Having a baby is not an easy task! Yes, it’s beautiful to see them grow and get to know them more every day, but it can certainly become a challenging experience, especially since during the early years, you and your baby will be in constant change and adaptation. One of the biggest changes and adjustments is sleep and all that it entails.
Sleep habits are crucial for both the healthy development of your baby and your continued health. Without a full rest both you and your baby’s performance, health, and mood will be affected, so it is very important to try to always meet this basic need! There are many techniques that you can follow to help your baby sleep, some are more effective than others, but they all depend on your baby’s personality and preferences. There is no exact recipe to ensure a quick and effective way to get a baby to sleep, that’s why it’s important for you to get to know your baby and learn what works for him. There are ways to set parameters to identify and anticipate effective techniques. Here are some methods you might want to try out to get started on forming healthy sleeping habits!
Anticipate your baby’s sleep
The objective of this technique is to stay one step ahead of your baby’s demands for sleep. If you identify diverse manifestations, you can address and change your baby’s habits and avoid reaching the demand for sleep through crying and emotional instability.
Here’s how it works:
- Observe your baby’s behavior before wanting sleep. Identify signs of tiredness, these range from rubbing his eyes, yawning, getting a little restless, among others. Every baby is different, so it is important to avoid generalizations. To properly detect and record these signs it is advisable to take notes of the time, manifestation, and duration. A week of observing and recording behavior should be enough!
- Be aware of what YOU do to get him to sleep. This is important so that you can know which approach worked best in the past. This can vary from pats on the back, singing a lullaby, and rocking your baby to sleep. You can also take note of how long each approach takes to get your baby to settle and sleep.
- Once you have detected your baby’s signs of fatigue and the most effective strategies in step two, tend to your baby’s needs when you notice that he is getting tired. It is important to try to do this right away, so that you prevent his accentuated demand of sleep. Start by speaking softly and slowly, and then implement the strategy that was more effective for him.
- You will be creating associations and conditioning to effectively guide your baby to sleep.
- It is ideal to avoid sleep-needing crises, which are more time-consuming and difficult to overcome.
- With this method you will be learning more about your baby, his behaviors, and will have greater control of situations.
- It will set the foundation for having a steady sleep schedule!
- The first week can be a bit tedious and difficult, given that you need to let your baby demand sleep to observe his previous behaviors.
- It takes time and patience.
- You need to divide your attention between action and awareness of the measures taken. For a week, it is necessary to fulfill multiple tasks, observation and action.
For any baby, being in the presence of his mother is a crucial component for feeling safe. When he is near you, your baby feels comfortable, allowing him to fall sleep quickly and stay asleep longer. However, once you decide to leave your little one in his crib, it is useful to leave something associated with you behind, as an extension of you.
Here’s how it works:
- During one or two weeks get your baby to go to sleep while using a particular object. Something warm and soft to the touch; blankets or soft plush objects are great for this! Place this object close to you and your baby, so that both of you are touching it.
- Once your baby falls asleep, be sure to place the object in his crib, so that he continues to have contact with it until he wakes up.
- If your baby wakes up during the night, first try to softly stroke him with the soft object, and comfort him with a soft voice.
Gradually your baby will learn to associate the object with comfort and care. This will help you maintain his sense of security even when sleeping alone in his crib. Keep in mind that, as a recommendation to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), before your baby turns one year old there should be nothing in the crib while he or she sleeps, thus, this technique should not be used before this time.
- Studies have shown that the security and care of a mother can be transferred when associated with a comforting object.
- With this technique you will gradually be working on encouraging your baby’s independence and personal resources.
- Using the object that has been associated with sleep, you can adjust your baby’s bedtime. Your baby will continue associating the presence of the object with sleep.
- For it to be more effective the object must acquire your scent, this can take one to two weeks. It is important to the keep the object clean and hygienic.
- You may need to restart the association of the object once it has been washed.
Establishing any habit takes time, effort, perseverance, and patience. This process can be hard at first, since it involves time and dedication, however you will find that its results will be pleasant for everyone in your family!
Want to read more? Take a look at these books:
- Granic, I., & Lewis, M. (2010). Bedtiming: The Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep at Just the Right Age. New York, USA.: Workman Publishing.
- Pantley, E. (2002). The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night: Foreword by William Sears, M.D. McGraw Hill Professional.
- Sears, W., Sears, R., Sears, J., & Sears, M. (2008). The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Rest for the Whole Family. New York, USA.: Little Brown.