib when they’re ready for sleep, and that they would be able to put themselves asleep. While that might sound like a monumental task, I promise you it can be done! If you can teach your baby this wonderful skill when they’re newborns, they’ll be able to eventually sleep through the night without ever having to officially sleep train them. I call this newborn teaching time “sleep teaching”, because you’re setting the stage for them to be a good, independent sleeper.
There are a few things that go into being able to master this skill of independent sleeping. I’m going to share some of those secrets with you right now!
1. Bedroom Environment – Setting up your baby’s sleep space is important in “setting the stage” for good sleep. Just like you would prepare your own bedroom for optimal sleep, you also want to do the same for your child.
a. Keep the bedroom dark. Just like with adults, children sleep better when it’s dark, so put up some room darkening blinds or curtains.
b. Be sure your baby isn’t too hot or too cold. Room temperature for younger children should be about 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, newborns only need one more layer than adults do, so be careful you’re not bundling your baby up too much. Remember, sleep sacks or swaddles count as an extra layer!
c. White noise can be your best friend! You can’t control noises happening outside of your house, or even those coming from inside, which is why white noise is great! You can use it to not only cover up those random dog barks, toddler screams, 5am trash pick ups, fire truck whistles, or thunderstorms, but it’s also a very soothing, consistent background sound. Be sure to have the noise machine run consistently all night, so that it doesn’t become a reason why your child wakes overnight (ie their noise stopped).
2. Avoid Sleep Props – Sleep props are things used by parents in order to get their child to sleep. There are good sleep props and not-so-good ones. Good ones would be things like white noise. Yes, your child may come to rely on and love it, but it’s not something that involves your help every night and nap, so it’s okay to use. The ones that require you are the ones that you want to avoid! The not-so-good sleep props include:
a. Feeding to sleep. Regardless of how you feed your child (ie breastfeeding or bottle feeding), this is the #1 sleep prop! Why? Because it’s super easy! Babies are born wanting to eat and then pass out (don’t we all want to do this?), so it can be a tough habit to break. But that’s exactly what you want to work on doing… disassociating feeding from sleeping. They’re two separate things and should be treated as such. Besides being a prop, it’s also tough on their little digestive systems if they’re eating and immediately going to sleep.
It’s like you or I eating a large meal while half-laying down and then immediately lying flat right afterwards. It would basically lay in your chest and not feel very good. You would likely get heartburn or even feel your stomach acids come back up on you (ie acid reflux). These same things happen with babies, which is why it’s much better if you can feed your baby, then keep them upright for about 30 minutes before putting them down for a nap or bed. This way it’s good for their digestive system and it takes feeding away as a sleep prop!
b. Using strollers, car seats, bouncers, and swings. Don’t get me wrong, these things can all be lifesavers when your child is young! The trick though is to not let these things become the ONLY way your child falls asleep. The last thing you want to do on a snowy, wintery day is figure out how you’re going to drive your child around for an hour to let them get their nap when there’s 3 feet of snow on the ground. You really want to use these things sparingly, or as back ups, to getting your child to sleep and not as the main way. It’s never too early or too late to work on getting your child happily sleeping in their crib!
3. Understanding your child’s awake times – This last one is super important, so pay close attention! It’s important that you understand how much awake time your infant needs in between periods of sleep. This is crucial to your being able to get them to avoid all of those not-so-good sleep props and sleep like a rock star! What this sleep schedule looks like depends on your child’s age and their individual sleep needs.
a. Here’s what you can expect to see over your child’s first year of life:
|0 – 4 weeks||30-50 minutes|
|4 – 6 weeks||40-60 minutes|
|6 – 8 weeks||45 minutes – 1 hour 15 minutes|
|3 months||1 hour – 1 hour 30 minutes|
|4 months||1 hour 15 minutes – 2 hours|
|5 months||1 hour 45 minutes – 2 hours 15 minutes|
|6 months||2 hours – 3 hours|
|7-9 months||2 hours 45 minutes – 3 hours 15 minutes|
|10-11 months||3 hours – 4 hours|
|12 – 14 months||3 hours 30 minutes – 5 hours|
4. Understanding how much sleep your child needs – Now that you understand how much time your child needs to be awake in between naps/bed, it’s time to understand how much sleep they need in total. Children need to sleep about 11-12 hours overnight until they’re around 2 years old. Between the ages of 2 and 4 years old, that number will often lessen to between 10-11 hours. This change is only for kids who are still napping though. Once they drop their final nap, they should go back to the 11-12 hour night for awhile.
a. Here’s how much you can expect your child to sleep over their lifetime (note: the total hours are for a 24 hour day, so it includes all naps and night):
|14-17||Newborns (0-3 months)|
|12-15||Infants (4-11 months)|
|11-14||Toddlers (1-2 years)|
|10-13||Preschoolers (3-5 years)|
|9-11||School aged children (6-13 years)|
|8-10||Teens (14-17 years)|
|7-9||Adults (18-64 years)|
|7-8||Adults (65+ years)|
If you can follow the above guidelines for your baby, you will be well on your way to having a good sleeper! Of course, if you already have some unhealthy sleep habits in place, and you want to correct them, you might need to look at putting in a bit more work. But no worries, because no matter how old your child is, you can always work on their sleep habits!
Not only do I work one-on-one with parents, but I also have a great series of online courses available for parents to learn more about sleep, schedules, sleep teaching or sleep training, and exactly how to make the changes you need to in order to have a good sleeper. I also have a lot of free guides, webinars, and blogs packed full of information! Feel free to check out my website for more information at www.sleeptasticsolutions.com!