One of the toughest parts of having a baby is figuring out how to get that sweet little baby to sleep. Sure it starts off simple, the baby sleeps most of the day and just drifts off no matter where you are. It seems like your little one is the best sleeper around! Seriously, you are so lucky! And then…your baby gets a little older and bam that peaceful sleeping baby you were just getting into a nice routine with goes and changes everything.
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Sometimes, it starts at around 6-8 weeks when your baby will be more awake and alert. For other babies, it can be smooth sailing all the way until the 3-4 month mark when the 4-month sleep regression makes its way into your life. Wherever you are on that spectrum, hang in there! Your baby will sleep again and you can help your baby get accustomed to a nice predictable and consistent sleep schedule(well at least until the next big developmental leap comes ; P ).
Where to start…
Find out how much sleep your baby needs – The best place to start is to get a good idea of how much sleep your baby needs by age. I love this little chart because it shows how many naps per day and duration. This is another chart detailing hours of sleep need per day, broken down into naps and nighttime sleep. Once you have established how much sleep your baby should be getting it will be easier to break that down into a schedule and routine that fits with your life.
Create a sleep routine – The next step will be to create a routine that you will use every time you put your baby to bed. This does not have to be anything fancy or complicated by any means, just a predictable way to tell your baby that it is time for sleep. It can be a simple nursing/bottle, book, song, back rub, sleep blanket combination. What we do is read a book, put on a sleep blanket, mommy milk or bottle of milk, and a song with a back rub. Your routine can be whatever works best for your family, just keep it consistent! The same things in the same order every time and your little one will soon associate those things with going to sleep.
Create a schedule – Creating a schedule is much simpler than it sounds. It is no different than the way that you have a schedule for your day. Think you shower when you wake up, do your hair and makeup, get dressed, pack up for work…etc. For your little one, it will follow the lines of wake, eat, play, sleep. It does not mean you live and die by the schedule it will just be a general structure to the day so that your baby will learn what to expect during the day. Having a routine in place for babies and kids is very important for their growth and development. It is one of the first ways they are offered stability, comfort, and the security of knowing that their needs will be met. Something that all humans need to thrive. If your baby understands that he/she will be fed, loved, and able to sleep then they can focus on growth, development, and learning. If a child is in a home where these things are not predictable and stable then it can cause delays in growth and development.
Use the right sleep tools – There are a few must-have sleep tools that have worked wonders and I always like to share things that actually work. For tiny babies, a swaddle is a must have! For all babies, a sleep blanket and white noise machine are the most powerful sleep cues I can recommend. It will be something consistent that your baby will associate with sleep. They both help to soothe and comfort your baby and the white noise machine will drown out all the background noise in your home.
Click here to grab your sample schedules by age to get an idea of where to start.
Always remember that everyone has different lives and babies are not one size fits all. These are just guidelines to help you see what a routine and schedule can look like. Create something that will work well with your life and with your child.
If you are having trouble getting your baby to sleep check out this post about what to do if your baby has to be rocked, bounced, nursed, or held to sleep.
Things to keep in mind…
Factors that can alter sleep habits – Babies are going through a lot of change in the first years. There are many things that can throw off your sleep schedule or have your baby cranky and not sleeping well. Here are some of the main things that can throw off your regular sleep schedule…
Sickness – It happens to us all! If your baby gets a cold it can be really tough to get them to sleep. Check out what to do when your baby is sick for some helpful ideas to try and get you both some comfort and sleep.
Teething – The pain associated with teething can be very uncomfortable for babies and it can easily throw off your sleep schedule. Keep in mind that it is temporary and will get back to normal once the tooth is through the skin. In the meantime try to offer teething toys, cold washcloths, baby popsicles, and keep your baby as comfortable as possible.
Developmental changes – One thing many new parents are not aware of is the big leaps in development that your baby will go through. If you have never heard of Wonder Weeks, take the time to download the app. It breaks down my age the developmental phases that all babies naturally go through and the signs you may see in your baby while they are going through them. It offers ways to help you to understand what your baby is learning and ways that you can help your baby learn and develop. During these leaps, you will often see a change in sleep habits as well. Again, don’t worry it is just a phase and it will pass and life and sleep will get back to normal.
Change sleep schedules by age – Your baby is constantly growing and changing. As your baby gets older he/she will take fewer naps and need less sleep. Be sure to come back and take a peek at the timeline table for sleep to know how many naps your baby needs. Every couple months or so your baby will drop a nap until at around 18-24 months you will be down to just one. Be sure to change your schedule as your baby grows and needs less sleep.
The #1 rule to remember…
The key to success in anything with babies and parenting is CONSISTENCY. If there is one thing I can share with new parents it is that if you want to see success in any aspects of your parenting it means you have to be consistent. Babies and children are so incredibly perceptive and smart! They pick up and store all kinds of little things that would pass adults right by unnoticed. So, if you want to teach your child something be very consistent in the way you do it and they will pick it up in no time!
Offering your child consistency is comforting for them as well. Knowing what to expect makes such a difference in how they can receive the information you are trying to teach or share with them.
Hopefully, this has left you with a great idea of how to set a consistent sleep schedule for your baby! I LOVE to hear from the mom’s out there! Have a question, want to tell us how great your new sleep schedule is going, any other tips and tricks you think we need to know about? Please share! Even if you never leave comments I would love if you left one here! This is becoming an amazing community of mom’s helping each other out and we always want more friends!