Good sleep patterns for your baby does not need to be complicated or involve Crying-it-out….. In fact, the opposite is true!
Baby sleep is uncomplicated because babies have a Natural Sleep Clock built-in and just need your help to develop it ⏰
1 - Optimise the Sleep environment
Making sure your baby’s sleeping space is really sleep-promoting is easy.
Make sure it’s a dark room because the dark stimulates the release of melatonin - a hormone that helps us sleep.
It’s important that your baby doesn’t get too hot or too cold when sleeping. Babies can’t regulate their body temperature as well as adults and are reliant on us to make sure they are appropriately dressed for the environment.
Your baby should be dressed appropriately for the room temperature in which he is sleeping. Use a baby sleep sack to help create a cosy, warm sleeping space for your baby.
Make sure there is nothing stimulating in their environment to distract them from sleeping such as a nightlight or musical mobile.
2 - Make use of Sleep Windows
Often parents make the mistake of putting their baby to bed later, in the hope that by that time they’ll be so tired that they’ll easily fall asleep. But in fact, this has the opposite effect - what actually happens is that the baby becomes overtired.
Babies have a Sleep Window during which they should go to sleep. This is a window when they are nicely tired and feeling sleepy, and not under-tired or overtired. Babies have a Maximum Awake Time. If a baby stays awake for too long, they will go into overdrive and their Sleep Hormones will go out of sync - they’ll become overtired making it harder to sleep.
3 - Sleep Consolidation and Eating Times
As well as sleeping a lot, babies need to feed around the clock. Newborns need feeding at least 8-12 times (and sometimes more!) in a 24 hour period. Babies continue to need night feeds until they are typically at least 6 months old (and firmly established on solids).
Your baby’s need for frequent feeds is why they can only sleep for short periods of time. As your baby grows older, they can go longer between feeds - which means they can sleep for longer periods. This is called Sleep Consolidation.
As your baby consolidates sleep, you want them to get their longest stretch of sleep at night. Doing so takes advantage of when nature dictates are the best time to sleep, and your baby’s Sleep Hormones. It also coincides with your sleep, helping you get as much rest as possible!
To be able to sleep a long time at night, your baby needs to have enough calories during the day and especially right before the long night sleep.
4 - Your baby’s internal body clock
All Babies have an internal body clock but it doesn't come pre-programmed!
Before your baby is born, their body clock is influenced by mum’s hormones - but after birth, they need to set their "natural body clock". It is your job as a parent to help them!
You can help your baby develop their internal clock with small easy steps, like going outside in the daytime and minimising artificial light at night; simple as they sound, they have a huge impact on your baby’s sleep - and yours!
5 - Early to bed, early to rise
Your baby’s Sleep Hormones and their 24-hour internal clock mean that it’s best for babies to go to bed early and wake up early.
The best time for your baby to go to bed is from 6.30-7.30pm, with a morning wake time 12 hours later. These times coincide with Sleep Hormone peaks and troughs, together with daylight and nightfall.
6 - The importance of daytime naps
Daytime naps are hugely important for babies. Having naps isn’t just a nice thing for your baby to have; they’re actually a biological necessity!
Babies are growing and developing so fast that sleep pressure builds up quickly - which means they need to nap! Naps also stop your baby becoming overtired, helping them sleep better at night.
7 - Bedtime Rituals
Think about the things that you do before bedtime. You’ve done everything that you need to do for the day and (hopefully!) you have a bit of time for yourself, to relax and wind-down. Perhaps you take a bath or read a book. What you’re doing is telling your body and mind that bedtime is approaching.
Bedtime Rituals are really important for your baby. They help your baby wind-down and feel relaxed. When you carry out the same series of rituals each night, over time the repetition acts as a cue to your baby that bedtime is approaching. This helps your baby to wind-down, relax and sleep better. Bedtime Rituals also gives you time to bond with your baby, helping them to feel secure and loved before bedtime.