2/10/12

Top Sleep Tips


This list can help with any child, but it is especially made for younger children and newborns. Happy Sleeping!

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Avoid overtiredness. I can't mention this too many times. Pay attention to your child's wake time lengths and sleep cues and consider keeping a sleep log. Keep in mind that newborns are often up only to eat and have their diaper changed and then it is time to go back to sleep. If you keep a newborn up too long, helping her go to sleep is going to be far from pleasant.  Find that optimal wake time to help your little one go to sleep easily and sleep for longer periods of time (unless, of course, you like short naps and extra night wakings :) And keep in mind that as it changes you need to change with it or you'll have a whole new set of problems!

Don't overstimulate your child. Newborns get overstimulated very easily. Even staring at your face or a white wall can be pretty intense for them. I know they are cute, but try to contain yourself :) If you (or grandparents) overdue it, you very likely will have a baby that has a hard time settling for sleep. Older children get overstimulated too, so try to turn off the tv and stop the roughhousing at least 30 minutes before bed.

Swaddle your baby. A newborn that is swaddled is more likely to sleep for longer stretches of time--for naps and during the night. She will also probably settle more easily to sleep. Now who wouldn't want that? I really like swaddle blankets. I have found that they keep most babies swaddled better than a regular blanket and they also make sure baby is swaddled the correct way (see hip dysplasia and swaddling). There are some great ones out there that even help keep those houdinies swaddled (I have especially had luck with the miracle blanket).

Distinguish night from day. Some people go all out on trying to help baby distinguish night from day. They keep things crazy loud and bright during the day-- even during naps. I haven't found it necessary to do things to such an extent. Simply keeping things light and somewhat active during baby's waketimes during the day and quiet and dark (no talking or smiling please) at night is usually enough to let baby know the difference between these two times. And only change a diaper at night if you need to (they will end up sleeping in their own pee until they are potty trained so don't worry about it--you can't help it!). To prevent leaks, try night time diapers, a bigger size up diaper, diaper inserts or even a diaper soaker cover to prevent night time leaks. In older children, don't give them much to drink before bed.

And of course, the eat/wake/sleep cycle does wonders at helping baby distinguish day from night.

Put your child to sleep drowsy but awake. As your child gets older or more used to this method you will probably be putting her to sleep more and more awake. If she starts to resist you when you try to get her drowsy before sleep, this probably means she is ready to be put to sleep more awake.

Watch out for Sleep Props This suggestion isn't for everyone because obviously some people prefer to feed or rock to sleep, but I'm giving it because it has a huge impact on sleep. Babies that are fed to sleep or fall asleep to movement often end up with some of the biggest sleep prop problems. So maybe try feeding before sleep, but not sleep. And maybe try rocking before sleep for a few minutes instead of rocking to sleep. Look at the Baby Whisperer's Four S routine. I love it.

Quite a few people still like to do whatever works for a certain period of time before they start any form sleep habits, routine etc. If this is you, just skip over the next paragraph.

With sleep, I often suggest you start as you mean to go. Sometimes we still have to do sleep props to survive or to ensure our child gets adequate sleep or to extend naps and that is OK. You do what works for you and your baby and your particular situation. Starting as you mean to go on is good, but sometimes it doesn't work out perfectly. No worries.

Don't Rush In. Babies are often noisy sleepers ("sleep like a baby" HA!). And they go through sleep transitions where they can get even noisier. Often, if you leave a supposedly awake baby alone for a short time they'll go back to sleep. Don't turn these times into short naps or extra night wakings--stop, listen, then decide what to do. Don't just rush in.

Keep a Routine/Schedule. {Once again, some people don't like to establish any sort of routine until their child is older, if ever. If this is you, skip this}. Children thrive on routines and consistency. Keep a consistent morning wake time and consider following the eat/wake/sleep cycle. Encourage full feedings and try to avoid sleeping during feeds so you can get those full feeds in. The full feeds will allow you to space feeds apart during the day and stick with the eat/wake/sleep cycle. Be consistent, but flexible.

Start a Pre-Sleep Routine. Make the sleep routine soothing, predictable, consistent and something to look forward to. Avoid things that may be stimulating (ahem, TV). Dim the lights. Read a book. Sing a special song. Give lots of snuggles. Enjoy your special time together. Special, my 4 year olds favorite word :)

Be consistent. I have mentioned consistency more than once during this post but it is important enough that I want to mention it again. If you want good results, you need to be, for the most part, consistent. Also give things long enough time to work before you decide something doesn't work. It is fine to change things up, but don't throw ten different things at your child at once without ever giving them a good try. You'll send her for a tail spin and you'll have no idea what caused what and what helped or hurt.

Create a good sleep environment. Keep the temperature around 65-70 degrees Farenheit. Make sure the room is dark at night and in the early morning hours to prevent those early morning wakings. As much as possible, try to have your child sleep is her actual bed (but if you can't, that's OK). I highly suggest you use white noise. Avoid itchy clothing and use footed sleepers and sleep sacks instead of blankets for young children.

Stick to an early bedtime. This one thing alone fixes so many problems, especially excessive night wakings! Most children do best with a bedtime around 6-8 (depending on naps, morning wake time, age and total sleep required at night--usually around 11-12 hours). Bedtime may be earlier than usual for a while if you are adjusting to a dropped nap. It may also be super early for a while if you are trying to combat a cycle of over tiredness. Also, some babies do a bit better with a slightly later bedtime during the newborn period. This should move earlier as they get older.

You can try tanking up with cluster feeding and the dreamfeed. Tanking up usually helps to extend night sleep and the dream feed helps to put the longest stretch of sleep right when you go to bed. When baby starts sleeping longer, the dreamfeed will be the one and only night feed, instead of one in the middle of the night. Nice!

Realize that many newborns do not sleep well in the evening. Instead of feeling frustrated about this, use this time to get out and do something (baby won't sleep at home anyway). Use the swing (I prefer this swing by far) or a baby carrier. Do what works to get you through this time. My youngest spent most evenings in a wrap the first few months of his life. It kept him content during this fussy time and he even fell asleep sometimes. And I enjoyed the snuggles.

Watch your baby's cues closely, know your baby and expect change...again and again. Babies are consistent with one thing, they like to change! Change with them or sleep problems (among other things) will occur. If you work on knowing your baby well rather than just following a book (or this blog--it is here to assist you in all of this, not to do all of this for you) these changes will occur more easily.

Trial and error is the only way to figure out if something actually works. You won't know until you try it! Waiting until you know exactly what will work will just lead to a lot of waiting! A sleep log can help a lot when you use trial and error.

Learn about developmental periods that make sleep training or sleep in general tough. One of these is the Wonder Weeks which I've mentioned before. If you know about these weeks, you'll have a heads up about what is going on and won't be so flustered. There are also developmental periods mentioned in the book Bedtiming that may not work well for initiating sleep training. See when to sleep train and when not to.

Feel comfortable with whatever you are doing. Don't do something unless you are comfortable doing it, especially when it comes to sleep training. If you do, you will feel crummy doing it and you will likely not stick with it (all the time and effort for nothing!). But remember, just because something is hard to do, it doesn't necessarily mean it is the wrong thing to do.

Have realistic expectations. What are realistic expectations? Well, it depends ALOT on who you talk to. I will get into this more in future posts (you can also see When Will My Child Sleep through the Night). For now,  if you have a newborn keep in mind how young they are. It takes time for a child to sleep longer at night. It also takes a really long time for some children to have longer naps.

Realize that every baby is different. I know it is hard, but try not to compare your baby to every other baby in this world. Your baby is unique. He will sleep differently than other babies and may struggle with sleep when you do "everything perfect" while your neighbor's baby sleeps perfect when she does every sleep prop in book. That's how it goes sometimes. Give yourself a pat on your back for doing the best you can do and move on.

Expect some sleep regressions. Adults don't sleep perfect all the time and either do babies. They have their up and down days and they also have times when they decide to see if those limits you set for sleep are still there (and I hope they are!). There are also developmental periods and developmental milestones where sleep can get tough, even if your child was sleeping awesome before.

Relax! Don't Obsess! And Relax! Enjoy your baby. They are only babies once! There will be sleep regressions and hiccups along the way. Remember, all babies have their off days just like we do. Don't worry about it. And try not to stress about it.

Keep the end goal of good sleep in mind when things are tough and you feel like giving up. Try working on one thing at a time. Find some support. If you can, muster up a little more patience and try to get some perspective (remember, your baby is only X weeks old :).  Lastly, relax and don't let that bad nap ruin your day!


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28 comments :

  1. I love your blog! Thank you so much for writing it!

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    1. Glad you like it and you are welcome :)

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  2. . My 10week old little girl naps in her swing and sleeps in her crib at night. I have her nap in her swing during the day, because everytime she naps in her crib she wakes up right around 45mins and won't go back to sleep. If she is in her swing she naps for 1hr30mins-2hrs30mins. Would you wake her up if she sleeps longer then 2hrs. That is what the baby whisper says? Should I not let her sleep in the swing? I was letting her fall asleep in crib and then transferring her to the swing if she woke up, but she would not go back to sleep most of the time.
    I don't ever nurse her to sleep. She has a bedtime 7:30-7:30, nap and bedtime routine and always falls asleep on her own at night. She will cry a little bit sometimes. She is on a 3hr routine, we do one cluster feed and a dream feed around 10:30. She wakes up every night between 2-3 and can't put herself back to sleep. I don't think it's hunger. I can usually shush pat her to sleep and she will sleep till 4:30or5 and I feed her and she just started waking up on her own at 7:30 her wake time. Is there anything I can do to get rid of her 2am waking. Could I try CIO. Im not sure if I want to do it, but what are your thoughts? I'm not totally against it? Is she waking up at night because of the swing? She might not know how to put her self back to sleep. I'm just not sure what to do, because if she doesn't nap good I think it's worse. She just woke up from her nap at 44mins in her crib. I transferred her to the swing crossing my fingers that she will go back to sleep.

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    1. Laura,
      I would normally suggest to do the swing half way through the nap but it sounds like this isn't working. Have you tried rushing in the second she wakes, or even a minute before to put her in the swing? Maybe somehting else, like rocking, helps put her back to sleep?

      You'll have to decide if you want to keep up the swing and drop it at a later time when she may do better with extendng naps on her own, she'll be better at dealing with overtiredness as she learns to sleep elsewhere and/or you have more energy to do sleep training or feel more comfortable doing more kinds of sleep trainign d/t age.

      If you decide to drop the swing now you can either just do short naps and change your routine to work around that, or you can try to do sleep training to help her learn to sleep through these naps. This may or may not work right now. It is encouraging that she will, with help, actually take longer naps though unlike many children in similar situations.

      I would probably try not to do more than 2.5 hour naps, and likely not all of them. Most kids don't do more than 2 hours sleep and doing so can cuase sleep problems at night, so you can monitor to see if this is the case for her, if not keep what you are doing. And if she has had a short previous nap you are probably fine to doing a longer nap than usual.

      You could try wake to sleep for that 2-3 waking.

      You could always try a few minutes of cio at waking and if she doesn't go back to sleep at night or during short naps. Or if you wanted to do soomething more extensive with cio, you could do it longer but do frequent checks. Oen method is to go in every few minutes and stay until soothing then leave then return as needed. The swing could be causing teh nigth issue, but if it was the issue, I'm kind of surprised it isn't causing more problems than just one night waking. Sounds more habitual. It is surprising it hasn't gone away after several days after helping her go back to sleep each time.

      Rachel

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    2. Oh, I meant to mention that you certainly don't need to do any cio, but I think if you feel ok with it, you could do some limited cio. Maybe look over some of the sleep training posts to see if there is something that sounds ok to you. You can also do pu/pd but extend the holding until sleepy at htis age.

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  3. Laura we are having the same problems with our 10 weeks old daughter.

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    1. EGC3,
      Hopfully some of the stuff I mentioned for laura will be helpful for you too.

      Rachel

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  4. Thanks for stopping by to hop! Come back next week! Have a wonderful day!
    Loressa

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    1. Thanks for stopping by too Loressa

      Rachel

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  5. Thanks for sharing this. I agree with you. Visiting from beauty-hive.blogspot.com.

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  6. Hi Rachel, thanks reading and commenting on my birth stories blog! Hope you're doing well!

    Jack, now 4.5 months, was waking only 1-2 times a night until earlier this week he has been waking 3 times exactly every 3 hours. I suspect it's a growth spurt and am trying my hardest to patiently get through it. I hope it's over within a week because I am tired!

    I slept in his nursery last night so I wouldn't disturb my husband and realized that Jack was awake most of the night! From 3 until 7, I could hear him moving around in his crib and only a couple times did he go quiet (assuming he fell asleep). He didn't cry or even fuss, he just lay there. Have you encountered this before? Is it normal or should I be worried? My husband thinks that as long as he isn't crying for something and knows to be quiet, he's fine. I'm worried that he's not getting enough sleep. Any thoughts? Thanks!

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    1. Carolyn wong,
      I would just monitor how much he is eating and if he seems like he isn't eating much when he wakes anymore then maybe you can consider helping him extend the feeds again.

      Some babies are really noisy sleepers and move around a lot. When they are overtired they are more likely to be like this. Are you sure he was a wake and not just moving around and making some noises in his sleep? Maybe you were keeping him awake? It would be unusual for him to be awake during this time each night and for so long. I wouldn't jump to any conclusions yet about what is causing it. I'd evaluate it more and see if it is really going on, continues etc. Maybe he just doesn't feel his best right now or something. If you are sure he really is awake and it keeps going on, then I'd evaluate the day time sleep and bedtime to see if these might be impacting this.

      Rachel

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    2. Thanks Rachel. I don't know 100% that he was awake but I'm pretty sure. I figure that either I was keeping him awake or he was feeling unwell or uncomfortable from his growth spurt, which I think is over because he only woke once last night. But now I think he's coming down with a cold :( There's always something right? Thanks again for your help. Love your recent blog posts :)

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    3. Yeah, back down to one waking. I bet you are feeling a bit more rested! Yes, there really is always something! Good luck with everything. And thanks!

      Rachel

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    4. Hi Rachel,

      Unfortunately the waking once a night only lasted a few nights and he's back to waking every 2-3 hours. When I go to him and nurse him, he eats for a good 15 mins then starts just sucking at which point I put him back in his crib to fall back asleep. I can't tell if he really does need to be waking and eating or not. We tried to let him CIO once last night but I ended up giving in after almost an hour because it takes less time to nurse and put him back down than have him settle back to sleep himself.

      I really miss the days when he would sleep 6+ hours straight and am feeling like they won't be back any time soon :(

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    5. Carolyn wong,
      First, wait it out a couple days. Things may go back to how they were wihtout you doing anything. I would try reducing how long feeds are or work on spreading them farther apart. Take a look at the core night method
      http://www.mybabysleepguide.com/2009/08/core-night.html

      you can soothe baby as you drop the feeds and most will eventually stop waking for the feed. If not, then you can work with things at that point--it will be easier than it would be if baby was used to eating at that time.

      Rachel

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    6. Thanks Rachel. He went back to one feed a night a couple nights ago but he's back to fighting his early bedtime - I posted about this about a month ago. It seems like every week or so, his sleep pattern goes through some sort of change. Guess he likes to keep me on my toes :) Thanks again for your help!

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    7. Carolyn Wong,
      It's hard to say why he keeps going back and forth protesting the bedtime hour. He may be sensitive to schedule changes and have difficulty sleeping if the wake times are off OR if he is going to sleep at a different time than normal. Just keep up what you are doing and continue to adjust things along the way as he seems to need them (changes in wake time, etc). Good luck!

      Rachel

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    8. I hope things are going well for you right now Carolyn ;)

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  7. Hi Rachel,
    Your posts are wonderful. You have such great information. My daughter is 4 months old and I have always rocked her to sleep and held her for naps. I would like to teach her to self sooth to sleep especally for naps so she will stay asleep in her crib for more than 20 minutes. I was going to start with the Baby Whispers Shhh/pat method but I was wondering if I can start doing it for naps first and then try at bedtime and night wakes? Or is it bests to start with bedtime/night wakes and then do naps?
    Thank you for all your help!
    Angela

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    1. Angela,
      It is usually better to start with bedtime/nighttime alone, or both bedtime/night and naps. Most babies will do better at night time, and since it is unlimited time to work with (well, compared to naps) you can progress more. If you can't do bedtime/night time, then you could always try naps only. Your daughter may do ok with this, especially if she has an easy temperament and she responds well to a good pre-sleep routine.

      Good luck!
      Rachel

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  8. Hi Rachel,

    Thank you so much for your blog. There is now way I could read all the books that you have in time to make a difference with this baby. :) I am a ftm to a lovely 16 week old girl. I have some major thing to fix but in the last week (sense I found your blog) I have got her back to only waking once at night to nurse. Yeah! I an undecided as to what method is right for out family. I like what the EASY routine of the Baby Whisper but recently realized that I have naturally been doing some things from the Ferber method. Think I’m going to have to get both of these books to see which I like better or to be able to use a combination of both.

    We stopped co sleeping when she was 8 weeks old and went from sleeping for 8hr at night to waking every 45min to 2 hrs. Yikes! This week each night has been getting better and better. Our home is similar to a studio apartment with room dividers but no doors. Because of this it is supper imperative that she has good sleep habits. I realized that I have been doing a variation of Ferber's "progressive waiting" approach at bed time. She is usually asleep for bed with in 5-10 min

    So the reason I'm writing is we are getting ready to move her from her cradle to a mini crib for all sleep (currently naps in a swing). I think I am going to see how the nights go and then try to tackle naps in a week or two. Hope it is not as hard as when we moved her from our bed to the cradle. OK so here is my question, she is currently swaddled for all sleep and I feel like it is time to give it up. Do you think that when I move her to the crib I should just go cold turkey? She does use a paci (and is starting to be able to pit it in her mouth when we hand it to her) which she can keep as long as she wants for now. I think she will be OK falling asleep because we have established a strong bed time routine and she currently falls asleep after 5-10 min of crying. I will give her the binky during checks but if she spits it out she has to wait until the next one. She will usually spit it out after she falls asleep anyway and is not bothered by it at that point.

    Now about the naps. She currently sleeps swaddled in the swing with white noise and vibration. Yikes talk about sleep props. When she is in her cradle she rarely sleeps longer than 30 minutes some times 45 if I'm lucky. Now she will sleep in the swing 2 1/2 hours or more. How do I help her learn to sleep through the transitions? We are not on a nap schedule I just follow appropriate wake times (90 min for her) and watch her sleep cues. We also do a flexible EASY routine. As I said above I am going to fix her naps when I know she is sleep well at night in her new crib. At that point she will nap in her crib but when we make this transition should I keep her swaddled during the day even if we give it up at night, or should I just teach her with out it sense she wakes up during the transitions anyway? Currently the swaddle is the pre nap routine so we are going to have to get something else in place before we start going with out it. Like I said earlier our home does not allow me to put her in a room with a door. We have a separate living room area but to get to the kitchen I have to walk through the bedroom area. I know that if she sees me while trying to fall asleep this will distract her what do you recommend? I'm trying to figure out a visual barrier but can't do anything about sound (dogs barking, people knocking at the door etc).

    1) I guess the basic question should I move her to the crib and then un swaddle or do it right away?
    2.) Should I keep the swaddle until naps are establish in the crib then get rid of it or just do it all at the same time?
    I think we are just going to have to bite the bullet and try it to see what happens.

    Hope this makes sense and sorry it's so long.
    Thanks in advance
    Leah

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    1. Leah,
      I would probably move her to the crib swaddled and then unswaddle her. That is just me though. SHe may do ok with both transitions (some babies will even like the extra space and movement) but many babies will struggle with the extra room in the crib and the swaddle will help keep as many things the same as possible to help with the transition.

      I would probably drop the swaddle at naps and night. Some people have luck dropping it at night first but most babies seem to do best if it is dropped at both times

      I would keep using a sound machine to help with all the extra sounds you have and work on some sort of barrier. Even a cardboard box barrier will work if you are tight on money but something like a curtain rod with a sheet or curtain might work best. Depends how the space is.

      Just take baby steps to reduce the props for naps. Don't be too surprised or upset if you have to help extending naps for a while (see the short nap and extending nap post for my thoughts on this). I would at least try to start the sleep out in the crib and do the swing as needed.

      Rachel

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  9. Hello.. My baby is 18 weeks almost 4months.. We've never had great napping, always kinda of inconsistent. Worked awhile on wake time and always assumed it was the problem but not sure it really is/was. We've been doing CIO since Saturday for day sleep as her nights are great she sleeps from 730-545/6 and goes back asleep till wake time at 8am.. I haven't seen much progress with our CIO for day. She goes down no problem or crying at about 1hr 20min wake time. I've been letting her cry when she wakes after 45min-1 to the next feeding time.. Usually about an hour, she'll cry on and off.. Wondering how long CIO takes when doing it mid nap? Feeling very discouraged and wonder if I need to adjust

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    1. Garrett and denise stone,
      Take a look at these posts if you haven't already...
      http://www.mybabysleepguide.com/2009/02/waking-early-from-naps.html
      http://www.mybabysleepguide.com/2009/02/how-to-extend-short-nap.html
      Some naps will not extend for some time, even with cio. After a week of consistency, if you don't have some progress, I'd guess time is what you really need. After a bit more time, she'll probably start to get happy upon waking, if she doesn't sleep. Or you can do another method.

      Rachel

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