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There’s nothing more peaceful and sweet than watching your newborn baby sleep. If only they could just stay asleep though, right? If you’re wondering how to improve baby sleep quality, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, a large majority of new parents are characteristically sleep deprived and looking for answers.
Although it may seem like your baby’s sleepless phase is lasting for an eternity, they’ll eventually move towards sleeping through the night. However, until that day arrives, here are some tips on how to improve baby sleep.
Instead of asking yourself, “when does baby sleep improve?,” you might be better off understanding your baby’s biological needs for sleep. After all, the first 2 months of a baby’s life is characterized by a lack of structured sleep. This is due to the fact that their need to eat is more important than their need for sleep. A newborn baby will likely sleep between 10-18 hours a day, but will also need to feed roughly every 2 hours. Because newborn babies don’t yet have the capabilities of differentiating between nighttime and daytime, they sleep whenever they’re tired and wake up when they’re ready to eat, regardless of what time it is.
By the time your baby is three to six months old, they may start being able to sleep for 6 continuous hours at a time. However, just because they start to develop a sleep routine doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. As their brain continues to develop and they learn to associate bedtime with being left alone, they may break their routine as a way to keep you around for longer.
Although each baby is different (and therefore their sleep routine is different), you can generally expect that by the time their first birthday rolls around, they’ll be sleeping for longer, more consistent chunks of time, and will likely be able to sleep through the entire night.
Just like routines are helpful for adults, routines are just as helpful for infants, especially when it comes to improving sleep time and improving sleep quality. In fact, babies that follow a nightly bedtime routine are actually proven to sleep better, sleep easier, and to cry less throughout the nighttime.
The number of steps or types of activities that constitute a routine is much less important than the consistency of your routine. The ideal nighttime routine uses the same activities in the same order every single night. This repetitiveness is what’s effective.
Although you may develop your own set of activities and steps in your routine, you’ll generally want to reserve active games for the daytime and quieter, calmer activities for the evening. This prevents your baby from getting too wound up and overstimulated right before bedtime. Instead, save activities such as cuddling, playing quiet music, singing, or reading for the nighttime. These peaceful, calming activities will make it easier for your baby to sleep.
Bathing is a great activity right before bedtime, since it can naturally calm babies down and prepare them for rest. Alternatively, you can save your baby’s favorite activity for last (as long as it isn’t too active), and do it with them in their bedroom. This can create a positive association between bedtime and happy emotions.
Wondering when you can start implementing a routine? Some parents will start these routines when their baby is as young as six to eight weeks old. But, each baby is different, so feel free to create a routine when you feel it’s best for your child.
You would have a hard time sleeping if your room was too bright, too loud, or too warm. Why would your baby be any different? To help improve sleep quality, make their bedroom environment as comfortable and consistent as possible. Generally, this means keeping their room at a cool (not cold) temperature, keeping the lights dim or low, and keeping the noise and talking to a minimum. In fact, a white noise machine can work wonders in droning out any additional noise.
Although it can be endearing and heart-warming to watch your baby fall asleep in your arms, the best practice is to actually put them down in their crib once they’re on the verge of sleep. Letting them fall asleep in your arms continuously could actually create a habit that’s hard to kick later in their life.
By placing them in their crib, you’ll actually be encouraging your baby to learn how to soothe themself to sleep, which will serve them well when they wake up multiple times throughout the night.
In the end, although these tips are meant to help lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits, it doesn’t mean that implementing them will result in an overnight fix. Improving your baby’s sleep quality is a process that takes time. If your baby is struggling, or if their sleep schedule seems all over the place, realize that their sleep habits aren’t an indicator of your parenting skills. After all, you’re doing the best you can. The more you understand your baby’s habits and work to establish a routine, the more you’re moving in the right direction to better sleep.