May 27, 2021
Written by: Jessica Painter, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant
It’s 3 am, and you’re scrolling Instagram while simultaneously feeding your baby and cursing your husband’s useless nipples. It’s already the second time you’ve gotten up even though you went to bed at 11. You’re tired, no, exhausted – a complete zombie and you’d take your caffeine through an IV if you could but, half finished and ice cold is how you usually get it. It’s the same thing on repeat every night for your eight month old; waking every two hours and needing you to feed him to get back to sleep. Sound familiar?
I got you momma. Your days of exhaustion and laughing at the advice “sleep when baby sleeps” (because your baby never sleeps) are over!
Baby sleep is like a puzzle, it’s SO complicated! Even if only one piece is missing, the whole thing doesn’t work. Luckily, there’s a hack! You could get your baby sleeping through the night by following these 3 easy steps!
Step 1: Make sure their environment is ideal.
You want your baby’s sleep space to be as ideal as possible to promote deep, restful, and uninterrupted sleep.
▪︎Make sure their room is dark, and by dark I mean PITCH black. No light whatsoever! I recommend using blackout blinds or even garbage bags or tinfoil if you don’t have any. Be prepared if you do use garbage bags, it’s quite the design statement 😅.
▪︎Ensure their room is quiet; that there’s no sharp or startling sounds. I recommend using a white noise machine placed between the sound that you want to block and the baby. Have it set to white or pink noise and at approximately 50 decibels (the level of a conversation or shower running) as measured at the sleep space. Don’t use settings such as rainforest or lullabies as the ups and downs of the music can actually wake up the baby instead of drowning out other sounds as desired.
▪︎Remove anything stimulating from the sleep space to prevent babies from being distracted rather than relaxed; think mobiles over the crib, toys in or around the crib (including crib “soothers” or aquariums), nightlights, for younger babies or toddlers who aren’t afraid of the dark…etc.
Step 2 : Build a solid routine.
Routines are key for babies, and humans in general. We’re creatures of habit and having a consistent routine will help your babe fall asleep easier. A bedtime routine acts as a signal to the baby’s brain that it’s time for sleep, allowing them to feel comforted, secure, and relaxed. If your routine is implemented consistently it is a source of structure, which helps littles feel like they know what’s coming next and can even help them cope with teething, regressions, anxieties and other disruptions.
Step 3: Set a sleep “schedule” and follow it!
Setting a sleep “schedule” doesn’t mean setting timers and trying to plan every minute of your day but it does mean that you need to try to get them down to nap before they become overtired. Overtired babies can be very difficult to get to sleep and it is more difficult for them to stay asleep so you always want to try to avoid letting your babe get overtired.
Depending on the age of your child, you’ll do this by putting them down about 15 minutes before the end of their wake window (the amount of time they can stay awake without getting overtired). You will decide when they nap either based on wake times (for younger babies) or based on the clock (for older babies and toddlers). Once you figure out their schedule, stick with it until it stops working, then you’ll need to shift it!
Here’s a very general guideline of wake windows:
0-3 months: 0.5 – 1hr
4-6 months: 1 – 2hrs
7-9 months: 2 – 3hrs
10-18 months: 3 – 5hrs
1.5-3 years: 5 – 6hrs (if napping)
If you’ve gone through all three of these steps and you’re still struggling, there is technically a step number 4. Your babe has likely developed a habit where they rely on a negative sleep association to be able to fall asleep. A negative sleep association is one that they can’t fulfill; they need you to do something in order for them to fall asleep whether it be bouncing, rocking, nursing or anything else that requires someone else doing it for them. When babes have a negative sleep association and it’s no longer working for you, that’s when sleep training is recommended. I create plans that are completely customized to the baby’s age and temperament, the family’s comfort level, values and goals and their life situation in order to make sure that each plan fits each family. They’re so customized in order to make sure that it’ll actually work!
So for a solid night’s sleep, make sure you’ve got the 3 steps checked off! If you’re still feeling sleep deprived, know that you’ve got somewhere to turn. Send me an email (Jessica@sleepybunnypediatricsleep.ca) and I’d be happy to set you up with your own personalized sleep plan to get your baby (or toddler) on track when it comes to sleep!
Wishing you restful sleep for the whole family,
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant
Sleepy Bunny Pediatric Sleep Consulting