Did you experience that feeling when your baby was born of “ummmm, now what”? It likely happened when you drove away from the hospital or were alone with your newborn for the first time. This is when parenting becomes real! The first year of your babies life can seem like a guessing game and trial and error until you figure out a flow and how to keep them fed and happy! I always say that the 1st birthday party should really be a celebration in honor of the parents for surviving those first 12 months!
Sleep is a big part of the puzzle in that first year. It is needed for growth and development and is a healthy part of the whole family’s regime. The hard part is that babies can’t use their words to tell us when they are ready for sleep. This makes it tricky because we are constantly looking for signs and guessing what their cries might mean. The good news is that babies DO give us clues (or cues) and there are techniques to help with knowing when your baby is ready for nap/bedtime.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
As mentioned above, babies can’t tell us they are tired so instead they show us! They do this through their sleepy cues. Watch your baby and get to know what theirs are. They can be things such as red eyes, yawning, rubbing eyes, gazing off, irritability, pulling ears, very little interest in surroundings or becoming unable to “play”, etc. Crying is usually the last sign of tired and we want to try and catch their awake window before they become overtired. Overtired and under-tired actually look a lot alike and will equal more crying at bedtime.
PREPARING FOR SLEEP
As our babies grow, so does the amount of awake time they can tolerate between sleep. For example, a newborn on average might only tolerate 45 min of awake time before needing sleep but a 6 month old could handle 2.5-3hrs. Watching awake times and paying attention to your babies sleepy cues will give you signs to know when baby is ready for sleep. Using these two things to gauge when your baby is ready for bed works better than following a strict timeline. During awake times get baby lots of nutrition and activity and sleep will come easier. With babies under 6 months the MAMA method works great for getting a natural routine going. It is explained well here. Using a routine that is similar day to day will also help your baby know when bedtime is coming. Babies love routine and teaching them healthy sleep habits will allow them to give you the cues you need.
TIPS FOR GETTING SLEEP TO COME EASIER
The following tips will help to set a routine and aid in letting your baby know when bedtime is near:
- Start a nightly bedtime routine that is the same every night, it only needs to be 30 minutes long. Can include a bath (or sponge bath), lotion massage, pj’s/sleep sac, song or book.
- Incorporate a similar nap routine. When possible, keep them in the same sleep environment as bedtime and do a shortened version of the bed time routine by removing the bath.
- Aim for 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night.
- Watch for your babies sleepy cues and start the bedtime/nap routine to get them to bed before they get overtired.
- Dim lights and close curtains in the evening and get lots of natural light during awake day hours
If you have questions about how to recognize your baby’s sleepy cues or about your baby’s healthy sleep habits, please reach out to a Mama Coach in your area. We are here to help and incorporate evidence informed support with zero judgement.