I love my job. I am passionate about sleep and get to use this passion every day to help babies and their families learn great sleep habits so that they can be as healthy and as happy as can be!
One of my favourite parts of my job is when I work with expectant parents or parents of newborns. I am always thrilled to be able to provide a plan for helping a baby establish healthy sleep habits right from the start to avoid having to make sleep changes later on!
So, to help avoid having to makes changes to your babies sleep habits down the road, below are a few goals to keep in mind as you and your baby work through the first few months of his life.
- Help your baby learn how to fall asleep without the use of a sleep prop (feeding, rocking, holding, bouncing, swinging and car rides etc.) to get your baby to sleep.
When baby relies on a sleep prop to fall asleep, she won’t be able to fall asleep on her own or get back to sleep when she wakes. This means that whatever helped her to sleep the first time will be required each time they wake from a sleep cycle. This, in turn, means that Mommy or Daddy will need to recreate the same sleep environment that was used to get baby to sleep the first time. Considering a newborns sleep cycle is only approximately 45 minutes… that is a lot of waking for both baby and Mommy or Daddy!
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
A bedtime routine is key in helping your baby understand and learn sleep time cues. It provides your baby’s mind and body a chance to wind down from the day and can be great quality time with your infant. Start with a warm bath and then move to the baby’s room and continue with some calming activities such as getting cozy with jammies, a few songs and a quiet feed before putting your baby to bed. With a consistent routine, your baby will quickly recognize when sleep time is approaching and will transition more easily to sleep.
- Swaddle your baby
A swaddle can be a valuable tool to help your baby fall asleep. Many babies find the tight blanket reassuring and a comfort at sleep times. A swaddle can also help prevent your baby from startling himself awake with his ‘moro reflex’, a sudden movement when a baby throws out his arms as if he is falling. As baby get older however, he can start to rely on the swaddle to fall asleep, at which point it has become a sleep prop. It is best to start weaning your baby off the swaddle between 8 – 12 weeks of age.
- Soother or not soother?
There is no doubt that newborns have a very strong need to suck in the first few months of their lives. If your baby will take a soother, it can be a very useful tool to help to satisfy this need. Once a baby reaches about 2 to 3 months of age, she can often satisfy this need during her feeds and the soother then risks becoming a prop if used at sleep times. Be mindful of how you use a soother and try not to allow it to become something your baby relies on to fall asleep.
- Whenever possible, put your baby in his crib or bassinet before he falls asleep
This thought doesn’t often occur to parents and they find themselves holding, rocking and bouncing their baby until he falls asleep only to have him wake as soon as they try to transfer him to his crib. By placing your baby in his bassinet awake, you are teaching him from an early age that HE, not Mommy or Daddy, has the power to make happen.
There you have it. A few tips to help you lay a strong foundation for healthy sleep habits right from the beginning. Remember, your baby’s biological clock with develop more fully over the next few months. For some babies, six weeks marks a turning point and their sleep cycle begins to settle down. Around this age, most babies will sleep longer stretches during the day (three to five hours) and will be more alert and awake during the day. For other babies it will take a little longer. The good news is that if you have been diligent in creating healthy sleep habits in your newborn by ensuring she is not relying on props and is able to fall asleep on her own, chances are she will wean herself off nighttime feeds somewhere between 10 and 13 weeks of age. Be patient and most of all, enjoy this precious time with your newborn.
My name is Jill Parker and I am a Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant. As a professional sleep consultant, I am dedicated to helping parents learn the skills to teach their children to become independent, healthy sleepers. I am a mother of two young boys and have always felt passionate about making sleep a priority in my family’s life. I strongly believe that healthy sleep habits mean happy, healthy and active children.