A New Parent's Guide To Sleep
As soon-to-be parents, you already know that your little bundle of joy will need their sleep.
But while many babies can sleep through eight or nine hours without a fuss, it can occasionally be a challenge to make sure that everyone gets the sleep they need.
There is no magic wand, but there absolutely is a secret:
Have a PlanThe human brain is designed to work on sleep, and when we don't get enough of it, it tends to leave us pretty cranky. The same goes for babies – their tiny brains are wired not unlike our own: they need sleep so they can learn, grow, and be happy.
Before you start any sleep training, talk to your pediatrician and make sure your baby is healthy: rule out any allergies, sleep apnea or other underlying medical issues which can affect sleep. Then, create a simple sleep plan for the household. Make sure everyone tries to go to bed around the same time - no staying up late just because you're a grown-up! Also, try to reduce the frequency of nursing sessions during the night, with an eventual goal of none at all. Food and drink right before bedtime is a recipe for everyone waking up in the middle of the night. Similarly, try to establish a period of winding down before bed. Dim the lights, turn off TV screens and monitors in favor of soothing music. This kind of thing actually helps us parents as much as it does our kids.
Create the Ideal EnvironmentHaving a comfortable, relaxing environment is very important when getting a good night's sleep for both adults and babies. A quiet, clean room with a comfortable and controlled temperature is essential. A high-quality crib with a comfortable and breathable crib mattress tucked snugly into it are similarly essential. Keep everything but the baby and the crib mattress outside of the crib, and try to avoid letting your child sleep anywhere else. Make sure you install room-darkening shades that filter the natural light without blocking it out entirely, as sleeping in total darkness is not always ideal. Also, consider a soft nightlight for the nursery.
Babies Love RoutineConsistency is key to a good sleep training plan, although it's important to also remember that the plan is only there to guide you towards a goal - sometimes you'll deviate, and that's OK. The thing you want to avoid is falling back towards pre-parental habits and lifestyles that might make it harder to establish good sleep hygiene for your child. While not everything should be regimented, basic routines around sleep, food, and love are very re-assuring, especially if other caretakers become involved.
Experts tend to suggest that babies are ready for a planned schedule at around 2-4 months, but you may find that your child begins to fall into their own routines before you even think to put them to a plan. That's not a bad thing either and, in fact, it can help you make sure that everyone goes to bed on time and wakes up refreshed and happy.