Sleepless nights tend to be common among new parents. It can often seem impossible to get your baby to sleep for a few hours, let alone a full night. However, there are several simple steps you can take to help ease the process. Below we’ve outlined the best ways to help your baby fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Create a Pattern
Newborns up to 3 months old typically need around 14 to 17 hours of sleep, while infants up to 12 months old need around 12 to 16 hours of sleep. However, the pattern in which they get this sleep will be erratic since babies don’t know the difference between night and day. They may only sleep for 2-3 hour stretches of time at first.
Around 3 to 4 months, some babies begin to sleep at least 5 hours at a time. Babies between 5 to 12 months can begin to sleep up to 10 hours a night. Knowing where your baby is with their sleep needs will help you adjust their schedule and create a pattern that works for you.
Keep Them Close
Having your baby sleep in the same room with you can be ideal for nighttime feedings. Studies also show that sharing a room with your baby is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
However, be sure your baby sleeps in a crib or bassinet designed for infant sleeping. Sleeping in a bed with adults can be dangerous for babies. Adults could potentially roll over on to the baby, causing suffocation. They could also become trapped between headboards or footboards, or in the space between the mattress and the wall.
Create a Bedtime Routine
To help your baby prepare for sleep, consider soothing activities that promote relaxation. Try bathing them, reading or signing to them, or cuddling with them. Try to begin these activities in your baby’s sleep space while they are drowsy but still awake. Over time, your baby will come to associate these practices and the space with sleep. Using a soft voice, gentle movements, and a dimly light bedroom can also go a long way in helping promote sleep.
Keep Nighttime Activities Calm
Experts suggest that it is best to give your baby time to calm down before sleep. If your baby is fussing or crying, try to comfort and soothe them before bed. If they are having trouble finding a comfortable position in their crib, try offering calming words of encouragement. Sometimes just your voice can be enough to help them relax and fall asleep.
Consider Comfort Objects
Comfort objects can also help to soothe your baby. Pacifiers have been proven to provide gentle relaxation for babies. Research also shows that pacifier use during sleep can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 90 percent.
Swaddling has also been known to help promote sleep in babies. This technique helps to mimic the comfort of the womb by keeping your baby warm and secure so they sleep longer. However, remember to always put your baby to sleep on their back. To protect against SIDS, experts also suggest that it is best to stop swaddling once your baby is able to turn over on their own.
To help your baby sleep for longer stretches of time, be sure to play and talk with them during their wakeful hours. For newborns, playtime may only consist of cuddle time or stretching out on a blanket with some stimulating toys. Watch your newborn for clues that they are getting sleepy again. For some babies, 10 to 20 minutes of playtime may be enough. For other newborns, it may be up to 1 hour. As your baby gets older, their need for playtime will increase.
Encourage Self Soothing
If your baby wakes in the night, before rushing to them, try giving them some time to self-soothe. If they are able to put themselves to sleep again, they will start to rely on their own ability to comfort themselves. If they continue to cry, try checking on them without turning on lights or picking them up. This can reassure them and help them fall back asleep quickly. If they continue to fuss, it may be because they are unable to find comfort due to hunger, a wet or soiled diaper, or because they are feeling unwell.
Finding the best way to put your baby to sleep will likely develop over time. Be patient and try to understand your baby’s preferences and communication signals. If you have concerns related to more serious health issues, be sure to discuss these with your baby’s pediatrician.