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When your baby doesn’t sleep well, it can drive you to the brink of insanity. You are worried about why baby won’t sleep well. You are emotional because you can’t remember what it feels like to sleep longer than a few hours at a time. You feel stressed because you can’t afford to take your time doing anything because your time is short before baby needs you again (I once removed the clothes from the dryer, moved clothes into the dryer, started a new load, AND folded laundry in FIVE MINUTES when I had a newborn. I try to replicate that every week and just can’t make it happen). You are paranoid because when baby wakes up is always a guessing game. You feel anxious because try as you may, you just can’t get sleep just right.
Helping baby sleep well is not as easy as it ever sounds in written instructions. It is easy to write a simple how-to guide. It is much harder in practice. It is, however, doable. You just need to focus on a few key areas. Here is how you can have a good sleeper (be sure to follow links on any topic you need more input on).
If you want a good sleeper in the long run, you need to be willing to make sacrifices now to ensure your baby has a chance to really get the sleeping thing down. Baby needs to have a consistent day for at least a couple of weeks (perhaps more if you have a more touchy baby) to get the sleep thing down. Some babies are natural sleepers, but others really need to learn the skill.
Compare it to any skill you might want to learn. Let’s say you wanted to learn to swim. One day, we did lessons in the indoor pool. The next day, I took you to the outdoor pool in the literally middle of water aerobics class. The next, I take you to the ocean for your lessons where you continue trying to swim but now waves are moving you about. Can you imagine how this might be tricky for you when the base location of where you are expected to learn this skill changes so much from day to day?
Keep your baby’s environment consistent for a time so baby can learn this skill before he is expected to use the skill in a variety of settings. This will require some sacrifice on your part. You will sacrifice some now in order to have more freedom overall in coming months.
Along the same vein, be consistent. Have a routine in your day. Let baby know what to expect from day to day. Let days be predictable. Make sure you start your day at the same time each day and that bedtime is at the same time each day.
You will also want to have a Sleep Routine. My personal favorite routine for sleeping is called the Four S’s from the Baby Whisperer. As your are focusing on your consistency and your routine, be aware of any props you might be creating.
A sleep prop is anything your baby depends on to be able to sleep. You might decide a sleep prop is worth it to you. For example, a pacifier is a sleep prop. Some people choose to have their baby use a pacifier knowing it is a prop. They decide the potential difficulties are outweighed by the benefits. Just don’t start a prop you aren’t willing to continue each day or wean from someday. If you don’t want to use the prop every time, don’t do it this time. This gets even more true as your baby grows from baby toddler and preschooler.
Feed Baby Enough
Be sure in your routine that you are keeping baby awake to eat and that baby is eating often enough throughout the day. In a recent poll I did about sleeping through the night, one of the most common comments was people said they thought baby getting enough sleep was the number one contributor to baby sleeping well at night. Keep that baby awake while eating so she doesn’t get power naps and then not sleep well at nap time (Nursing A Newborn: Keep Baby Awake!). Make sure you are feeding baby often enough for baby’s age.
Get Waketime Correct
After eating, you will spend some time with “playtime”–and for some newborns, playtime consists of
a diaper change. After playtime, baby will take a nap. Make sure baby is awake for the correct length of time. If baby is up too long, baby will take a short nap. If baby was not up long enough, baby will take a short nap. If naps are bad, it often leads to poor night sleep. Fortunately, I have a post dedicated to Optimal Waketime Lengths.
Another thing to be aware of with sleep is the stimulation levels. Is baby getting too much stimulation? Is baby not getting enough stimulation? Stimulation can be physical, mental, and social. It can be background noise from a television.
Create an Optimal Sleep Environment
When you do put baby to sleep, you want the sleep environment to be best for your baby. You want to consider the temperature of the room (see also Optimal Internal Temp=Optimal Sleep and Some Like It Hot (Sleep That Is)), how baby is dressed, the sun levels in the room, white noise, and swaddling.
Make Sure Baby is Comfortable
You want baby to be comfortable where baby sleeps. Part of that is the environment like we just discussed. Part of that might be the bed baby sleeps in.
Also, if your baby is sick or teething, sleep might not go so well during that time. If baby has reflux, there is an excellent chance baby’s sleep will take a negative hit from that.
If you want a good sleeper, do not ignore these tips. If you follow them, your baby will be the best sleeper baby can be. Remember Sleep Begets Sleep, but you also cannot force sleep. Know that even good sleepers have bad naps, bad nights, or even bad days. Do your best, set baby up for success, and accept the fruits of your labors.
For help tracking things, try my eBook of logs.
It is Babywise Friendly Blog Network week! You will be hearing from these lovely ladies this week, all on hot topics people often have questions about: