If there’s one thing parents can agree on, it’s that quality sleep is critical for their little ones, and is also often hard to achieve. Some parents decide to get their baby on a set sleep schedule, while others choose to let their little one lead out in sleep timing. No matter your approach, a good routine surrounding sleep can be critical to help baby be calm and ready for sleep and to sleep more deeply.
If it’s your resolution for this year to help your baby (and yourself!) get better sleep, here are some tips to help you meet your goal:
It can be very helpful to create a consistent routine that signals it’s time for sleep. Familiar steps can provide sensory indicators to your baby that prepare them for bedtime. This can include a bath, gentle massage and change into pajamas, a bedtime song or story, final feeding, gentle rocking, or any other steps.
It’s likely your baby’s nap routine will differ some from their bedtime routine. However, you can choose to incorporate elements of the bedtime routine with naps to maintain some consistency. A feeding right before sleep, a white noise machine, and a swaddle, swaddle suit, or sleep swaddle sack are all great ways to help signal sleep.
The transition out of the swaddle can disrupt your baby’s sleep routine, especially once they associate it with sleep. Baby Merlin offers swaddle solutions that give your baby the benefits of a swaddle throughout their stages of development. The Sleepsuit, Dream Sack, and Dream Sack Walker allow babies to maintain consistency in this part of their sleep routine as they grow.
Look for your baby’s signs that they’re starting to get tired, including eyes looking a little glazed. This is likely to start before the more telltale signs of sleepiness like eye rubbing, yawning, and crankiness, which are often signs your baby is overtired. If your baby gets overtired and cranky, they might end up fighting sleep, and it can take them longer to settle down.
To avoid overtired little ones, it’s best to make any changes to sleep timing gradually instead of all at once. For example, if you have an older baby and you’re trying to cut down to fewer naps a day, try reducing the morning nap or slowly pushing it later into the day, and see if your baby responds with an extended afternoon nap.
Despite your best consistent efforts, your baby’s sleep won’t always go as planned. Flexibility is key to roll with your baby’s sleep needs at the moment. As your baby grows, their sleep will change, and your routine will evolve. Feel out what your baby responds to and be flexible in making changes when they work for you and your baby.
If your baby is sick or teething, it’s likely to throw off their patterns. They may need more sleep, wake more during sleep, and have a harder time settling to sleep despite being tired. Flexibility is important to keep in mind if you’re in the midst of a planned change, like weaning from night feedings. Remember that it’s okay to take a temporary step back on sleep changes and wait until your baby is in a better place.
Many parents find it helpful to keep a simple record of their baby’s sleep patterns. This can be a calendar by your baby’s crib or phone app where you can make quick notes at the end of the week or day.
Having that historical record can make it easier to identify causes of change. For example, if your baby’s sleep was disrupted when sick or in a growth spurt, it can be easier to identify their same patterns if they recur later. Be sure to take note of anything unusual, including significant, persistent changes in your baby’s sleep patterns.
If you have any concerns or questions about your baby’s sleep, a record provides a great reference to bring them up with your pediatrician. You can also ask your pediatrician for help and advice about how and when to make sleep schedule changes based on your baby’s patterns. Your pediatrician can make specific recommendations based on your baby’s individual needs.