There’s no shortage of information out there on the topic of getting your baby to sleep, because – let’s face it – being sleep deprived is not fun. From sleeping through the night to nap routines, schedules and even self-soothing, there’s a lot to know about sleep when it comes to your baby. To help you wade through a bit of the confusion (and avoid that overwhelmed new parent feeling), here are a few do’s and don’ts of baby sleep that we’ve found helpful.

seth-baur-via-flickrPhoto: Seth Baur via Flickr

Do: Let them sleep as much as they want for the first 3-4 months. Really.
When babies are newborns, their circadian rhythms aren’t fully developed. They sleep a LOT (around 16-20 hours a day!) – but in an irregular pattern. That means it’s pretty tough to get your baby on any kind of routine or schedule. So try to cut yourself a little slack and don’t obsess about sleep times and bedtime routines and all that just yet. Let your wee newborn sleep as much as they want, whenever they want, for the first 4 months or so. It may mean some rough patches with days and nights mixed up – but in the end, it really pays off to let them sleep.

Do: Set up a consistent place for them to sleep.
Once you and your baby are ready for a bit of a routine and schedule, setting up a consistent place for them to sleep is definitely key. Sure, it’s great to let them sleep on you while you’re watching TV, or in the swing, or wherever they want. But once they get past that itty-bitty newborn phase, having them go to sleep in the same place consistently will help them associate their sleep environment with bedtime – and you’ll all be getting the Z’s you need! Try setting up a room with a few safe sleep essentials essentials like a crib, blackout shades or blinds for a darkened room and a white noise machine. And put them to bed there regularly for naps and at nighttime.

Don’t: Keep them up late in order to try and get them to sleep in.
It just doesn’t work. We’ve tried. When babies are tired, they need to go to sleep because, more often than not, they’re going to wake up at the same time every day. It’s got something to do with their little internal clocks. If you keep them up late in hopes of a longer sleep-in, you’ll likely just end up with an overtired and grumpy baby. Not fun for anyone.

scott-via-flickrPhoto: Scott via Flickr

Don’t: Ignore tired/sleepy cues.
If your baby is rubbing his eyes or yawning, that’s usually your first sign that it’s time to get him off to bed. If they’re getting whiny or cranky, that’s another sure sign. Once you start noticing the things your baby does when he’s tired, try your best to get them to bed as soon as possible to avoid an overtired or overstimulated little one. There’s nothing worse than missing a tired baby’s window!

Do: Develop a bedtime routine.
It may seem very minor, but wind-down time right before bed is key for babies. Your bedtime routine can be as simple as a bath, a cuddle and a story, then off to bed. Whatever you choose, keep it consistent so that your baby knows it’s time to relax and drift off to dreamland.

Do: Use that routine at nap time, too.
Naps can be tricky because babies and kids seem to hate them, parents love them – and everyone needs them! So, if there’s anything that can be done to help encourage your baby to nap, we’re all for it. Take a few key things you do before bed every night and try your best to do those same things consistently at nap time. Anything they can associate with sleep will make it easier on you and your baby.

Don’t: Rush in the second your baby makes a little noise.
Babies tend to make a lot of noise when they sleep. But just because they’re fussing a little, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to get up. Even though it’s pretty much a burning instinct within us to pick our baby up as soon as she cries, try stopping and waiting and listening to your baby before running into their room to get her up. She may be trying to self-soothe. You’ll likely know the difference between a really upset baby and one who’s just fussing a little. Trying your best to let her practice falling back asleep on her own is a huge help in the long run.

mother-elzambo51-via-pixabayPhoto: elzambo51 via pixabay 

Do: Whatever works for you.
You can try following every sleep tip and trick and schedule and philosophy under the sun when it comes to sleep. In the end, you’ll find that whatever works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for you and your family. So go ahead and read as much as you can, gather all the advice from friends and family – we really do believe that knowledge is power. But at the end of the day, you decide what works for you and your baby. And that’s all that matters.

What’s your key to baby sleep success? Share your secrets in a comment.

–Heather Dixon