Healthy sleep habits are very important for all of us. The same way sleep deprivation and fragmentation is hard on you, it is hard on your child. Well-rested babies make happy babies, and well-rested parents make happy (and better) parents.
Nap and bedtime routines will cue your child that sleep is near and set her expectations. Your child might start to get sleepy and her eyes droopy before you even get to step 2.
A typical bedtime routine might include diaper and pajamas, feeding, brushing teeth, a book (or two), and singing and cuddling. A bath was purposely left out for a few reasons: Some parents simply don’t have the time or desire to give a bath every, single night; if your child has dry skin, even plain water can dry it out more; if your child is spirited, a bath can actually have the opposite effect from relaxing him.
Whatever your specific routine is, the steps are unimportant. It is only your consistency that makes your routine successful.
The most misunderstood fact when it comes to a baby’s sleep is the idea that you should keep her up longer to get more sleep out of her. Many times this creates less! It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes the only thing standing
in the way of a better night’s sleep is a late bedtime.
The problem with a too-late bedtime is a child will get overtired. When overtired, our bodies release hormones to fight fatigue. An overtired baby will have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
It seems strange, but the better the baby naps during the day, the better night sleeping can be. The less likely she is overtired come bedtime, the better she can settle down and sleep soundly all night. She won’t be as restless and won’t have as many night-wakings.
It is normal for babies younger than 6 months to take 3–4 short, 30–45 minute catnaps. The average amount of napping is 2–3 hours each day in this age group.
Manage Sleep Associations
Is it a bad idea to rock your baby? It depends. It is never a bad idea to cuddle and give her lots of love and affection! It’s only when rocking (or feeding, bouncing, etc.) becomes a task difficult to sustain that it is a problem. It may inadvertently rob her (and you) of adequate sleep.
Manage Night Feedings
The answer to the question of when a child can go all night without eating varies widely among the experts. Some will say once they double their birth weight, while others will say 1–2 feedings up until 9 months is normal.
All babies are different and it is up to you and your pediatrician to determine whether she needs to eat at night. It is important to note that on average, babies 3 months or older do not need to eat every 1-2 hours. If your baby does, he likely has a sleep association with feeding.
A baby’s path to a good night’s sleep will be as unique as she is, but with your love and guidance, you can all find the sleep you deserve!
Sleep consultant Nicole Johnson is the founder of The Baby Sleep Site.