If you are a sleep-deprived parent of an infant, welcome to the club. According to research by the National Sleep Foundation, 70% of parents are up with their baby during the night, and 75% of parents would like to change something about their baby’s sleep. Sure, some new moms and dads win the newborn lottery with babies who magically sleep through the night from very early on. But for most of us, sleep becomes a thing of the past. So what if we told you it doesn’t have to be that way? Yep, that’s right – you can introduce healthy sleep habits from day one so that you and your little one get the sleep that you oh so deserve and need.
How much sleep does a baby need?
In the first few months of life, the amount of sleep that babies need varies greatly, but by 3-4 months of age, most infants need 13 to 16 hours of sleep. Usually, this consists of 11 to 12 hours at night (including one or two feedings until six months of age) and two to four hours during the day. So our advice number one is: Get in a rhythm.
When you’re used to be in charge of your daily schedule, a newborn’s unpredictable naps can cause some mental friction. Your goal during this period is to prevent your little one from becoming overtired during the day. It might sound counter-intuitive since the first thought is – the more tired the baby gets during the day, the better and longer they will sleep at night. But that’s not quite right. Most newborns can only comfortably stay awake for 45-60 minutes between naps, so start there. Once they wake from one nap, set a timer on your phone so you can monitor when it’s time for the next nap. Some babies need even shorter awake windows, so also follow their tired signs. With these tools, you can anticipate your baby’s tiredness the same way you do their hunger, which will prevent them from becoming overtired and make putting her down for a nap much easier.
Nighttime is for sleep. That’s advice number two. Any new mom will tell you that a newborn’s day/night confusion is the worst. While this naturally sorts itself out around eight weeks, you can help nudge this process along by exposing your baby to bright, natural light during daytime and darkness at nighttime. Any activities that occur overnight – feedings or diaper changes – should be done in a darkened room in full-on ninja mode: as quietly as possible.
Number three: Practice healthy habits. For the first few months, don’t stress too much about creating bad sleep habits. It’s OK if your baby sleeps in the stroller or sometimes falls asleep while eating. But even though you don’t need to play the sleep police just yet, it’s never too early to introduce healthy sleep habits: once in a while, put your baby down awake in the crib for some of their naps. Or, once they wake, give them a minute to practice their self-soothing skills before you go to them.
Number four: Implement safe sleep hygiene. Infants should be placed on their backs to sleep when put in their crib until 12 months of age. Until a child can roll on their own, the ‘back to sleep’ position is associated with a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, once a child can roll independently after being placed in the crib, it is not necessary to roll them back (unless there’s a medical reason to do so.) Infants should sleep on a firm flat surface for all sleep periods.
Five: Allow your child to learn to fall asleep independently. When your child is at least three months of age (full-term) and healthy, it is recommended that you allow them to learn to fall asleep independently. This important life-long skill is key to a child falling asleep quickly at bedtime and naptime, and sleeping through the night. Starting this process at an early age helps prevent sleep problems from becoming chronic and more difficult to resolve. It’s commonly thought that sleep problems are inevitable when you have a baby, but the fact is that good sleep habits can be encouraged from an early age. Most babies can learn to sleep well starting from a few months of age, but regardless of the age of your child, it is never too late to make positive changes.
Six: Choose organic cotton sleepsuits. Organic cotton is soft and gentle against their delicate skin and makes for great sleepwear. As you already know, organic cotton is smooth and cool; it allows the skin to breathe and prevents your baby from overheating. It’s great for delicate skin as well as the environment – it’s sustainable; When you choose to buy organic cotton, you spare your kids from exposure to harmful substances and ensure a safe and healthy environment.
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And finally, number seven: This is just a phase. Every new mom and dad reach a point, often in the middle of a sleepless night, where they reckon that life will be like this forever, that they will never sleep again. But remember: there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Around 3-4 months, you should start to see longer stretches of sleep at night and naps that become longer and more reliable. At 16 weeks, it’s time to move your baby onto a schedule and get serious about consistent, healthy sleep habits. If you’ve followed all of the advice above – congrats, you’re on your way to a healthy baby and your own peace of mind.