When it comes to getting your little one to sleep, it seems everyone has advice to offer. If you search infant sleep online, you are likely to find anything from cry it out methods to co-sleeping, and everything in between. It’s no wonder that new parents are at a loss as to what they can do to help their baby sleep better at night.
At The Doula House we have used our work with clients to help us find the most important keys in supporting parents when they are trying to develop better sleep habits in their children.
Here are a few of the main tips that are important to focus on:
Rule #1: Set a sleep rhythm. I do not like the term “routine” as it sounds too rigid. With a baby, nothing is predictable, and therefore it cannot be rigid. It is best to have a rhythm, something your little one can connect with every night. A good rhythm is creating a slow-down flow; start with a bath, this is calming yet fun and a great way to bring the focus inward after dinner or playtime! After a bath, you may find that a story works well. For some, infant massage is better and helps them feel physically connected with their baby. End the rhythm with a song, a snack (breast or bottle) and off to sleep. As you can see, the goal is to bring the energy slowly down, bringing more attention to the quiet slowness of bedtime. Children need time to calm down, this is not a 15-30 minute process. For most infants a 60-90 minute wind down time is optimal.
Rule#2: Find something that anyone can do! This is so important. Too many mothers find that after 3-6 months, they are the only one who can put their child to bed. The main reason for this, is because they are the only ones putting the child to bed. If you create yourself as part of the sleep rhythm, then you become essential. If you are a nursing mother, try feeding after the bath, but before the rest of the calm down session. This will allow your partner, nanny, or any other support person to be easily worked into the bedtime routine.
Rule #3: Have realistic expectations. Most parents are so excited to have their baby “sleep through the night,” that they get overly anxious. When I ask them what that means to them, they tell me “an 8-10 hour stretch.” With infants older than 3 months sleeping through the night is considered a 5 hour stretch. It is healthy and normal for a child to wake during the night; having more realistic expectations can help you to feel more empowered about the 5 hour stretch, rather than developing frustration over how much your child is sleeping. Some babies sleep for longer stretches than others, and there are many factors that go into that. Focus instead on the mini goals that your baby is making, and enjoy the time you get to spend bonding in the night with your precious newborn…I promise those nights won’t last forever.