Baby Sleep Habits
We teach our babies sleep habits that make them dependent on us rather than ones that build confidence and self-calming ability.
What Are the Most Common Baby Sleep Habits?
The most common baby sleep habits that lead to poor slumber are bed-sharing and being put in bed asleep.
For example, the Sleep in America poll found that:
- 60% of infants are usually rocked to sleep (which is wonderful for newborns but can become a problem later on).
- 75% of infants fall asleep every night nursing or drinking a bottle.
- Many infants bed-share, which makes it easy for them to insist that their parents soothe them back to sleep—each time they awaken.
- As previously mentioned, only a third of parents use independence-building sleep cues like white noise or loveys every night.
Doctors in Rhode Island found that 3- and 8-month-old infants fell asleep easily—at bedtime and after nighttime awakenings—if they used loveys and pacifiers. The doctors also reported that all the poorly sleeping 8-month-olds—about 1 in 3 infants—were put into their cribs already asleep…and none routinely received a lovey!
Healthy Sleep Habits
Good sleep habits for babies include:
- Make sure your baby is not hungry at bedtime.
- Place your baby to bed when he is sleepy. Do not wait for your baby to be completely asleep before putting him to bed.
- Always place your baby on his back when putting him to bed.
- Create a regular sleep schedule that you follow consistently.
- Don’t let your baby nap for too long during the day to the point where it will impact his nighttime routine.
- Don’t let your baby sleep with a bottle.
- Offer a pacifier at bedtime. If your baby is breastfeeding, then wait until breastfeeding is established before offering pacifiers.
Breaking Bad Sleep Habits
Being your baby’s sleep aid is fun and cuddly, and I’m all in favor of it as long as you’re happy with it and always put your baby to sleep in a safe location. But if you’re tired and frustrated, this is the right moment to help your infant learn some new healthy sleep habits. Here are clues that it’s time for a change:
- You’re exhausted: You’re overeating; short-tempered with your toddler or husband; spacing out at work; driving dangerously because you’re so tired; feeling depressed; or considering smoking cigarettes again.
- You’re frustrated: You don’t know what to do about your infant’s sleep resistance, night waking, dependence on bed-sharing and frequent night nursing. And you are bickering a lot with your spouse.
- Your child’s unhappy: She’s extra cranky; cries at everything; has no patience; seems overtired; gets super irritable at bedtime; or wakes crying during the night.
If you’re seeing these trouble signs, it’s time to swap your problematic sleep cues for ones that boost sleep and nurture your tot’s calm, confidence and competence. Don’t get me wrong…you should give your little lovebug tons of holding, rocking, patting and suckling. But to avoid sleep problems later, you need to develop healthy sleep habits and routines now that will teach her to self-soothe.
How to Improve Baby Sleep Habits?
The best way to start removing a dependence on being held and rocked to doze off is to use the wake-and-sleep technique every time you put your little one down to sleep.
A short summary of how to do it. Before laying your baby down for a nap or the night—wrap your child in a snug swaddle, put on white noise for baby sleep as loud as a shower, offer a feeding and let him drift to sleep in your arms. BUT, right after you slide him into bed, rouse him until his eyes open (scratch his toes, tickle his neck, etc). After a few seconds, he’ll fall back to sleep