The sooner your little one settles into bed, the sooner you can get some well-deserved shut-eye yourself. Though, getting your baby to fall asleep can be much easier said than done. When the usual lullaby or pre-bedtime snuggle session doesn’t work, here are a few other reliable tips for moms and dads when they want to quickly lull their child to sleep.
1.) Enforce An Early Bedtime
Experts have agreed that an early bedtime is an effective way to ensure your baby is sleepy when it’s time for them to be put down for bed. Around eight weeks, babies experience an increase in melatonin, a hormone that signals your body when it’s time to go to bed. Melatonin levels tend to increase soon after the sun sets, and if your baby is kept awake too long, they’ll become overstimulated and difficult to put to sleep.
Having a regular, early bedtime around 6.30 p.m. or 7 p.m. helps maintain their sleeping patterns and keeps their sleep-wake cycle more consistent. Research has shown that 18-month-old babies with late bedtimes are more likely to develop issues relating to motor function, social skills and language. Irregular or late bedtimes can also have a negative impact on their behavioral issues as they get older, and even their ability to focus in school.
2.) Create A Comfortable Environment
Your baby’s bedroom environment should make them feel comfortable, relaxed, and most importantly — sleepy. Night lights are popular among young children, but be smart about placement and how bright the light is. Light has an influence on melatonin levels in the body and can prevent/delay the hormone from releasing at the time it should.
They certainly don’t need a bed that’s as nice as yours, but your child’s mattress should still be comfortable enough to put them to sleep. Especially if you want them to fall asleep quickly. Infants and children exert very little pressure onto a bed because they weigh so little, so they’ll need something really soft that cradles and supports their little body.
3.) Put Them Down When They’re Drowsy (Not Asleep)
If you’re waiting until your baby is asleep to tuck them into their crib, you’re putting them down a little too late. For starters, when your baby eventually wakes up in the middle of the night, they might become confused or agitated after not recognizing their surroundings — considering they fell asleep on your shoulder in the living room. Then they’ll need to rely on you to go back to sleep, and that’s what you want to be weaning them off of.
Eventually, around 5-6 months, babies are able to ease themselves to sleep without you. It’s up to the parent, however, to help them reach the point where they’re comfortable to do so. Accordingly, you should take your child to bed when you notice they’re feeling drowsy so they can drift off to sleep without having you by their side. Signs of drowsiness include calmness, blank staring, closed fists, yawning, or jerky leg and arm movements.
4.) Don’t Always Rush To Their Cribside
If you’re a first-time parent especially, it can be hard to resist the urge to rush to their bed when they’re crying in the middle of the night. It’s important, though, to hold off a few moments before you tend to them if you know they’re taken care of (fed, diaper changed, etc). The goal is to encourage your child to calm themselves down without you. If that doesn’t work, professionals suggest you try the “soothing ladder” technique.
Start off by patting and rubbing, but don’t pick them up yet. You don’t want to be too intrusive right off the bat, or you risk waking them up even more. Then, you can work your way up to rocking, and feeding them should be the last resort if you still can’t get them to fall back asleep. This will inevitably occur more often with babies who are under 3-4 months old, and you’ll just need to keep practicing the soothing ladder method until your baby learns to self-soothe on their own.
5.) Practice A Relaxing Nighttime Routine
If your baby’s brain is stimulated too close to bedtime, it will be close to impossible getting them to fall asleep as quickly as you want them to. By the time your baby is about 6-8 weeks old, you should both be implementing relaxing activities into your nightly schedule. Incorporating a consistent routine helps indicate to your baby that it’s time to go to sleep, as their body will begin to recognize that it’s bedtime once your routine becomes a regular practice.
About 20 minutes before bed, reduce noise and light pollution in your home to help wind them down. Then, try to incorporate relaxing activities that your child enjoys like a warm bath or a soft read-aloud. Research has actually shown that your child is never too young for story-time, and you can even start reading to them as soon as they leave the hospital with you.
Importance Of Sleep For Infants
Sleep plays an essential role in anyone’s mental and physical health, but this sentiment is particularly true for babies as it is crucial for both their cognitive and physical development. Sleep deprivation in these crucial early stages of life can lead to problems down the road like hyperactivity, negative or aggressive behavior, mood swings, and or anxiety.
There are two stages of sleep; REM and non-REM. Babies spend half their time in each stage, but at about six months, they spend about 30% of the time in REM. For infants, REM sleep helps prepare their brains for retaining new information, which is critical for effective learning. During non-REM sleep, on the other hand, their body builds muscle tissue and releases a hormone pertinent to their growth and development.
Here is a helpful table to help you determine whether or not your baby is getting enough sleep.
Newborns: 16 hours (with naps)
1 month: 15.5 hours (with naps)
3 months: 15 hours (with naps)
6 months: 14 hours (with naps)
9 months: 14 hours (with naps)
1 year: 14 hours (with naps)
1.5 years: 13.5 hours (with naps)
2 years: 13 hours (with naps)
Bio: Gwen Thompson is a Certified Sleep Science Coach that writes for The Slumber Yard. Besides helping people improve the quality of their sleep, she also likes playing the piano, making homemade jewelry, and taking her dog for walks.