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Are you making these common mistakes with your baby's sleep?

As a previously tired and desperate parent, I can remember quite vividly googling and reading blogs about how to help my baby sleep. There were so many suggestions thrown at me that I didn’t know which advice to take and which advice I should ignore. Put rice in the bottle, keep baby up longer to get longer stretches of sleep, try this sleep sack, try this sleep suit….. it felt like we tried everything! But what I did not realize I was unknowingly doing things that sabotaged our chances at good sleep.

Read on to learn more about the most common mistakes that not only I made, but that I see parents making all the time!

Mistake #1: Not following age appropriate wake windows

This one is the listed first for a reason: IT’S SO IMPORTANT! Keeping your baby awake for long periods of time will only create overtiredness. When a baby becomes overtired, their cortisol levels are increased, and this hormone makes it difficult for them to fall and stay asleep. The younger a baby is the more sleep that they will require to avoid the dreaded overtiredness.

What do I do? Follow their wake windows based on their age! Start at the least amount of time in their range and work your way up a few minutes every few days once you feel that they can handle more awake time! See my Quick Reference Guide below to determine how much sleep and awake time your baby should be getting:

Mistake #2: Not establishing naptime and bedtime routines

Routines are a great way to signal to your child’s brain that sleep is coming. They learn what comes next and they know it’s time to settle in to get ready for sleep! If nothing else is consistent throughout their day, work extremely hard to at least keep the time before naps and the time before bed the same each day!

What do I do? Create routines that will work with your family! Naptime routines can be short, 5-10 minutes in length. They may look something like this:

· Go into dark bedroom

· Turn on sound machine

· Change diaper

· Put on sleep sack

· Sing sleepy time song and put into crib

Bedtime routines can be longer and usually range 20-30 minutes in length. Anything more may be too much time for your little one. I always recommend starting the routine with the most stimulating activity. Babies 12 months and under should still have their bedtime feed included in the routine. Personally, I think it is best to offer the final feeding at the beginning of the routine if baby is 5/6 months and older to help break the feed to sleep association that a lot of babies develop! Here are two examples of bedtime routines:

Baby Bedtime Routine

· Feeding in well lit room

· Read 2 books

· Brush teeth and bath time

· Get dressed: diaper, PJs, sleep sack

· Sing sleepy time song and into the crib

Toddler Bedtime Routine

· Snack (nothing sugary, avoid dairy)

· Read 2 books

· Brush teeth and bath time

· Get dressed: diaper, PJs, sleep sack

· Sing sleepy time song and into the crib

Mistake #3: Not setting up the sleep environment

I talk to many families that avoid using blackout curtains or sound machines because they are worried that these items will become a sleep crutch. The truth is, we all sleep better in a cool, dark environment. The white noise helps babies to enter a calm state while blocking out surrounding noise from loud siblings or noisy neighbors. Darkness is important because it tells the brain to secrete the sleepy hormone, melatonin. This hormone helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. Any light, real or artificial, disrupts the melatonin, which is why it’s difficult to get good, quality sleep with bright lights on.

What do I do? Use blackout shades or curtains in your little one’s room. Make sure that the room is completely dark for both naps and night time sleep. Use a sound machine but keep it at least 6 feet away from where your child sleeps. You can download a decibel app to measure the decibels of the sound machine. A safe range is 50-60 decibels. The sound machine should be continuous, rather than one that turns off after a certain amount of time.

Mistake # 4: Expecting your little one to sleep well in any setting

Newborns have two stages of sleep: deep sleep and light sleep. Which means that they spend 50% of the time in a very deep sleep. This allows them to sleep in many different places with noise and light. But as they get older, their sleep patterns change. They begin spending a lot more time in a light stage of sleep which means they can wake more easily.

The environments that they once could sleep in are now harder for them to fall asleep in. A big issue I see is that parents are told to or believe they should continue making baby sleep in loud or bright settings so that they are used to sleeping that way. Majority of the time, this does not do anything except ensure that your child never takes great naps and will always have some level of overtiredness.

What do I do? It’s totally fine to allow newborns to nap wherever you are. I recommend trying for one nap a day in their beds but for the other naps, don’t be afraid to hold them or have them in the carrier. Afterall, newborns nap a lot! But as they get older, be consistent about putting them in a safe, dark, cool space for sleep. Ideally, this will be the same place each nap. This will help them get more restorative sleep and will guide them to a more predictable schedule!

Mistake #5: Not giving your baby the chance to fall asleep independently

By not allowing your little one to learn to fall asleep on their own, they will begin to feel that the only way to fall asleep is with your help. This is an important skill for your baby to learn to make sure that they get healthy sleep for many years to come! Afterall, the first few years of life are jam packed with development and a lot of the important aspects of this occurs during sleep.

What do I do? Start by laying your baby down drowsy to allow them to take the rest of the journey to sleep on their own. Once they’ve mastered it from a drowsy state, start laying them down fully awake. This takes time, patience and consistency but once they learn it, you’ll see how much your little one loves to sleep!

For more information on how to do this, book a call with me!

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