If there is one thing new parents talk about a lot, its sleep and their newly born baby. How is my newborn baby sleeping? How is my baby napping? Is my baby sleeping through the night? Do I need to rock my baby to sleep? The journey of newly born baby, infant and toddler sleep can be challenging for parents, so I developed four sleep tools that will help you baby sleep better.
It often comes as a big surprise to new parents that the quest for good quality sleep can remain such a huge part of their baby’s first year. Even if you get blessed with a newly born baby who does sleep well independently, there will still most likely come a time when you could use some help pushing through a period of sleep regression or a change in routine.
As a team of baby sleep experts, we are always being asked for the ‘secret’ to getting a 4 baby to sleep, or to sleep throughout the night. But the reality is, there is no one secret. Every family and every baby is different, and babies sleep changes throughout their lifetime. Therefore having one fail proof plan often doesn’t work. However, there are some key sleep tools that can help your baby develop regular healthy sleep practices. These sleep practices help to allow your baby to get the quality and duration of sleep they need, while developing skills to sleep independently.
Create A Sleep Sanctuary for your Baby to Sleep
Setting up the perfect sleep environment for your baby may not be what you first think about when you’re trying to get your baby to sleep. During the newborn stage, your baby may be able to sleep anywhere and everywhere – swaddled, in the crib, in the car seat. Unfortunately, this phase won’t last forever. When your baby is 4 months old, their sleep will follow more of a natural circadian rhythm and therefore they will likely require a more structured environment to fall asleep. In other words, at around 2-4 months babies become less portable because of their needs to sleep in a more consistent sleep environment. At this age, you will likely need to have access to a quiet room with a comfy crib or bassinet to get them to sleep.
How to create a good sleep environment for your 3 month old baby
- Be sure you’re practicing the ABC’s of safe sleep (Place your child Alone (without toys), on their Back, and in their Crib).
- Make your babies sleep environment not too hot room. If you are worried about your baby getting cold, take a peek at and feel their torso. If it’s warm and pink, your baby is likely at a comfortable temperature. You shouldn’t base your baby’s temperature off their hands and feet. If you are worried about them getting cold at night, you can use a sleep sack. A sleep sack is a blanket your baby can wear, almost like a sweater, that zips or buttons.
- Make your babies room dark. The darker the bedroom, the better. Even a sliver of light peeping around the edge of a curtain is enough to wake the most sensitive of sleeping babies, especially during their sleep cycle transitions. Blackout blinds can be your best friend.
- Eliminate distractions in your babies room and crib. These include things like mobiles, aquariums, and toys. Noises around them may also be distracting, and in that case, consider using a white noise machine to drown out any noises you cannot get rid of.
Introduce a calming sleep routine for your baby
A consistent soothing bedtime and nap time routine is a set of activities you practice that helps your 3 month old baby predict that it’s time for sleep. It can include things like a bath before bedtime, stories, cuddles, and songs. The key here is to leave yourself enough time (around 30 minutes) for a bedtime routine and around 15 minutes for pre-nap time routine. This will help your baby become more calm and be relaxed, which will help them fall asleep. Once your child is relaxed and drowsy, place them in their crib, alone, and on their back. Try to leave the room before they fall asleep.
Make Daytime Naps a Priority for your Baby
Around 4-6 months of age, you can start putting baby on a sleep schedule of organized night time sleep and day time napping. Our bodies naturally follow a 24-hour clock, which influences hormonal changes in the body that help us sleep and become awake. After four months of age, babies start to follow a 24 hour clock, which is called a circadian rhythm. If we put them to bed while their body is naturally telling them that it’s ready for sleep, a couple of great things happen:
- It’s easier to get them to sleep – no more bouncing, rocking or driving around.
- They get that healthy, restorative sleep which will make them better rested and happier during their awake times
- More about how much sleep your baby needs and how their sleep needs change
So how many naps should your baby have?
- At four to eight months of age, your baby will typically have three naps per day – a long morning nap, a long afternoon nap, and a short ‘catnap’ in the late afternoon.
- Around six to eight months of age, your baby can start to tolerate a longer awake time before bedtime and the catnap disappears.
- Once the catnap drops, a morning and afternoon nap should still be offered until 15 to 18 months, when they drop down to one afternoon nap per day.
Ideally, you want to take the amount of time that babies need to sleep in 24 hours, and divide it up so that it syncs with their circadian rhythms. A healthy, consolidated nap is one that is at least an hour in length.
Choose A Sleep Training Method that Suits You and Your Family.
If your child needs your help to fall asleep, is waking up throughout the night, or is not getting a restorative sleep, you might want to optimize their sleep with Sleep Training. These are a few methods of Sleep Training that are useful to try. The sleep training methods listed here are not all of the methods out there, but are the ones that we have found to have the highest success rates, if practiced with consistency.
The Cry It Out (CIO) Sleep Training Method:
The most controversial method, this method may produce more short-term tears, but it is the one to choose for quick results. After a soothing bedtime routine you would place baby in the crib awake and you would not go back into the room until your scheduled feed or the morning. Provided you are also focusing on the other pieces of the sleep training recipe such as daytime sleep, sleep environment, and age appropriate bedtimes, your baby may respond better than you would imagine and we promise they’ll still love you in the morning.
The Gradual Checks Sleep Training Method
This is the middle of the road method. Following that same consistent bedtime routine, you would place your baby in his crib awake and leave the room. If baby starts crying, you would enter the room through timed intervals to soothe and comfort. Each time the intervals get longer and every day the intervals get longer.
The Chair Method for Sleep Training
This is a gradual method where once you have placed your child in the crib awake, you would sit in a chair next to the crib until they fall asleep. If they wake throughout the night, you would sit back in the chair. Every few days you would move the chair further out of the room until you are out completely, gradually fading out your presence.
Sleep training is not everyone and each family is different. If you do decide to sleep train, you must be comfortable with your baby’s sleep plan and the method you choose so that you can be consistent. Do your research and choose a method that both you and your partner support.
Learn More From Dr. Mom
- Read more on how to get a good nights sleep
- More for the different types of sleep training
- Is sleep training bad for my baby?
This Post was co-authored by Alanna McGinn. Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Consultant of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She serves on the faculty of The Family Sleep Institute and is host of the ‘This Girl Loves Sleep’ Podcast. She and her husband, Mike, live in Toronto, Canada with their 3 children (1+twins!) You can follow her expert advice in national publications like Macleans, Prevention Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Huffington Post. Alanna strives in helping families (baby to adults) and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have happy well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and how to work with a Good Night Sleep Consultant at goodnightsleepsite.comand follow Alanna and all her sleep tips on Instagram.