Setting Sleep Patterns
Setting up healthy sleep patterns in your infant, will translate to healthy sleep in childhood and teenage years. Sleep, and all of its’ counterparts, are often antiquated as a dreaded feat. This can certainly stem from the anguish and anxieties that conjure up in the baby from being alone and/or feeling afraid. From those early on sleepless nights, to sleep regressions at 4 months old and separation anxiety at 5 months, 9 months, 15 months, it’s not surprising that a routine helps calm a baby for sleep. So, how does a new parent tackle the bedtime blues, and create a safe space for their baby to enjoy the rest and recharge until sun up?
There’s a neurological switch that occurs in baby’s that lets them know to sleep. Physically, there are signs that are given to allow parents and caregivers to create and provide the safe sleeping space. For newborns, you will see the long blinks, yawns, glazey stares, and even fussiness. This is the cue to start that “switch”. What that means is that one will begin to navigate whatever action they have chosen to let the baby know that bedtime is soon upon them. This can be a dance party slow dancing to tunes. This can be an evening stroll around the block. Or my favorite “switch”, the bath. Nothing says ready for night night like a warm soak in a sudsy bath melting away the stresses of the day.
The implementation of bedtime is important. If bedtime begins too early, there will be a little night owl unable to use the routine to it’s full benefits and therefore will wear out. If bedtime begins too late, it will take a little longer to get baby to settle as they could be overtired and/or overstimulated. A great window to start an evening is 6pm-7pm. A full bedtime routine can take anywhere from 45mins to 1 hour from start to a sleeping baby. Think about how the evenings look in the family. Are there appointments, practices, dinner? Adjust the start time accordingly, and once bedtime routine has begun, don’t stop until completed.
Night lights are wonderful.
A low light that gives just enough light to change a diaper, check on a baby, or find the pacifier is perfect. Rock lamps, standard wall outlet night lights, or a lamp that has low wattage in the corner. All work wonderfully! The idea is that the baby (who will still be somewhat awake) will fall asleep on their own while watching the shadows, or mobile, or wall decor. The lower light allows the brain to register it’s evening, while the light allows the caregiver to tend to the baby without changing the sleeping environment, which in turn can wake the baby. The Hatch Rest, is my favorite nightlight/white noise combinations. While the animal night lights found in the baby section are cute, they often have a rainbow of colors and shut off after a length of time.
The womb is a wildly noisy space.
Which is why a steady stream of noise soothes a baby. Additionally, it drowns out any loud or sudden noises that can trigger the moro reflex jolting baby awake from a dead sleep. There are a variety of noise machines on the market. The key is finding a sound that is enjoyable to listen to all evening for days on end. I must admit, to this day the soothing sounds of a babbling brook or thunderstorms are played every evening at bedtime. Get creative! Using Alexa or Siri or Google Home to generate the ambiance is handy. Hatch Baby Rest, Dohm, and HomeMedics are also baby specific favorites. For on the go, I love SoundBub. The little speaker can be connected to the phone with Bluetooth, and come in bunny, owl, and bear shapes.
Lullabies are a great way to wind down a whirlwind day for a baby, toddler, and even child. Make up a little ditty or sing one from childhood. Singing and snuggles are a wonderful nightcap to settle down for a baby. Using this time as the final ‘goodnight’, as you lay baby down to sleep. Keep the interaction short and to the point. Sing the versus, give a good cuddle, say the sweet sentiments of slumber and place the baby down.
Does baby sleep well overnight, but have difficulty with napping?
Just like for evening bedtime, nap times should create that safe space for slumber for baby. During the day, it’s difficult for baby to turn off all of the sights and sounds and productions going on around them. Making it a little more challenging to want to rest. Remember, children at age 5 still need about 12-15 hours of sleep a day. One reason why nap time is totally a thing in preschool. One may choose to keep more light flowing throughout the room during naps, and this is totally acceptable as well. The main difference from nap time to bedtime, is that there won’t be a “switch”. Everything else will remain: safe space, white noise, a feeding or a snuggle or a lullaby, and don’t forget the ‘goodnight’! A standard sleep cycle for a baby is 30 mins. If baby is waking up around that 30 minute mark like clockwork, contact us to help navigate!
Keep in mind that every baby, every family dynamic, and every situation is different. Finding a pattern or routine that works best for the family, and will be implemented consistently and safely, is the one that will work. When navigating sleep, remember that it’s teamwork. If the baby is sleeping well, the house will sleep well; and that’s a health benefit overall.
With all the information provided, and above all else, safety during sleep is numero uno! Because SIDS can occur as late at 2 years old, we stress (and utilize) safe sleep practices with our clients.
The checklist for providing a safe sleeping environment is:
- Baby is alone in their bassinet, crib or mattress
- The mattress/pad is firm (no memory foam)
- No toys, blankets, crib bumpers, or stuffed animals in the sleep space
- If swaddled, not longer than 4 months or when baby can roll over
Checklist that may keep SIDS decreased:
- Pacifier (prevents baby from going too deep into a sleep)
- Ceiling or standing Fan (circulates the air in room)
- Sleeping in the same room as guardian (breathing syncs with caregiver)
- Breastfeeding (baby eats more frequently)