As a sleep consultant, I am constantly asked for baby sleep tips: what is the secret to getting your baby to sleep through the night? The reality is that there is not one secret, or one way, to get your baby to sleep through the night. Teaching your baby healthy sleep habits is the best foundation for getting your little one to sleep through the night. These baby sleep tips will help you set the foundation for healthy sleep habits and a good night’s rest!
#1 WATCH THE WAKING HOURS
Sleep begets sleep, so ensuring that your baby or toddler is napping well during the day helps prevent overtiredness. Overtiredness is a sleep killer, making naps and nighttime sleep difficult for your little one. Let’s take a quick look at how long your child should be awake between naps throughout the day:
NEWBORNS (0-12 weeks): 45 minutes of awake time
3-5 MONTHS: 1 1/2 – 2 hours of awake time
6-8 MONTHS: 2-3 hours of awake time
9-12 MONTHS: 3-4 hours of awake time
13 MONTHS to 2 1/2 YEARS: 5-6 hours of awake time
The key to great naps is ensuring that your little on is put down before she gets overtired. Once you’ve mastered nap times, you’ll find that bedtime will be a smooth process.
#2 DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
It’s no secret that humans, adults and children, sleep better in a dark environment. Make your child’s room as dark as possible, using blackout shades or curtains, to create a dark and cozy environment conducive to sleep. Be mindful of any ambient light you may have in the room, such as digital alarm clocks or night lights, as these items can possibly disrupt sleep.
#3 BE PREDICTABLE
Babies and toddlers thrive with the predictability of set routines and schedules. Establishing nap and bedtime routines aids greatly in creating healthy sleep habits. Keep your child’s bedtime routine predictable as well, lasting no longer than 30 minutes. Establishing these routines signals sleep for your little one. Here is an example of a typical bedtime routine:
- Bath (5 minutes)
- Put on pajamas (5 minutes)
- Nurse or bottle-feed (10 minutes)
- Read a book (10 minutes)
The keys to establishing your baby’s bedtime routine is ensuring that a.) it happens at the same time each night (or within a 30 minute window), and b.) the routine follows the same order each night (predictability, remember?). Remember that bedtime is a time of quiet, devoid of any stimulation, so be boring. If your little one throws a blanket or stuffed animal from their crib, or stands up, quietly replace the item and leave the room — no talking!
#4 FEED AFTER NAPS, NOT BEFORE
A vast majority of babies and toddlers have difficulty sleeping because they associate feeding with sleep. Unknowingly, you’ve created an association that makes your little one think that she needs to nurse or have a bottle before she can fall asleep. By feeding your little one after nap time, you can break this association.
NOTE: This tip pertains to naps only; your little one needs a full tummy at bedtime to prevent night wakings.
#5 SAME PLACE, SAME TIME
As I’ve stated, routine and predictability are the secrets to establishing healthy sleep habits for your baby or toddler. Place your child to bed in the same place each day for both nap and bedtimes. If your child is with a caregiver during the day, create a similar sleep environment to establish familiarity. Keep nap and bedtimes on a set schedule (or within the same 30 minute window) to establish a predictable routine.
#6 TRY THE 1, 2, 3 SYSTEM
Night wakings can be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome with babies and sleep. When your baby begins to fuss, try to wait before running in to tend to her.
The first day, wait one minute before going into the nursery, two minutes the second day, three minutes the third day, and so on. The purpose of this is to allow your baby time to self-soothe back to sleep. Everyone wakes briefly at the end of each 45 minute sleep cycle, including babies, and the 1, 2, 3 system helps you teach your baby what you already know — how to transition between sleep cycles.
#7 TAKE FIVE
Once you’ve gone through your baby’s nap or bedtime routine, be mindful of the final five minutes of the routine. The last five minutes of your child’s sleep routine should be calm and quiet, setting the tone for sleep. This means no tickle fights and no television (ticklefights are perfect for when your little one wakes!).
These baby sleep tips are often all that is needed to get your child to sleep, and sleep well. If you find that you’re still struggling after implementing these tips, I’m available to give you guidance.