February 9, 2016

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

sleeping baby

Fact: Babies who are on a healthy sleeping schedule are happier babies! My sister in law gave me the book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby” before I had my first babe, and I have been hooked ever since. (There are tons of sleep books out there and most of them are relatively similar.) Both of my children have slept through the night since they were newborns, and they have both been the happiest babies. I think part of their good sleeping habits and good temperament  is due to my dedication to their need for sleep.

Sleep is extremely important for infants for many reasons. First, it helps with brain development. Adequate sleep is essential for brain development. Second, it sets them up for good sleeping patterns as children and adults. There are biological rhythms that we are all born with, and by sticking to these rhythms it helps babies learn when they are tired. Third, it helps them fall asleep on their own. It is extremely difficult to put down an overtired baby. Babies who are put down at the correct time fall asleep with ease. Lastly, good sleep in babies decreases the chance of general health and emotional problems.

The following tips are going to help your baby sleep through the night, learn to put themselves to sleep, and provide them with  healthy sleep patterns.

  1. Don’t ever make your baby stay awake. I cringe when I hear moms say, “I am trying to keep my baby awake all day so that he will sleep through the night.” No, NO, NO! Please, for your sake and his sake, let him sleep! Overtired babies are extremely difficult to put to sleep. They often cry for long periods of time, take a lot of soothing to get to sleep, and struggle sleeping through the  night. Stick to your babies “wake time.” Wake time is a period of time that babies can be happily awake before getting overtired. This period of time changes almost monthly, so I recommend looking online to see how long your baby’s wake time should be for their age. This is a great article with recommended wake/sleep times from many different books. When my second baby, Arianne, was born I forgot about her wake time being so short. When babies are newborns, they generally fall asleep almost anywhere and anytime they are tired. However, after a couple of weeks, they will need help going to sleep. Ari was starting to get really fussy at night, and I would feed her multiple times thinking that she was hungry, however I quickly realized that she wasn’t getting enough sleep! I read through my book again and realized I was keeping her awake for way too long. As soon as I started following her appropriate wake time, she was so much more content and happy! I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about wake times. I had been keeping her awake for 2+ hours, when she should have only been kept up for an hour or less.
  2. Stay on a schedule. Babies love predictability! It helps them feel secure and develop trust with their caregivers because they know that they will care for them. Most babies schedules are something like this: sleep, eat upon waking, play, repeat. Keeping to schedule will help your baby know that their  needs will be met, and will therefore help them be happier.
  3. Put your baby to sleep BEFORE he starts  getting fussy, by paying attention to his sleep cues. As soon as your baby starts crying, he is overtired. The key is to pay attention to their sleep cues so that your timing is perfect. Sleep cues can include: rubbing eyes, yawning, becoming irritable, becoming less focused, wanting to nurse/bottle-feed, and moving less. As soon as you see these signs, that is your cue to put your baby to sleep.
  4. Have a bed-time routine. Before every nap and at night, have a routine. At night your routine can be bath, book, bottle/nurse. For naps, I don’t recommend nursing/feeding  your baby because it can cause them to be reliant on feeding to go to sleep. I recommend swaddling, reading a book, and rocking until drowsy.
  5. Swaddle young babies. Babies are used to being in the womb, which is extremely tight and squishy. When they are first born, they have a reflex called the Moro reflex, or startle reflex. This reflex makes their arms and legs stretch out quickly and unpredictably. Oftentimes, this reflex wakes them up when they are sleeping. When they are swaddled, it keeps their limbs close together, just like they were in the womb, and doesn’t wake them up. When they are newborns, they can be swaddled at anytime to help comfort them. After a few weeks, I recommend only swaddling them for sleep, because they will associate swaddling with sleep and it will become part of their bedtime routine. I hear a lot of moms say, “My baby doesn’t like being swaddled.” Usually this is because you have waited too long to put them to sleep and they have become overtired and are therefor more fussy and wiggly. They may cry when first swaddled, but they will calm down after a minute. Babies can be swaddled until they learn to roll from back to front on their own.
  6. Put your baby in his bed when he is drowsy, but awake. Doing this will teach him to put himself to sleep. When you are putting your baby down for a nap, rock him in your arms until his eyes start to slowly close. This is the perfect time to put him in his crib. He will be tired enough to fall asleep on his own. This doesn’t always work with newborns, but as your baby gets older, and you want to start sleep training, this method works great.

Here are a few signs that your baby is getting enough sleep: He goes to sleep easily with little crying, his nap is long (according to what is appropriate for his age), and he is happy upon waking.

There are many topics on baby sleep, but there is a general guideline for help! I promise your baby will sleep better, be happier, and will more easily go to sleep on their own when they get enough sleep and get on a good sleeping schedule.



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