When you are pregnant you tend to hear “Get ready to never sleep again” more often than “Congratulations!”. And that creates a lot of pressure and stress in your “new mom brain” which is already overwhelmed by all the changes happening in your life.
Before we start talking about the sleep schedule, I want to throw something out there- all babies are different! There is never one rule that applies to all babies. Just like us, they have their own needs and preferences, some babies wake up more at night, and some like to sleep longer stretches and it's our job as parents to get to know their needs and help them develop healthy sleep habits.
So what can I actually do to help my baby sleep better?
I will share with you my personal tips that I have implemented and found to be successful with my son.
Know your baby’s age-appropriate wake window
A wake window is the time your little one can stay awake between naps. That changes as he grows. Newborns for example can be awake for 45 minutes and when they reach 6 months of age that goes up to 2.5 -3 hours.
Find a good wake window chart and screenshot it so you can have an easy access at all times. And this may sound really silly but try to develop a habit of checking the clock as soon as your baby wakes up. In the beginning, I was so excited to see him awake and play with him, and by the time I change and feed him, I suddenly ask myself “oh no.. how much time has actually passed .. *insert cricket sounds* Once you know that it will give you an idea of when you need to put him down for a nap. Trust me on this one I learned the hard way.
Learn baby sleep cues
Sleep cues are the ways your baby can show you when he is tired and ready to sleep. That includes rubbing his eyes, yawning, being fussy, zoning out, redness around his eyes and eyebrows, and rubbing or even pulling his ears. Although it is very helpful to know your baby age appropriate wake window, remember -this is just a guide, unlike the sleep cues.. because as we mentioned - all babies are different.
Usually the time they can stay awake may depend on the length of their previous nap, so it is more reliable to follow their tired signs.
Have a consistent nap and bedtime routine
Researches show that babies who follow a bedtime routine fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer ( i think that does it to convince you already) But it is also a fact that babies and toddlers love routines and predictability and having a good bedtime routine helps to soothe the baby and lets him now its time to go to sleep. The routine itself doesn't have to be long or complicated. It just has to be in the same order every time. It can be giving your baby a quick warm bath with a calming body wash, a relaxing and gentle massage with soothing baby oil or it can simply be turning off the lights and singing or reading to your baby.
Create a good sleep environment in your baby’s room
This is something I did from day one because it just makes perfect sense. Think of how good your sleep quality will be if you sleep in a dark, cool, and quiet room versus the opposite. Right? Made you sleepy already:) So blinds or blackout drapes will be ideal to keep the room dark even during the daytime. Keep the room nice and cool between 68-72 degrees F. If you can't do that make sure the little one is dressed accordingly because being too hot might cause him to wake up or even have trouble falling back to sleep.
Regarding the noise part, let's face it, it's impossible to cancel all sounds coming from the outside world, however, a good white noise machine can mask for example the sound from the tv, your neighbor’s yelling, or even street construction noise. Just make sure the volume of the sound machine is at a safe level for a baby and that you place it away from the crib.
Baby active sleep or REM
This is a stage of sleep called Rapid eye movement (REM- yup, just like the rock band) It simply means that your baby looks awake but he is actually sleeping. A baby in REM may make sounds, cry, laugh, turn around, and even open their eyes! New parents often mistake these sounds and movements as signs that their newborn is awake, so they rush and pick them up when in reality the baby was asleep and they are the ones waking the baby up! ( i think they should give us a brochure or something about this in the hospital because this is craaazy and we don't talk about it enough).
So, when you think that your little one is awake, it is important to just step back, give it a minute and make sure he is indeed not sleeping.