Crying is a natural part of a baby’s routine, but if your little one is more cranky than usual, chances are he or she isn’t getting enough quality sleep time. Take a look at what some sleep specialists have to say about getting your kiddo the sleep they need:
Be aware of your own feelings
It can be hard to tell when your baby doesn’t get enough sleep, but there are some signs you can look out for. For instance, if your little one doesn’t seem interested in the environment or other people, it might be a sign that your baby is exhausted due to a lack of sleep. Rubbing eyes, pulling ears, or looking away from stimulating objects (like light sources, etc.) might also signify that your child isn’t getting enough sleep. More frequent mood swings or difficult recovery from negative emotions are some extra signs you should be aware of.
Now, if your baby’s sleep schedule isn’t ideal, you can help your little one establish a normal(ish) cycle. Increased daylight exposure and limited use of devices can do a lot of good in this case. You also need to make sure that your baby’s room is dark, comfortably cool, and quiet. Try to encourage your baby to wake up at roughly the same time every morning (by letting some sunlight into the room, for example) to help their internal clock get used to a certain routine.
And most importantly, be aware of your own feelings. Yes, caring for a sleepless baby can be stressful and challenging. But you need to learn how to control your emotions. If your little one senses your distress, it might be even harder for them to sleep normally (and for you to help them).
Create a specific sleep plan
Check the sleep space: boring, safe, and comfortable are the secrets here. Timing is crucial because an overtired child is more difficult to get and keep asleep than an under tired one. It’s also important to discuss what the parent’s sleep goals are in relation to your parenting styles. Assessment and reassessment are key.
Now that we know your goals and have assessed the setting, let’s look at your child’s whole picture: their health concerns, feeding, medications, development, age/adjusted age, and general mood. Several things go into a good night’s sleep and by looking at the whole picture concerns can be accommodated. For example, feeding and sleep go hand and hand. It is important to ensure appropriate weight gain, effective latch, good bottle technique, and adequate daily nutrition. Ultimately, you cannot have good sleep without good nutrition.
Since we have assessed the setting and your child, let’s prep by laying the foundation to great sleep; the homework part. Let’s set up their sleep space for success: safe comforts, darkness, white noise, consistent sleep routines. Let’s observe for sleep cues and at the first sign begin the routine and set the mood. Little changes at a time. Start at bedtime and leave naps exactly how they are currently. Slow yet steady changes to get to your sleep goals. If there are too many changes too quickly, cue the tears.
And finally, let’s create a specific sleep plan, one that is designed for your little one and you. Not a cookie-cutter method; every babe is so different, let’s treat them like it. A sleep plan is a draft, a revisable one based on how your babe is doing. And let’s not forget the importance of support, when things get tough in the middle of the night you need support…that’s what you need from a good sleep coach. Encouraging words, showing progress, feedback, and explaining the daily plan are all important aspects of success.
Teaching good sleep is a slow and steady process. There are fewer tears if we wait till your little one is ready for the next step. The sleep plan should be specific to your babe, your goals, and be specific enough to include a night-by-night plan. Troubleshooting low-quality sleep is a game changer. With the right plan and proper support, good sleep is possible for your babe and for you.
Amanda Ibanez BSN, RN
Amanda Ibanez is the owner of The Mama Coach. She is a registered nurse with over 10 years of experience. She is a mother who is making motherhood easier for others by offering support and evidence-based education on sleep, pregnancy, and feeding.
Help your little one develop a sleep schedule
The main troubleshooting trick you might want to try is rethinking your expectations. Many new parents don’t really know how their baby’s internal clock works and expect an unrealistic sleep schedule. In reality, newborns and young babies don’t really have specific circadian rhythms, and new parents need to understand that.
The next step would be helping your little one develop a sleep schedule. Yes, for the first few months, your child’s sleep will depend on their feeding patterns. Still, you have a good chance of setting a relatively consistent routine and helping your baby adhere to a certain schedule. Make sure your little one gets plenty of daylight, especially in the mornings and afternoons. Try to use filters (or special light bulbs) that eliminate the blue light emitted from artificial sources (and screens in your home, for that matter).
It’s also good to establish a routine that your baby will associate with sleep. For instance, you can change them into pajamas and sing a lullaby every evening (or choose any other relaxing activity). Later, this little ritual will help your baby prepare for sleep and hopefully, fall asleep easier (as their brain will establish a connection between the nighttime routine and sleep).
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