When it comes to parenting, few things are as essential (and often as elusive) as a good night’s sleep. That’s because having a baby often means sacrificing quality sleep for the next several years. Or does it?
That’s where creating a good sleep routine comes in. Establishing a consistent and calming routine before bedtime can do wonders for your little one and you. Sleep routines not only help babies relax and prepare for sleep, but they also give parents back some of those much-needed precious hours of shut-eye.
Here are some helpful tips on designing routines that work best for your family and some suggestions to help you get started and maintain your new habit!
Understanding Baby’s Sleep Patterns
Here are some of the basics that you need to know about your baby's sleep patterns:
- Babies typically require 16 hours of sleep a day in relatively long stretches.
- Typically, babies cycle through four stages of sleep, starting off with light non-REM (NREM) sleep, then transitioning into deep NREM, then REM.
- Babies are more easily woken up during deep NREM than they are during REM.
- Newborns usually wake up every 3-4 hours due to hunger and their need to be changed. As they grow, however, babies become able to go nearly 10 hours between feedings.
Developing a Consistent Sleep Routine
You know the saying: consistency is key. To help you and your baby fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer, it’s important to develop a consistent sleep routine. This should include set times for things like:
- Getting ready for bed (i.e. brushing teeth, changing into pajamas)
- Calm activities (i.e. reading stories, gentle massage)
- Dimming lights/turning off electronics
Having a defined routine won’t only teach your little one to relax when it's time for bed, but it will also help their body recognize cues that it's time to rest and get ready for sleep. As the parent, the repetition of this routine will help you stay on schedule and keep from succumbing to late nights out of exhaustion or boredom.
Adjusting Your Lifestyle to Optimize Sleep
It’s not just your baby’s sleep routine that matters. It’s important for you too—the more you get, the better you can handle the daily routine of parenting. Here are some ideas to help adjust your lifestyle to optimize sleep:
- Establish a Routine: Reading, soothing sounds or even taking a warm shower are all ways to help you relax and start drifting off. Make sure the room is comfortable, dark and quiet—set reminders throughout the day if needed, so you don’t forget!
- Get Support: From grandparents stepping in for a few hours to online parenting forums where you can ask questions and share stories with other parents worldwide—make sure to take advantage of them so you don’t get overwhelmed!
Creating a Nightly Bedtime Routine for Baby
Creating a nightly bedtime routine for your baby can be a great way to help both of you get the sleep that you need. You may be surprised by how much toddlers respond to routine, and it can save you from having to deal with an overtired baby not wanting to go to bed!
Introduce routines like singing nursery rhymes or reading a book every night before they go to bed. It doesn't have to take too long—just a few minutes will do.
Bedtime is also the perfect time for some special bonding between parent and child; try activities like giving them gentle massage or hugs and kisses that make them feel safe and secure. That way, when it’s finally time for them (and you!) to drift off into dreamland, you’ll both be feeling relaxed and ready for sleep!
Combining Sensory Activities to Relax Babies
Just like adults, babies need to wind down before they can drift off into dreamland. One way to help them get relaxed is to combine a few sensory activities. This helps your baby learn to self-soothe and form their own sleep routines.
For instance, try dimming the lights and reading stories or singing softly. If your baby is feeling fussy, try performing some gentle massage techniques on their arms, legs, and back. You can also use a warm oil or cream for an extra calming effect.
If your little one is still having trouble chilling out, you might want to try sensory play that encourages tactile exploration, like playing with textured fabrics such as fur and silk like this Furry Blankie, or exploring activities like wooden stacking toys that make noises when banged together.
Another idea is white noise—it’s a proven technique that soothes babies (and parents) alike!
Finding a sleep routine that works for your baby and you is all about trial and error. The key is to create a predictable and consistent routine that is also flexible and adaptable so it can change and evolve with your growing baby's needs. With some thoughtful scheduling and consistency, you may just find that getting more – and better quality – sleep isn't just possible but a reality. Sweet dreams!