Growth & Development

Learning to Sleep

Sleep Routines
During the first 3 months  you cannot spoil your baby or create bad habits (for example, by allowing your baby to sleep on your chest while you are awake). However, it can help them to organize their sleep and develop good habits by establishing some patterns. Babies are not automatically programmed to know night from day so it is helpful to start off by creating a “bed time” between 6- 8 pm.

Try to establish a soothing routine that puts your baby in an awake but drowsy state when you put them down.  Babies will learn to put themselves to sleep if you let them fall asleep on their own.

Even though you are waking up multiple times a night to feed, make all feedings after your bedtime “night-time” feedings. You can do this by keeping the lights dim, avoiding tv or radio, avoiding eye contact or playing with your baby. In the middle of the night, don’t get your baby too stimulated or over excited and don’t do all the other wonderful things you are doing during the day. 

Give Your Baby Opportunity to Sleep

Give your baby an opportunity to sleep every 1.5-2 hours. Even if you have visitors, it is okay to put your baby down for a nap.  Ideally, we want to put your baby down when they are awake but drowsy. By letting your baby put himself to sleep he will learn how to self-soothe which will be good later when you consider sleep training.

Your baby will not give you a long stretch of sleep at this time, but remember to wake your baby every 3 hours to feed until your doctor says it’s okay not to. When you do get permission to let your baby go, make sure not to have the longest stretch in the middle of the day, and encourage the baby to take it at night by doing regular feedings throughout the daytime.

TIP: Your baby may fall asleep in your arms, stroller or bouncy chair as well. That is fine, it is too early to create bad habits for the first 3 months. But always remember that strollers and bouncy chairs are only safe if you are watching the baby (an awake adult in the room) but never for nighttime sleep or when an adult is not in the room. Also pay attention to the weight requirements on certain devices and get in the habit of always using all belts and buckles.

 

After 6–8 Weeks
Finding soothing techniques that work for you and your baby is up to you. Bed time routines may include a bath, breast or bottle feeding, and rocking. Really, whatever works for you! Doing the same thing before bed each night, even when your baby isn’t sleeping for more than a few hours at a time, will help signal to him/her that it’s bedtime and they will grow to love it and look forward to it.

Do remember, whatever you do after about 3 months with your baby (for example, rocking, singing, reading), will likely be what your baby expects/needs to fall asleep when they are 2 years old and beyond—so make your sleep routines enjoyable for both of you!

 

Naps and Toys
Your baby needs to nap after being awake between 1 and 2 hours. Put your baby down before they get overtired, and try not to miss the window! When you see that he/she is becoming tired, or when your baby has been awake between 1-2 hours, begin a soothing sleep routine. Nap routines may include nursing/feeding and cuddling with dim lights and some soothing music or humming once they wake up, try to take your out of her crib when they wake up (unless he/she seems to be cooing and relaxing). He/she will learn that crib time is for sleeping.

Also, avoid crib toys. When your baby is 0 to 3 months old, it is okay to use a mobile. But by 4 months old, the mobile should be removed because it could be dangerous if your baby grabs it.

Witching Hour
Babies may get fussy late in the afternoon or early evenings. This may be a signal that his or her bedtime has passed. We want to avoid this because overtired babies are harder to put down to sleep.

 

Physical Space
Try to have your baby sleep in the same place as often as possible. This avoids confusion and allows them to grow a sense of their own safe place.  Create a peaceful space for your baby to sleep and try to be respectful of their sleeping space. As much as possible, try to make it a calming place that is dark and quiet.

Very young infants can sleep through almost anything but after a few months, as they become more aware of the world around them, they will not sleep as well with distractions.

Think of where your baby sleeps the way you think of how you would like to sleep. You wouldn’t want to sleep with people banging and talking around you either! If you have a lot of noise in your apartment you can use white noise (which sounds like a long, loud hiss) to drown it out.

 

Sleep Moving Forward
At this point it is too early to sleep train your baby or let them “cry it out.” You can do this after 4 months of age after checking with your pediatrician. If “crying it out” makes you uncomfortable, there are lots of other ways to help your baby learn to sleep.  Remember, you can help your baby learn to self-soothe by practicing good sleep habits early and putting your baby to bed drowsy but awake. 
One way to tell if your baby is getting enough sleep is mood. If he/she seems happy, don’t worry too much. If he/she is cranky, working out sleep routines will be helpful.

Content created in partnership with
Seedlings Group