Starting at 3 months of age, many babies (thankfully!) start sleeping for longer stretches at night, although this varies from infant to infant. According to Stanford’s Children Health, two-thirds of babies are able to sleep through much of the night by the six-month mark.
Babies who follow a consistent bedtime routine go to sleep easier and sleep better throughout the night. Bedtime routines reinforce babies’ natural circadian rhythms, helping teach them the difference between day and night. Later on, a bedtime routine helps little ones to slow down and prepare mentally for bedtime.
To help set new parents up for bedtime success, we’ve gathered six top sleep tips to ensure baby’s routine is smooth and effective.
- Follow a calming bedtime routine. Overstimulation in the evening can make it difficult for your baby to settle to sleep. Play active games during the day and quiet, peaceful games in the evening, especially toward the end of the routine. Many babies enjoy bathing right before bedtime, which calms them down. Keep activities the same and in the same order, night after night.
- Put baby to bed drowsy, but awake. This will help them associate bed with the process of falling asleep. Remember to place your baby to sleep on his or her back, and clear the crib or bassinet of blankets and other soft, loose items.
- Give baby time to settle down. Save baby’s favorite activity for last, and do it in their bedroom. This will help them look forward to bedtime and associate their sleep space with things they like to do. Be peaceful, especially toward the end of the routine.
- Offer a pacifier. If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that using a pacifier during sleep helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If the pacifier falls out after your baby falls asleep, you don’t have to put it back in.
- Keep nighttime care low-key. Make nighttime conditions in your baby’s bedroom consistent. When they wake up in the middle of the night, the sounds and lights in the room should be the same as when they fell asleep. If your baby needs care or feeding during the night, use dim lights, a soft voice and calm movements. This will let them know it’s time to sleep, not play.
- Help baby learn how to self-soothe. Ideally, you want your baby to learn how to fall asleep in their crib on their own. This means not picking up your little one every time he or she fusses. If your baby starts to cry, you can gently pat or rub their tummy and speak softly to him or her. Giving babies some time to comfort themselves so they can fall back asleep on their own can establish good sleeping habits, which helps you get a good night’s rest too.
Middle-of-the-night feedings are unavoidable and sure to disrupt sound sleep, for both babies and parents, the first few months. As little ones grow, they will start to sleep in longer stretches. And as your baby sleeps longer, the benefits of having an established rhythm and a baby who knows how to fall asleep at bedtime and nap times, and fall back asleep when awoken, is priceless. Then, the phrase “sleep like a baby” takes on a whole new meaning!