Newborns find it difficult to distinguish between day and night, and that explains why they sleep in such short periods of time throughout the day. But after the first few weeks (and many sleepless nights) you can start to teach the difference, establishing the basis for developing healthy sleep habits later on. The following tips from experts in children’s sleep will help you.
Use the lights strategically
“The lights activate the biological start button of your child,” says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The Sleep of the Baby without tears ( No-cry sleep solution). And on the contrary, darkness causes the brain to release melatonin, a key hormone to sleep. If you keep your baby’s environment lit during the day and dark at night, you will help him recognize the difference.
- During the day, let a lot of sun in the house. Put your baby to nap in well-lit rooms (unless you have trouble napping ).
- To induce sleep at night, install dimmers in the lights, not only in your baby’s room but in other rooms where the two spend a lot of time. Reduce the intensity of light one or two hours before putting it to sleep at night, to set the mood.
- Night lights are fine, but choose ones that are small and very faint, and that do not heat up (do not install near curtains, bedspreads or bedding).
- If your child wakes up during the night, do not turn on the light or take it to a well-lit room. The passage from darkness to light tells your brain that it is time to take action. Instead, reassure him to go back to sleep in the room.
- If the morning sun causes your child to get up too early or has problems with afternoon naps, install curtains that darken the room.
Put him in his crib when he’s sleepy, not totally asleep.
This is not easy, especially for moms who are breastfeeding , but if you can find the way, you’ll get a lot of the rest you need. Babies who sleep alone are more likely to fall asleep faster and learn to calm themselves to sleep, as says Kim West, author of Good night, sleep tight ( Good Night, Sleep Tight ).
Try to put your baby in the crib when you see that he starts to sleep, just before he falls asleep. Here’s your advice: when your baby is 6 to 8 weeks old, create a sleep scale from 1 to 10 (1 is fully awake and 10 is asleep as a trunk). Wait until your baby is in the number 7 or 8 and put him to sleep.
Wait a little before going to see him when he cries
If you jump every time you hear a sigh transmitted by the baby monitor, you will teach him to wake up more often. Instead, wait a few minutes to give him the chance to calm down and go back to sleep. If you do not calm down and you feel that you are going to wake up, try to comfort him before he starts crying at the top of his lungs. By entering on time you can reassure him before he is too angry to go back to sleep.
In any case, it is okay to reduce the sensitivity of your baby monitor’s sound register. Adjust the volume so you can go when it is hectic, but not to hear each sigh.
Try not to look your baby in the eye
Many babies are stimulated very easily. A loving look from you can stimulate your attention and send you the signal that it is time to play.
Parents who maintain eye contact with their sleepy babies are unwittingly encouraging them to leave the sleep zone, says Claire Lerner, director of a nonprofit organization called Zero to Three that promotes the health of infants and toddlers. “The more interaction there is between you and your baby during the night, the more motivation you will have to wake up.”
What can you do then? Lerner suggests lowering the level to everything. If you have to enter the area where your baby is sleeping, do not keep your eyes, talk or sing your favorite song of Juanes. Keep your eyes on her belly and gently caress her back and a sweet and calm voice.
Relax the rules for changing diapers
Resist the urge to change your baby every time she wakes up. You will not always need to change it and you will only wake it up more. Instead of this, Pantley advises you to put on a good absorbent nightie when you go to sleep.
When you wake up, smear it to see if it is dirty and change it only if there is no other remedy. And if you have to change it, there is nothing that awakens a baby more than a cold wet wipe. Try replacing it with a warm cloth. Having a baby isn’t all about their cute baby onesies.
Give him a “night snack”
If your baby has trouble sleeping all night, you may sleep longer if you wake up to feed him late at night (between 10 pm and midnight, for example).
Keep the room as dark as possible and gently pull your baby out of the crib. Offer her breast or bottle. You may wake up enough to start sucking, but if you do not, gently touch your lips with your nipple or nipple until you reach for it. When finished eating, put it back in its cradle without removing the air so it does not wake up.
Wait until you are ready to learn to sleep
These tips will help you establish healthy sleep habits, and you can start putting them into practice from the first month of your baby’s life. But as desperate as you are to start sleeping more hours running, your baby will not be ready to teach you to sleep until you have at least 4 months.
At that age, not only will you be prepared to sleep more hours, but you will also be much more receptive to the techniques to teach you how to sleep that you decide to use.
Prepare for possible regressions
If your baby starts waking up again in the middle of the night, do not panic, it’s probably just a transitory slip. Babies and young children often go through a brief regression in nighttime sleep when they are about to reach important goals in their development, or when there are changes in their routine such as due to a trip, illness or the arrival of a little brother.
Many parents observe sleep problems in their little ones after 4 months, when the babies start to have more mobility and change their sleep patterns, and again around 9 months, when separation anxiety increases .
To overcome this phase, put the basic steps back into practice:
- Maintain a predictable and constant routine during the day, and follow a ritual to sleep peacefully at night.
- If your baby is old enough, choose a strategy to teach him to sleep and try it for a week.
- If you do not notice improvements, re-evaluate the situation and try a different method.