Guest Post: 7 Tips for Healthy Baby Sleep Habits

New parents aren’t easy to spot out in public. Bags under the eyes, vacant expressions, and a generally shabby appearance reflect one of the most stressful parts of having a baby in the house: sleep deprivation. There’s no avoiding it for the first few months. After that, however, establishing healthy baby sleep habits can make a world of difference. Here are seven tips to get you started.

 

1. Establish a bedtime routine

A regular routine that you follow every night will prepare your little one, both mentally and physically, to go to sleep at night. They have the added benefit of helping you, the parent, remember to do things like change the diaper. One popular example is the bath-bottle-bed routine, in which you give your baby a warm bath, then a warm bottle, then tuck him or her in bed.

 

2. Set an early bedtime

Babies are often ready to go to bed much earlier than their parents realize. For our twins, that’s about an hour after dinner. It’s easy to keep your little one up later; you want to play and snuggle them as long as possible, right? Setting an early bedtime matches their sleep cycle to natural circadian rhythms, and it often helps them sleep longer at night. This is something you have to try to believe.

 

3. Put your baby in the crib to sleep

Newborns sleep 16-18 hours per day, and exhibit an uncanny ability to fall asleep just about anywhere. The safest and best place for them to sleep is in the crib. You know, that big, expensive rectangular thing hogging most of the nursery. This is a habit that’s easiest to start early. If you’re not in the habit already, you might have to make this change over a couple of weeks. A mini crib or bassinet in your room can help smooth this transition.

 

4. Use a swaddle or sleep sack

Swaddling is a technique that mimics the snug comfort of the womb, while keeping your baby warm overnight. There’s a reason they do this in every hospital nursery I’ve seen. When babies are a little bit older, they begin to kick out of the swaddle. At this point, a sleep sack will offer a bit more freedom of movement while still offering warmth and comfort.

 

5. Darkness and white noise

In the nursery, we try to minimize any sources of potential early wake-ups. These include sunlight (blocked out with room-darkening shades and heavy curtains) and loud noises that we attempt to mask with the white noise from an in-room fan.

 

6. Follow safe sleep practices

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released updated sleep safety guidelines for infants. Among their recommendations: put your baby to sleep on his or her back, in the crib, with no bumpers or loose bedding.

 

7. Practice soothing techniques

Often a baby will wake up and parents over-respond: picking the little up, turning on the lights, that sort of thing. A subtler approach often yields better results: slip in quietly, offer a soothing word, re-insert the pacifier, tuck them back in. Nine times out of ten, that’s enough to settle one of our little ones after an unexpected wake-up.

 

Some babies are natural good sleepers. Others require you to work at it a little (or a lot). A little time and effort invested now will pay dividends later. When your baby has healthy sleeping habits, everyone in the house reaps the benefits. Good luck!

 

Dan Koboldt is the author of Get Your Baby to Sleep, a central resource for sleep-deprived parents with advice on baby sleep training, handling sleep problems, and teaching healthy, safe baby sleep habits.

 

 

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