Instilling Healthy Sleep Habits in Your Baby

When it comes to a newborn and their eating and sleeping schedule, there’s just no getting around the fact that they are the ones to call the shots. Don’t worry – it’s impossible to spoil a newborn – and following their lead is one of the best ways to figure out their pattern and develop a routine that will work for you both.

And rest-assured, a pattern will gradually reveal itself to you – you just need to be on the look-out for when it does emerge and work with what you get. Don’t waste precious time and energy trying to create a routine from scratch. There’s just no point until your baby develops their own natural rhythm.

That said, it’s never too early to instill some healthy sleep habits in your baby. So once you are settled and as rested as can be, follow the tips below in order to promote solid sleep behaviour in your little bundle.

7 Master the Art of Swaddling

The art of swaddling basically refers to snugly wrapping your baby up in a blanket for comfort and security. It can help prevent your baby from being disturbed during sleep by their own startle reflex. And it also ensures your baby stays calm and warm.

If you do decide to give swaddling a whirl, ensure you do it properly. Make sure there’s plenty of room at the bottom of the blanket so that your baby can bend their legs up and away from their body. If you swaddle your baby’s legs too tightly, it can eventually lead to hip dysplasia.

Keep in Mind

While swaddling can be achieved with any standard baby blanket, there are also a variety of swaddling products on the market which will simplify the process for you. You should note that most parenting experts feel that babies should no longer be swaddled once they reach the ripe old age of two months. This is typically the time that your baby will begin rolling over on their own.

6 Create a Routine that Your Baby can Count on

When you first notice a pattern emerging in your baby’s sleep behaviour – it means it’s time to focus on putting together a reliable routine for them. Babies thrive on consistency and predictability so while you still need to remain flexible, it’s important to maintain a schedule that your baby can count on and actually look forward to. Try to stick to feeding them, bathing them and getting them to sleep for naps and at bedtime at relatively the same time each day.

If you do things in a predictable order – for example, enjoy some play time, followed by supper, then bath, story and bedtime – your baby will start to learn the routine and know what is expected of them. Don’t forget to take into account your baby’s natural rhythm and personality when you work to establish a solid routine. 

Follow Your Baby’s Lead

Always trust your instincts and follow your baby’s lead. If they don’t seem hungry at the typical time or are exhibiting signs of sleepiness earlier than usual, follow their lead. As your baby grows and develops, their schedule and routine will inevitably adjust and shift to accommodate these changes – just go with it.

5 Read Your Baby’s Cues

If you’re really paying attention, you’ll begin to notice your baby providing you with hints to let you know when they are ready to eat or poop or go to sleep. These cues can range from very subtle behaviours (like a closed fist) to full-on disclosure (screaming). Whatever the case, it’s important for you to pay attention to these cues and act on them.

When you notice your baby displaying cues that they are ready for bed, you want to be able to get them to sleep as soon as possible which means they should already be fed, bathed and changed. If you let them become overly tired, it may be difficult to calm them down and get them to sleep.

Watch for These Cues

Here are some newborn cues or behaviours that may indicate they are sleepy and ready for bed:

- Rubbing at their eyes and/or ears

- Yawning

- Closing their fists

- Sucking on their fingers

- Fluttering eyelids

- Jerky limb movements

- Glassy-eyed stare and/or crossed-eyes

- Frowning or furrowing of brow

- General fussiness

4 Keep Things Calm at Bedtime

In order to encourage a gentle drifting off at bedtime, it’s important that your baby’s bedtime environment promotes a gentle drifting off. Start by preparing your baby for bedtime sooner than later. Depending on how early your baby typically goes to bed, you may want to start the routine right after supper.

Focus on activities that your baby finds calming and soothing – anything that will encourage relaxation and avoid stimulation. Save the loud and boisterous play for the mornings soon after they arise. And unplug from tv and the computer before bedtime as both of these can overstimulate your baby.

If your baby turns out to be a reluctant sleeper and starts to fuss as bedtime approaches, singing is a good distraction as you prepare them for sleep. Also, figure out what your baby enjoys most about your bedtime routine and end on a high note. If they absolutely love a story or a song, save it for last.

Keep Calm and Carry On

It’s important to remember that in order to create a calming environment for your baby you need to remain calm and relaxed as well. If you raise your voice or become upset, your baby will notice and sense this. Remind yourself of this fact no matter how tired you are or how important it is that your baby goes straight to sleep.

3 Put Your Baby to Bed Awake

As with anything, it is up to you to provide your baby with the opportunity to learn on their own and to encourage and help them along the way. And if they don’t get the hang of things immediately (they probably won’t), it is your job to give them unconditional love and support so they will continue trying.

Start by putting them to bed when they are tired but not too tired. If they go to bed overly tired, they may be too keyed up to focus on self-soothing. Say “good night”, touch them gently and leave the room.

Self-soothing is Key

In a perfect world, your baby will smile and coo up at you before gently shutting their eyes and drifting off into lala land. And while this may not exactly occur at first, it will eventually if you play your cards right and continue to encourage your child to get to sleep all on their own.

Even if they cry out from sleep in the middle of the night – give them a chance to resettle on their own before you run in to make sure everything is okay. 

2 Promote Through-the-Night Sleeping

The fact of the matter is that some babies take longer to get to the sleeping-through-the-night phase than others and with some tips to follow as well as some gentle nudging along, you and your baby will get there too.

When you first bring your newborn home, it’s relatively easy for your baby to treat day and night as interchangeable but as they grow and settle, it’s important you take steps so they don’t get their days and nights mixed up. When feeding at night, do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. If bottle-feeding, try and have it ready in anticipation of their hunger. If they become too hungry, they may upset themselves and become too frantic to easily calm and get back to sleep.

Take Further Steps

Once your baby reaches four to six months, they most likely no longer require a middle-of-the-night feeding. And if they aren’t yet sleeping through the night on their own, then consider taking further measures to help them on their way.

1 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don’t beat yourself up over the small stuff. Parenting is all about doing what needs to be done in order to focus on the bigger and more important issues.

While it’s important to set some boundaries as well as a routine, it’s equally important to recognize when flexibility is required. At times, you may have to bite the bullet and bend some of your own rules in order to get some much-deserved shut-eye of your own. Here’s how to justify it: how difficult will it be for you to create a routine and follow through if you are sleeping on your feet?

Do What Needs to be Done

Chances are, the only one who will try to make you feel like a failure or a spineless jellyfish is you yourself. And as long as you don’t slip into any bad habits on a regular basis, there is really nothing for you to worry about.

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