As the founder of Sleep Shop, a company dedicated to helping new babies and parents get the sleep they need, I get asked all the time, "How do I get my little one to sleep?" While my answer varies based on the situation, the baby, and the parenting style, there are some things that remain the same no matter what. I refer to these as sleep fundamentals. While every baby is different and will sleep through the night based on a variety of factors, there are little things every parent can do that will help with the process.
Sleep is so important for babies, especially their first year of life! They will nap anywhere from three to five times a day the first seven to nine months of their lives. At around seven to nine months, they'll usually take around two naps a day, and by 15-18 months, most babies transition to one midday nap. It's important that we offer them the opportunity to sleep throughout the day, because the better they sleep during the day, the better they tend to sleep at night! The more consistent we can be with their sleep routines, the more sleep babies tend to get. Here are five things that parents can do that will greatly help their little ones get the sleep that they need.
- Set up the right sleep environment. You want to make sure your baby's room is ideal for sleep. It should be pitch black so that no light comes in from the outside. This will help with naps, but also to keep the light out in the early mornings so your baby doesn't wake too early. Make sure you have a loud sound machine that goes the duration of the nap and bedtime, as it will help block out noise and also brings comfort to the baby. You want to make sure that the temperature of the room is not too hot or too cold. A baby's temperature fluctuates through different sleep cycles, so you want to make sure the room feels just right.
- Put your baby down awake. Don't rock or feed your baby to sleep. A baby that is able to learn independent sleep is not only able to put themselves to sleep but put themselves back to sleep when they wake through different sleep cycles.
- Try and get your baby to eat full feedings. Once a baby is old enough and big enough (and you get approval from your doctor), babies can take in all of their calories during their daytime feeds and therefore don't have to wake up to eat in the middle of the night. Full feedings help ensure that your baby is well-fed!
- Find your ideal wake time. Depending on the age of your baby, you want to make sure you're putting them down to sleep before they get overtired. Baby's wake time can range anywhere from 35 minutes to three hours based on their age. You want to find the ideal wake time for your child and follow their sleep cues to get them down for both naps and bedtime more easily.
- Establish a sleep routine for both naptime and bedtime. Babies LOVE routine and knowing what to expect. Make your routine sustainable, and get in all your cuddles before bed. The things you do will start to become sleep cues for your little one and will be part of the process of putting them to bed consistently and more easily!