When it comes to sleep, everyone is different! Parents have to decide what works for their family needs. 99% of children are not going to stand up at 7 pm, say goodnight, and march of to bed falling right asleep for 12 hours straight. Healthy sleep habits are taught and reinforced by parents. What makes it hard is that parents don't often know what healthy sleep habits are. And quite frankly, by the time you decide you need to learn more about sleep you are exhausted.
When I counsel parents on how to foster healthy sleep habits these are a few of my top tips:
1. Tune Into Cues: Newborns come with body language and cries that communicate their needs. Does your child rub his eyes, have a seven-mile stare, flailing arms, uncontrolled kicking, or a certain cry? Begin to put them down when you see these cues.
2. 2 Hour Time Limit: When working with infants on creating a sleep schedule it is important to get them back to sleep or in their crib with in 2 hours of waking. This means feeding, changing, cuddle/play time, and back to bed. Wake at 7am, nap at 9 am, wake at 10:30, nap at 12:30 etc. Once healthy patterns are established, you can find a more flexible schedule that works best.
3. Drowsy Not Asleep: After 4 months of age, babies will learn the valuable skill of self-calming and self-soothing if you put your baby down awake and allow them to fall asleep on their own and be more likely to fall back asleep on their own if they wake in the middle of the night.
4. Consistency: With everything that goes with along with parenting, consistency is key. Plan ahead and stick to your plan. Make sure you have help in place like partner, neighbor that can sit in your house while your baby naps and you run to pick up your other children, family members that can give you a break at the end of the week, or a hot bath waiting for you at the end of the night.
5. Protect The Sleep: Wake them at 7 am. Wake them from a nap in order to protect nighttime sleep.
6. Earlier Bedtime: Try 6:30 pm instead of 8:30 for a trial period. Once they start sleeping 10-12 hours at night, you can adjust the sleep schedule to fit your family's needs.
7. Take Care of Yourself! And Accept Help! Reach out to friends and ask for help. Seek assistance from a sleep consultant (many of which are virtual.) Sometimes we all need support. It is okay to ask for what you need.
If you consistently use these strategies, your typically development child will have a be sleeping better with in one week!
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