Sleep deprivation may be on the top of the list of complaints for most parents, but there are ways to help your baby sleep better so that YOU can sleep better. Just remember that it won't last forever, it gives you more time with your precious baby, and there are strategies to make sleep better in your house.
Here are some tips to help you and your baby sleep through the night:
From day one you can establish a bedtime routine that will be associated with sleep. Perhaps a bath after dinner, reading a book, singing a favorite sweet song, and then laying them down. Using the same song and the same book can help create triggers that they will pick up on and associate with sleepy time. This can also help them sleep when you travel or are other places. The comfort and familiarity of the routine will help them feel secure and sleep. When establishing this routine, make sure you choose an early bedtime – a late bedtime can make it hard for them to fall asleep.
Black-out curtains can ensure that your baby’s naps are restful and that they sleep past the sunrise in the morning. They will learn that darkness is associated with sleep, and the dark environment will help them ease into sleep easier and stay asleep if they happen to wake up. Babies are light sleepers, so having a dark room can help them get back to sleep during periods of restlessness.
Realize that at first babies must eat every few hours because their stomachs are so small. They may be able to sleep up to 8 hours per night, but talk to your pediatrician before your cut-out the night time feedings. And while you’re in this phase…
Just because baby doesn’t sleep through the night doesn’t mean you can’t. If baby wakes once every 4 hours, alternate with your partner who will wake up each time or each night. Then at least you’re getting 8 hours every other night, and can hopefully take a nap while the baby sleeps during the day. Realize that this phase passes before you know it, and you will sleep again.
From the get-go, put your baby down to sleep when they’re drowsy but still awake. This will help them when they do wake during the night to be able to fall back asleep alone. If you hold or rock them to sleep consistently, they won’t be able to fall back asleep at night without you, as YOU have become their comfort item. If they are always accustomed to falling asleep on their own they should not develop problems later on.
When you’re getting them to adapt to sleeping at night and comforting themselves, a good strategy is to progressively wait longer to check on them. For example, if your baby starts crying, wait 5 minutes until you go in to comfort them. The next time, wait 10 minutes. Go from there until your baby is able to self-soothe. This is known as the Ferber method, and teaches babies that the crib is for sleeping and that crying won’t get you to get them out of the crib. They know you will come, and the longer they wait the more likely it is that they will fall asleep. After about a week of consistency, this method has proven to work well for sleep training.
What tips worked for you to get your baby to sleep through the night? At what age did your baby sleep through the night?