New Year’s day is fast approaching, and the end of the year is a good time to take stock of sleep in your house. If your baby (and by extension, you) are not getting enough zzz’s, maybe there are some tweaks you can make to get better naps or longer nighttime stretches in 2011 — sounds pretty good, right?
Sure, every baby is slightly different when it comes to sleep. But our little ones also come into the world biologically programmed with certain things in common – like a circadian rhythm that responds well to timing and light cues. The more you’re aware of these natural tendencies, the better you can harness and use them to everyone’s advantage.
Here are 5 ways to help your baby sleep sleep well in 2011:
1. Early bedtime: It’s counterintuitive, but most babies sleep longer and better at night when they have an early bedtime. Babies are highly attuned to morning light – it tells their circadian rhythms to get the day started early (painful as it might before parents). By four months old, most babies do best with a bedtime of 7 or 7:30 p.m. to get the full 11 or so hours they need at night (this includes middle-of-the-night wake ups).
2. Check your daytime wake-windows: Babies nap best when you follow their natural biological rhythms to determine sleep times. As a guide, newborn wake windows are about 90 minutes; 4-6 months olds about 2 hours in the morning and 2.5 to 3 hours before bed; 6-9 month olds about 2.5 hours in the morning and 3-4 hours before bed; and 9-12 month olds 2.5 hours in the morning to 4 hours before bed. Throughout the day, start your nap routine 15 minutes before the end of these wake windows.
3. Make it a goal to put your baby down drowsy but awake. The earlier you can start this habit, the better. All babies wake up at night (like most adults), but the “good sleepers” know how to put themselves back to sleep.
4. Remember that babies are noisy at night (just like they are during the day!). Don’t assume that grunting, feet kicking, or other night noises mean your baby needs you. If you give her a little space, she might go back to sleep on her own – that’s a valuable life skill to learn. Of course, unless you’re doing a well thought-out sleep training program, when your baby cries, go to her.
5. When you do, try soothing by the least invasive method first (assuming your baby doesn’t need to eat). Maybe that means giving her the pacifier, rubbing her back, or rocking a bit. Keep the lights off, and use as little stimulation as possible.
Do you have any baby sleep tips to add? Please share!