When it comes to a baby’s sleep schedule, you want to keep it consistent. One little mistake, and he will wake up in the middle of the night. In addition to that, continuous sleep problems can lead to anxiety, depression, and poor academic performance.
With that in mind, we are going to help you separate sleep fact from fiction by providing you with six science-backed baby sleep strategies.
Spot your child sleeping cues
Your child has a sleep window of opportunity, which is a period where he is tired but not too tired to the point of sleeping immediately. If you do not take advantage of that window, his body will release sympathetic chemicals to fight off fatigue and tiredness, which will make it more challenging for you to put him to bed.
So how can you tell if your child is ready to sleep?
Here are some clues that your baby is ready for a nap:
- Your baby is calmer and less active
- Your child is not sensitive to surrounding
- He/She barely makes a noise
- The baby nurses more slowly than usual
- The child starts yawning continuously
Once you observe these cues, it’s essential to tuck him in for bed immediately.
Keep in mind that your baby might be extra fussy when he or she reaches the six-week mark. That means the baby will start crying more throughout the day. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just a temporary stage.
If your child becomes extremely tired, it might behave in these ways:
- A sudden burst of energy
- Hyperactive behavior
- Uncooperative or argumentative
- Whiny or clingy
Every child is created differently, so your child will have his or her individualized response to being overtired. For example, some children may start looking pale, and babies will start searching vigorously for the breast to latch on. The best sign to look for is if the child is being whiny about everything and wants to be held and snuggled all day; this is an indication that he is tired and ready for bed.
Distinguishing between night and day
Daylight is an important factor that regulates the biological cycle. Exposing your baby to darkness at night, and the light in the morning can help the body produce melatonin to keep their internal clock in-sync. This can help his circadian rhythm to remind him to feel sleepy or energized at the right time. The proper exposure can help the child associate darkness with sleepy time, and bright light to wake up time.
Practice falling asleep
Sleep experts claim that the child’s sleep associating clock starts working properly at six weeks of age. Learning to sleep may cause your child to cry, find out why. This is the age where the baby can really fall asleep on his own. If you spoil him and rock him to sleep each night, he will want you to do that every night. This might not be good because he will develop a sleep association that involves you, and will not fall asleep on his own. Also this is often the time when you have to decide whether to let your child sleep in bed with you: co-sleeping has pros and cons you have to consider before taking any decisions.
It doesn’t matter when you start paying attention to the sleep association your baby may develop; you may want to eventually start associating the following habits/behavior below with the process of falling asleep:
- Bottle feeding
- Being rocked to sleep
- Singing a lullaby
- Having you in the room
- Relying on a pacifier
You can reduce sleep association by being present some of the time when your baby is falling asleep. For example, one day, you can nurse your baby to sleep, and the next day just rock your baby to sleep. That way, he will not get hooked on any sleep association. Keep in mind that the feeding sleep association is very powerful and addicting. If you can change your baby to fall asleep without feeding before bedtime, you’ll have an easier time to soothe him to sleep as he gets older.
Make daytime sleep a priority
Research has shown that babies that take occasional naps throughout the day tend to sleep more efficiently at night. Some people think that skipping daytime napping might make it easier for them to sleep at night. However, if the baby is extremely tired, it will be hard for them to settle down at night. That is why it’s essential to make daytime nap a priority.Your child also needs a nutritious sleep snack during the day. Keep in mind that preschoolers, toddlers, and babies who take afternoon naps tend to have a better attention span and mood as compared to babies who don’t nap.
When not to feed the baby at night
If the baby does not require nighttime feeding or doesn’t seem interested in nursing when he gets up in the middle of the night, then it’s best to get rid of that nighttime feeding and use other methods to get him back to sleep (see also Nighttime Feedings and Sleep Problems). You want to encourage the baby to sleep without any food association. Some children can adapt quickly, while others require some time. Once you break that association, he or she will stop waking up in the middle of the night.
Be calm about the sleeping problems
If you are angry and frustrated with your child, he will pick up that negative energy, even if you are trying to hide it. The best thing to do is to accept the fact that babies take longer to learn the proper sleeping habit. If you feel confident that you can and will eventually stop your child’s sleeping problems, then it makes the situation easier to cope with, especially during those nighttime sleep interruptions.
Research has shown that parents who are positive about overcoming sleep obstacles tend to handle these parenting situations more efficiently than those who feel negatively about it.
We understand how difficult it could be to get your child to sleep soundly at night. In fact, healthy sleep habits and schedules can improve your baby’s quality-of-life. It helps them relax, enjoy life, and concentrate better at school. It also improves their mood, so they don’t cause a lot of tantrums or issues. Fortunately, these six strategies are proven to be highly effective. If you’re interested in something more, you can try a baby sleep training program that will provide you with a variety of techniques to soothe your child for a better night’s sleep.