From swaddling to night feeds, here's what you need to know about your sleeping baby.
You've read the books, gathered tips and tricks and your sleeping baby is snoozing like a champ! Now what? These 5 tips will keep your little one sleeping soundly.
- Learn to Swaddle
Though you likely wouldn't be happy in a blanket burrito, your baby is. Swaddles are a wonderful way to help newborns feel safe and comforted, and can also aid greatly with getting your baby to fall and stay asleep. You can choose to purchase a specially made swaddle, making it easier to tuck your baby in, or use a receiving blanket to wrap your baby up.
From a physiological perspective, swaddles help keep the Moro reflex -- also known as the startle reflex, when babies react to bright light or noise by stretching and retracting their arms, often waking themselves up in the process -- to a minimum. Jennifer Schindele, a certified pediatric sleep consultant and owner of Gift of Sleep Consulting, reminds parents to swaddle their baby safely, "keeping in mind that the hips should remain loose within the swaddle while keeping it tighter around the arms." She recommends transitioning your infant away from the swaddle and into a sleep sack or wearable blanket when your baby is around 3 months old.
- Keep the Room Cool
Though it might be tempting to crank up the heat when you put your baby to bed, keep your baby's room temperature between 65 and 72 degrees, recommends Teresa Stewart, the owner of Family Solutions and the director of parenting education for the International Maternity and Parenting Institute. She explains, "Basically, cooler is always better than warmer. Not only does [a cooler room] reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation, it also helps the baby sleep better."
Stewart suggests that parents add a fan to the nursery if they feel the room is too hot. To remind yourself to turn down the heat, remember the rhyme "cool and comfy, and not warm and stuffy," as Schindele says. In addition, be mindful of what your baby is wearing to sleep in. Parents should use "cotton or muslin for swaddling," says Stewart, "since those are light and breathable materials. We don't want a baby to become too warm while swaddled."
- Track Your Baby's Changing Sleep Patterns
Schindele tells parents that "A newborn is not meant to sleep for long periods during the first few months of life ... they need to feed every two to four hours around the clock." As your baby transitions from a newborn to an infant, his sleep needs change, and by the time he is "five to six months of age, [he has] the ability to sleep through the night (11 to 12 hours)," says Schindele. But even when he's snoozing all night, he still needs to nap during the day. Schindele explains, "By three months, most babies are taking approximately four naps per day.
Between the ages of four and six months, we see that nap lengths begin to become longer and more consistent, therefore the number of naps go down to three, and by seven to eight months, the number of naps drops down to two and will stay that way until approximately 14 months, when the baby will transition to one afternoon nap per day."
- Monitor Feeding Schedules
Your baby is sleeping a lot -- but is she missing out on meals because of it? Stewart stresses that feeding is the priority for newborns. If you're not changing at least six wet diapers a day, she encourages parents to check in with their pediatricians about feedings. However, she adds, "In general, if your baby is gaining weight and the pediatrician doesn't say otherwise, you can probably let a sleeping baby sleep." Schindele's daytime rule of thumb is "to not allow a baby to sleep through a feed or for more than three hours at a time ... to encourage babies to take in as much nutrients during the day so that [she] can then have the opportunity and ability to sleep longer stretches at night."
- Wait a Minute
When your baby does wake up at night, your first instinct is probably to run to your baby's side at the first sign of a cry. However, Schindele urges parents to pause before running to the nursery. "Babies can be vocal when transitioning between sleep cycles while napping and during the night. I suggest that [parents] try and wait a minute or two before going in to their little ones to see if they are just being a bit chatty during that transition."
Want more tips to help your sleeping baby? Learn how to get your child to sleep through the night.
Lauren B. Stevens readily admits to rushing to her baby's side, a minimum of 3 times a night, until she enlisted the help of a Sleep Consultant when her son was 9 months old. Lauren's humorous essay about those 9 sleepless months, entitled "The Long Road," is being published in the upcoming Anthology, Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness (Monkey Star Press, 2015).