Whether you’re a first-time mom of a night owl newborn, or a third time mom of a baby who takes 28-minute naps, you can probably agree that sleep deprivation is one of the cruelest parts of parenting. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all sleep solution for babies (wouldn’t that be nice?) it often takes trial and error to determine how to get your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. Start with these suggestions, and make sure to leave us a comment about which one ends up working for you.
photo credit: Simi Dimitric via Flickr
1. Protect the morning nap.
Naps are really important for babies, but generally speaking the morning nap is the most restorative because it’s easier for babies to fall back into deep, non-REM sleep. If you have older kids or a lifestyle that makes it hard to stay home for naps, at the very least consider prioritizing the morning nap. Do whatever it takes to insure a good nap during the first hours of the day, even if it means wearing the baby in a sling or putting them in a swing. You know your baby better than anyone else. If they have a preferred way or place to sleep, make sure you give them access to that during the morning hours.
2. Invest in a travel sized white noise machine.
Many babies are light sleepers or have trouble staying settled through sleep transitions. For on-the-go families, a travel size white noise machine can help keep babies stay asleep at soccer games, noisy playgrounds or restaurants. If you have a baby who wakes up every time the car stops, try a machine that attaches to your car seat. The consistency of sound may be enough to help them ignore a change in movement.
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3. Move them to their own room.
Babies can be loud even when they’re asleep. If your child grunts, moves and fusses long before they fully wake up, it may be easier for everyone to transition him to his own room. By putting him in his own space, you’ll be able to sleep through all of his odd sounds instead of laying awake worried or analyzing whether or not he’s hungry or waking up. Some babies will actually sleep better when they’re not as close to mom’s smell. You, of course, will know what’s best for your child.
4. Try “the pause.”
Parenting book Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Keys to French Parenting praises a baby sleep technique “le pause.” What is it? Essentially, it’s resisting the urge (and parenting instinct) to run to your baby at the first sound of stirring. A little grunt, a minute or two of crying (we’re not talking cry it out here), a few moments of flailing around in his crib are all a part of your baby waking and resettling himself. If you run to him immediately, you’re robbing him of this opportunity to learn to put himself back to sleep. Start le pause right away and you may see some results.
5. Try a sleep app to help analyze napping patterns.
Attention parents of cat nappers! Your baby’s 28-minute sleep cycle is totally a thing. Unlike adults, some little ones struggle with the transition between non-REM and REM sleep. The nap app Baby Connect helps parents track sleep cycles and analyze patterns such as when baby likes to sleep, and for how long. Using the information, parents can better determine when a nap is necessary, or when to be on standby to help your baby through the non-REM/REM sleep transition.
6. Put baby to sleep before they are fussy.
Babies each have their own way of communicating tiredness, and crying is usually a sign you’ve missed the optimum window. Young infants are often ready to nap again within 60-90 minutes of waking and 2 hours is a good mark for older babies, so start looking for sleep signs earlier than you may think. Eye rubbing, yawning and blank stares are all classic sleepy signs that indicate it’s time to start your bedtime or nap routine. If you catch your baby before he or she gets worked up, it will be much easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
7. Try a special swaddle.
There are plenty of various swaddles, jackets, blankets and sacks on the market but the Zen Swaddle is becoming particularly popular with new parents who love how the product can fit baby from zero to six months without having to purchase various sizes. What makes the Zen Swaddle even more appealing is how it mimics a parent’s touch with two weighted pressure points, proven to stabilize heart rates and promote socio-emotional health.
8. Hire a sleep coach.
When all else fails, or you’ve simply reached the end of your rope, consider hiring a sleep coach. There are a variety of services; from local providers who can come to your house to online consultants who will e-mail you a personalized plan. The Baby Sleep Site is one such company that’s helped over 200,000 families worldwide and offers a variety of plans depending on your budget and needs. The site promises to never offer a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather works with parents to understand their child’s unique personality, and their families sleep goals.
What’s your biggest sleep struggle? Share your stories in the comments.