From first time parents to the highly experienced ones, we all can agree that the hardest task is to put a baby to sleep. Lullabies and coos, swaddling and swinging, you try everything and anything to make him/her sleep and before you know it, it’s time for baby to wake up. Babies can sleep for 16 – 17 hours in a day, but they have a tiny stomach and needs to be fed and changed every 2 – 3 hours which explains their maddeningly short bursts of sleep around the clock. For parents, that means like having a job working the graveyard shift.
While it can be tough in the beginning, developing good baby habits early on can really help in the long run. Most babies can be sleep trained at 4 months and some can even sleep through the night by 6 months, but if you don’t work towards developing a good sleeping pattern for your baby, you might end up craving for a good night’s sleep for a whole year.
Help Teach Your Baby the Difference between Day And Night
Perhaps the most important thing in sleep training your baby is to make him learn that day time is for play and nighttime is for sleeping. Just as it is with adults, brightness and light triggers the baby’s “Go” button. On the other hand, darkness triggers the sleep inducing hormone, melatonin in the brain. Keeping this basic principle in mind, here are few tips to make your baby’s days bright and chirpy and his nights dark and peaceful, so he can soon learn to distinguish between night and day.
- When the baby wakes up in the morning, freshen him up by washing him and changing his clothes so he knows that it’s the start of the day. Make sure the baby’s room is well lit or choose a room where there’s plenty of sunlight coming in or better yet take your baby outside. After your baby is a few weeks old, you can make outdoor walks a part of your daily routine and your baby will love it.
- Play and interact with him during the day and limit night time play. Keep him busy with his toys during the day. Even if your baby is fully awake during night, try not to interact with him much.
- It’s good to have background noises during the day, like music, television or even the whirling sound of the washing machine and make sure the surroundings are peaceful and calm during the night.
- Keep the lights dim during the night and if the baby wakes up don’t turn on the lights or shift him to a brightly lit room, instead try to put him back to sleep in the dark. Turning on the lights even for a little time will fully alert the baby and ruin your plans of going back to bed.
- Avoid getting into the habit of changing your baby’s diaper when he wakes up otherwise he will be fully up and alert. Use high quality, extra absorbent diapers which can last through the night and change only if it is too soiled or the baby has pooped.
Put Your Baby to Bed When He’s Sleepy but Awake
Rocking, nursing and giving your baby a bottle to bed are all bad habits which create dependency. This can become a problem during normal night awakenings, because the baby would find it difficult to nod off to sleep by himself and will ask for the same experience. Parenting experts suggest that it’s best to place your baby into his crib when he’s drowsy and just before he nods off. You can make him drowsy by swinging in your arms or by nursing, whatever works, but then put him in his bed as soon as he is about to sleep. Babies who drift off on their own are more likely to learn to soothe themselves to sleep. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby, mastering the timing for this technique will really pay off when your baby reaches 6 months of age and is ready to sleep through the night.
Make Daytime Sleep a Priority
Parenting experts often remark that ‘sleep begets sleep” and it’s true for babies. The better rested they are, the more sleep comes easily. Most parents think that if they keep the baby awake during the day, the baby will be so tired by night that he will fall asleep instantly. Well that’s one bad idea which almost always backfires because the baby gets too tired and exhausted to fall asleep. This also affects his quality of sleep and can result in the baby waking up multiple times during the night. So encourage daytime naps for a peaceful night sleep.
Hope you will find these tips helpful, but the important thing to keep in mind is that consistency and persistence on your part are really important to develop a good sleep routine for your baby. Also, make sure everyone else who cares for the baby, your partner, grandparents, caretakers etc. are all on the same page about sleep training methods.