Moms and dads are most definitely the kings and queens of gut instincts, winging it every step of the way. We have to be. While most parenting decisions are fairly subjective, not black and white scenarios, there are a few rules that are generally accepted as "the right way."
Every new parent faces a mountain of challenges and uncertainties in the initial days and months after becoming a mother or father. Parenthood is pretty much a massive game of "Am I doing this right or messing this up completely?" The issue with never knowing if feeding, changing or raising the young one is textbook-perfect is that there are a million different ways to bring up kids. Many time, there also isn't one answer to the endless questions parents may have.
When it comes to putting your infant down for a snooze, there are suggested, proper techniques to follow in order to keep your little one most comfortable and as safe as possible. Here are 20 tips to properly putting your baby down for his evening slumber. Good luck mom and dad. If you can master the art of infant sleep then you are well on your way to mastering this whole parenting journey!
20 Darken The Baby's Room & Keep It That Way
While babies can snooze in the light and the dark, there is some science as to why you should keep your baby's sleep space dim. Darkness releases melatonin in your baby's brain, signaling to him that it is time to get some shut eye. While you should keep your baby's days bright, you should keep their nights dark. Not only should you put your little lamb to sleep sans lights, but you should also refrain from turning them on in the middle of the night when he awakes. The shift from sudden dark to light tells him it's time to party and you don't want that at 3 a.m.
19 Put The Baby To Sleep When He's Drowsy, Not Sleeping
It is so tempting to feed or rock your baby to sleep and then gently place him in his crib while you tiptoe backward out of the nursery. When it comes to correctly putting your little one down, this is definitely the easy way out of things and in the long run it's going to cause more bad than good. You want to put your little guy in his crib when he is drowsy, not zonked out. This way he will learn to settle himself down and soothe himself to sleep. This is a skill that is priceless. Trust me on this one.
18 Avoid Eye Contact
It's hard not to stare into those little baby blues twenty-four hours a day, but you might want to purposely avoid eye contact with your infant during his sleeping hours. When you are putting your baby to sleep or trying to convince him to return to sleep in the middle of the night, don't look him in the eye.
Meeting his gaze will often stimulate him and a stimulated infant is not something that jives with slumber, according to BabyCenter. The more interaction that you have with your baby, the better the chance you will have of pulling an all-nighter. In this case, less is definitely more.
17 Lay Off The Nighttime Diaper Changes
One common misconception that new parents have is they must change their sleeping baby's diaper in the dead of night. The baby wakes up at 2 a.m., mom or dad stumble over to the nursery and feed him, burp them and then undress him, jostle him about and change his barely wet diaper. Congrats guys, he has a fresh, clean bum and now you get to do the whole sleep song and dance over again. Before you change Junior's diaper, give it a sniff. If you don't smell number two, and he isn't clearly soaking wet, put him back down to sleep. If you must change him in the dead of night, use warmed wipes and try to lessen the shock of a cold wipe on his bum.
16 Anticipate Sleep Regressions
When it comes to putting your baby to sleep properly, sometimes knowing what lies ahead is the key to not losing your mind. While you can never fully predict what kind of little sleeper you will end up raising, you can prepare yourself for a couple of brief stints with the dreaded sleep regression. Knowing that this unpleasant phase is coming will lessen the pain you will feel once it arrives. Around four months of age, babies decide that sleep is for the birds. They often go through another sleep regression at about nine months old, when separation anxiety sets in.
15 Use An Empty Crib
Now that you have your baby here with you in the outside world, you'll want to keep her safe at all times. One way to do that is to keep her crib bare when she is in it. Sure you snagged about thirty soft blankets and twenty plush toys at your baby shower, but those things don't belong in the crib during your infant's siesta. In order to reduce the risk of SIDS, the only thing that should accompany your kid to bed is a fitted crib sheet and maybe a sleep sack during the cooler months. Grown-ups need their down comforters and pillows in order to be cozy and comfy, babies don't.
14 One-Piece Clothing Only
Babies can be a bit finicky about the temperature in the early days. Their bodies are learning to self-regulate and you don't want them becoming overheated in the night. Parents should never put their kiddos to sleep with hats on as they could end up covering a baby's nose and mouth. Also, cute bows and headbands should come off before it is time to catch some zzzz's. The only item of clothing that your child needs to stay comfy during the nighttime hours is a one-piece sleeper and maybe a properly used swaddle. Learn the swaddle technique so that it never impedes on your baby's breathing.
13 Invest In A Sleep Sack Instead Of A Blanket
Sleepsacks revolutionized the infant sleeping world for parents who fretted over a cold baby in the night but also stunk at getting the perfect swaddle down pat.
Sidenote: I was once the president of the Stinks-At-Swaddles Club, so sleepsacks seriously rocked my world. You zip your baby in, do a few velcro tags to keep her nicely secure in there and you are done. You just earned yourself a worry-free night unless you birthed a baby Houdini.
These sacks tend to stay put while blankets used as swaddles can become undone and then they are just a scary, SIDS inducing blanket in the crib. Some award-winning sleepsacks would include the HALO SleepSack, the Woolino baby sleeping sack, and the aden + anais sleeping bag, as rated by Very Well Family.
12 Set The Thermostat
Contrary to popular belief, super snug and warm infants don't sleep as good as babies who snooze in cooler temperatures. You might be tempted to crack the heat up during the evening hours, but refrain from setting your thermostat too high. A room that is too hot can not only thwart a good night's rest, it can also increase the risk of SIDS for some infants between one month and one year of age.
Many experts recommend that parents set their thermostats to a comfortable temperature somewhere in the range of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. If you truly think that this is too chilly for your baby, grab one of those handy, dandy sleepsacks, never a blanket.
11 Back Is Best
Experts can not say this enough: when it comes to infant sleep, back is best. Most babies can not fully lift up their heads and because of this, placing them on their tummies to snooze can impede their ability to breathe, greatly increasing their risk of SIDS. According to HealthyChildren.org, some findings have suggested that babies who sleep on their tummies receive less oxygen and expel less carbon dioxide because they are essentially "rebreathing" small pockets of air surrounding their noses.
When you little guy is strong enough and developed enough to sleep on his tummy, he will flip over that way all on his own.
10 Ban Crib Bumpers Forever
Cute and fluffy crib bumpers were once used in nurseries because they were thought to protect infants from hurting themselves on hard crib rails. Many parents believed that they would also prevent little limbs from getting stuck in between the crib bars. While this might be partially true in some instances, crib bumpers are far more dangerous than helpful.
If you truly want to properly get your infant to sleep safe and sound, put them in a crib without crib bumpers. Bumpers carry a risk of suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment are experts do not recommend them, as per Parenting.com. Go ahead and find other ways to jazz up your nursery that do not include crib bumpers.
9 Put The Baby Bottles Down
Parents might be tempted to place their baby in their cribs with their trusty bottle of milk once they are old enough to hold and maneuver their bottle all by themselves. This saves moms and dads a few moments of baby-related work and tots often nod off in the middle of their bottle. While this is convenient, it isn't a proper way to get your tyke to sleep. Putting your baby to sleep with a bottle in hand can increase their risk of choking and developing tooth decay and chronic ear infections, according to Anytie Sleep Consulting. All bottles should be finished before your baby's head hit's the crib mattress.
8 Buy A Firm Mattress
When it comes to crib mattresses, the rule is the firmer, the better. It is a dangerous misconception to believe that your baby needs cloud-like softness to lull him to sleep. Soft mattresses can increase the risk of SIDS for some infants, so when you head out to buy your crib and mattress, make surer that you are purchasing a firm one. When parents use soft mattresses, infant heads can conform to the mattress, and that is most definitely not something that any parent wants. If you find that mattress shopping perplexes you, check out the Consumer Reports Mattress Buying Guide mat to buying to give you some tips and info.
7 Cribs Are The Only Way
If you have one of those little darlings who seems to have a built-in chip that rejects sleep at all costs, then it is probably tempting to listen to the seasoned mothers in your life tell you to place your squalling infant in a car seat, or a bouncy chair and just let them sleep that way. While these contraptions might stop their crying, they are not proper places for your baby to get his rest. Infants should sleep in their cribs or a safety-approved bassinet or pack-and-play, not other infant contraptions. When it comes to parenthood and babies, safety takes precedence over sanity.
6 Keep To A Schedule
Most babies thrive on stability and predictability, so creating an evening schedule for them will often time result in more rest for both you and baby. You'll want to try and put your baby down in a similar fashion every night and try to stick to the same time each night, or at least be in the same timeframe ballpark. Sure there will be instances where your little one hits the sack much later than normal, but make these occurrences outliers in his world as opposed to a common occurrence. According to Parents.com, infants are overtired they tend to have a restless slumber, which means that you too won't be getting much sleep.
5 Try The Three B's
For those moms and dads who are shooting for getting a gold star in the area of properly placing your baby to bed, try out the good old "3 B's," as recommended by Parents.com. For years parents have sworn that infants fall asleep easier and stay asleep better when they experience those magical B's. The B's stand for bathing, baby massage, and bonding, but how you go about these three B's is totally up to you. You can use lavender scented soaps and oils during bathtime to help encourage relaxation and bond by singing or reading to your baby before you place her in that firm-mattress clad crib of hers.
4 Don't Pass On The Pacifier
When it comes to people and pacifiers, moms and dads tend to sit firmly in one camp or the other. I myself worshipped the little, rubber life-savers. Infants who are put to bed with a paci lower their risk of suffering from SIDS by about half. Furthermore, babies have an innate need to suck, so giving them their paci to suck on in the evening will allow them to soothe themselves in a natural way. If you sit on the fence with the pacifier, try only offering it when your baby is in her crib. This might allow for a win-win situation for both you and baby.
3 Give Dreamfeeding A Try
If you have one of those tots who can never seem to get back to sleep after his one a.m. bottle, try giving him a "dreamfeed." This sleep trick might help both him and you catch some extra REM during the night. Instead of waiting for your little nighttime party animal to wake you up to feast in the dead of night, feed him while he is still fast asleep before you hit the sack yourself. Gently put him right back down after his "dreamfeed," and hope that the snack he didn't even know he got keeps him snoozing for a bit longer. It's a little genius.
2 Never Nix The Naps
If you want your little one to get a proper night's rest, then make sure she is napping like a boss. I know, it sounds like I maybe got that backward, but when it comes to infant sleep, more day snoozing means more nighttime snoozing. If you try and keep your baby awake throughout the day in hopes that she will hit the bed at night like a sack of potatoes, you will be sorely disappointed. Skipping out on naps will only gain you an overtired baby who is fussy and restless when you desperately need them to sleep. Chances are you too will be overtired without those much-needed breaks in the middle of the day.
1 Use Your Voice
Your baby is born already knowing your voice. He has been hearing you for months now and associates your sound with comfort and safety. Let him hear you when he is nodding off to sleep. It might be tempting to turn on your favorite show and rock him off to dreamland, but chances are he will be much more relaxed if he dozes off to the sounds of you talking to him as opposed to the narration on The Bachelor.
You don't have to learn all of the words to every classic lullaby, it's merely the sound of your voice that he loves, not the words that you are singing or speaking.
Resources: babycenter.com, workingmother.com, babygooroo.com, parents.com, parenting.com.