Start Learning New Parenting Basics: Pregnancy, Newborn Care & Sleep Training

Sleep Training Success: Tips for Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits

February 21, 2024

Cynthia Unuigbe, MD

MD, Certified Pediatric Consultant

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sleep training
You're about to embark on one of the most magical and challenging experiences of life: parenthood! Amid the nursery set up and prenatal visits, it's crucial to consider your sleep quality and your baby's postpartum as well. Sleepless nights are on the horizon, but with the right strategies, you can foster healthy sleep habits for your baby from the outset. This sleep training guide will walk you through creating the perfect sleep environment for your baby, understanding the science of baby sleep, and offering strategies for establishing healthy sleep habits whether you want to get ahead on baby sleep training by establishing healthy sleep habits from inception or feel more prepared for the tiring nights inevitable with a newborn, you’ll find this guide helpful.

Setting Up Your Baby's Sleep Environment

As a new parent, one of the most important things you can do is establish a safe, soothing sleep environment for your baby. A good sleeping environment promotes better sleep quality and duration for your little one.     To start, you'll want to find a crib, bassinet or pack 'n play for your baby to sleep in. Please place in a spot in the nursery away from the windows,  away from loud noise. Be mindful of the room temperature, as it should not be too hot or cold.     A white noise machine or sound conditioner can help block out unpredictable noises. Choosing the right color for your nursery isn't just about aesthetics; it plays a pivotal role in promoting healthy sleep habits for your baby.  

Picking the Perfect Palette for Baby's Best Sleep

Olive green is a serene choice, known for its calming effects and its ability to encourage relaxation. Alongside olive green, soft shades such as baby blue, gentle lavender, and warm, muted tones of peach and beige can also create a tranquil atmosphere conducive to sleep.   These colors are not only soothing to the eye but help establish a restful environment for your baby, making the nursery a perfect haven for slumber. Integrating these colors into your nursery design can significantly enhance your baby's sleep quality, contributing to their overall well-being and development.

Creating a Secure Sleep Haven for Your Little One

Keep only a tight-fitting sheet in the crib. No loose bedding, bumpers, toys, or other objects that could be a suffocation or entanglement hazard.     For naps and overnight sleep, a swaddle or sleep sack can help your baby feel snug and secure. Swaddling a newborn helps prolong your baby’s sleep as it gives them a pseudo womb feeling; it also prevents the Moro or startle reflex, which could wake them up. As your baby gets older and starts rolling over, you'll need to stop swaddling for safety.     A dim night light or soft glow from a corner lamp can make attending to your baby at night more accesible for you without stimulating your baby with bright light. Keep a changing table, diaper pail and your feeding supplies within easy reach.     Establishing this kind of ideal sleep environment from the start will help ensure your baby gets the rest they need to support healthy growth and development. Over the coming weeks and months, you'll get better at identifying your baby's unique sleep cues and the conditions that work best for them. With time and patience, you'll all get into a good sleep groove.  

Understanding the Science of Baby Sleep

Have you wondered why newborns sleep so much? As a new parent, understanding the science behind your baby’s sleep is critical to setting the right expectations and establishing healthy sleep habits from the start.     Newborn babies sleep a lot, up to 16-18  hours a day because their little bodies and brains are developing incredibly. Sleep is essential for growth, learning, and memory. The more your baby sleeps, the more their brain develops.     At around 2 to 3 months, you’ll notice they start to stay awake for longer stretches during the day before a nap, that’s completely  normal.  Contrary to common belief, it's entirely possible and beneficial to establish a bedtime routine for your newborn from the very beginning. By thoughtfully adjusting your baby's wake windows as they develop, you lay the groundwork for solid sleep habits that will serve them well into the future.

Navigating Sleep Regressions

Infants experience sleep regressions at the four-month mark; this is a developmental milestone that can disrupt your baby’s sleep. Stick to your routine, be patient, and continue encouraging self-soothing behaviors. At this stage, if your baby isn’t sleeping well, consider baby sleep training if you have trouble getting on track your schedule.     By adopting these strategies right from the start, you'll find that your baby naturally settles into a tailored sleep schedule early on. From 6 to 12 months, some babies have dropped to two or three naps per day and are sleeping 10-12 hours at night with minimal or no wake-ups. Keep up the excellent work; consistency and patience pay off!     As your baby approaches their first birthday, their sleep needs remain essential for development and growth. Aim for 14-15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, one or two daytime naps. Maintaining a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine, limiting screen time and stimulation before bed will help ensure your baby continues to get the rest they need.     Understanding what’s normal for your baby’s age and developmental stage is key to navigating the ups and downs of sleep in the first year. With time, patience, and consistency, and expert guidance, you'll get there!  

Creating a Consistent Bedtime Routine from Day 1

Establishing a calming bedtime routine is one of the best gifts you can give your baby. A consistent series of quiet activities like a warm bath followed by other activities including reading  a book or lullaby  each night will cue your little one that it’s time to retire for the night.  

Start a routine from the first week

The earlier you start a routine, the easier it will be for your baby to adopt. Aim for starting a basic routine around the same time each night by the end of the first week. A routine doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as:  
  • Nurse or bottle-feed
  • Give a warm bath around the same time each night (5:45-6:30 pm)
  • Massage
  • Take your baby into the dark room/ Nursery
  • Put on they sleepwear and swaddle
  • Read a book or play soft music
  • Put you baby down in their crib

Consistency and Flexibility

While consistency is key, you also need to be flexible based on your baby’s needs. Please pay attention to your baby’s-tired cues, like yawning or eye rubbing, and their wake windows depending on their age  to determine when to schedule a nap or sleep. As they get older, you may need to adjust the number of daytime naps; their bedtime will remain the same. With time and practice, you’ll become pros at establishing a peaceful bedtime routine.   The early days of parenthood can be exhausting, but giving your baby the gift of good sleep hygiene from the start will benefit you both for years to come. With patience and consistency, you'll get the hang of it quickly!

An infant’s schedule is important as this forms the foundation for establishing healthy sleep habits, including behavioral patterns, creating an enabling environment that helps infants develop confidence,  security, and emotional stability.

Troubleshooting Common Sleep Challenges

Once you’ve established a bedtime routine and schedule for your little one, you’re well on your way to success. However, a few hiccups are bound to happen. Don’t worry, here are some tips to get through the most common sleep challenges.  
  1. Growth Spurts Around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, and 6 weeks, baby will go through growth spurts. During these times, their appetite and need for sleep increases. Please do your best to feed them when they seem; this may impact their sleep quality, the phase will pass in a couple of days.
 
  1. Teething As teeth start coming in around 4-7 months, baby may have trouble sleeping. Gently rubbing their gums, a cold teether, and pain reliefers based on their weight and pediatrician recommendation can provide relief.
 
  1. Illness When a baby isn’t feeling well, sleep is often disrupted. Keep them comfortable by clearing nasal passages, giving medication as directed by their pediatrician, and holding/rocking them. Don’t worry about sticking to a schedule during this time. Focus on rest, nutrition, and recovery.
 
  1. Traveling Whether visiting family or on vacation, a schedule change can impact a baby’s sleep. Do your best to keep the same bedtime routine, use a portable sound machine for familiar white noise, and choose a place for baby to sleep that’s as close as possible to their normal sleeping environment.
With patience, consistency, and time, you'll get through these challenges. Remember that every baby is different, so find what works for your family. If problems persist, consider consulting a baby sleep consultant or pediatric sleep consultant. With time and consistency, you'll get the rest you need and your baby will thrive.

Sleep Training FAQ

New parents often have many questions about establishing healthy sleep habits and sleep training a newborn. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Q: What is Sleep Training ?

A: Sleep training typically refers to teaching your baby to self-soothe to sleep independently and stay asleep. At Sleep & Cradle® Solution, we recommend instilling these positive sleep habits from inception, so you do not get to the point where you are exhausted and sleep deprived, requiring sleep training. However, most experts recommend baby sleep training between 4 to 6 months of old.

Q: How do I establish a bedtime routine?

A: A  consistent bedtime routine is key to good sleep hygiene for your baby. Keep the routine simple and calming, around 30-45 minutes before bedtime. A good starter routine includes:
  • Feeding
  • A Bath
  • Massage
  • Swaddle
  • Soft music
  • Put down

Q: How much nighttime sleep is appropriate for a 1-month-old?

A: An appropriate nighttime sleep for a 1- month-old is approximately 8-10 hours. They wake up intermittently for feeds and observe longer stretches at night. If your newborn has less than 8 hours during the day, their nighttime sleep may be longer. Parents must ensure their newborns are napping adequately during the day and have a consistent  bedtime and wake-up time to regulate their circadian rhythm and allow newborns to be well-rested.

Q: How long does it take for sleep training to work?

A: The duration of sleep training can vary depending on the method used and each individual baby's temperament and adaptability. Typically, parents might see results within a few days to two weeks. It's essential to remain consistent and patient throughout the process. Remember, every baby is unique, so some may take a bit longer to adjust to new sleep habits. It's not just about the number of days; it's about the quality of the sleep training practice and the establishing a consistent routine.   The transition may be challenging but sticking  to your regular bedtime routine and schedule will help your baby adjust to sleeping independently. Be patient through the process.

Conclusion

And that's a wrap! Whether you're eagerly awaiting your baby's arrival or are already in the thick of parenting, Sleep & Cradle® Solutions is here to light the way towards peaceful nights. We provide the guidance you need to create a nurturing sleep environment, decipher your baby's sleep patterns, and establish habits that encourage restful nights from the very beginning. Remember, consistency is your ally, and a thoughtful plan is your map to success. Embrace this journey with confidence and in those quiet moments, cherish the restful nights with your little one, secure in the knowledge that you're fostering a lifetime of sweet dreams.      

Cynthia Unuigbe, MD

MD, Certified Pediatric Consultant

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