Struggling to get your baby to sleep? Here are the best baby sleep tips perfect for new Mamas!
Table of Contents
Why do babies need sleep?
How long should babies sleep?
How to create a safe sleep environment?
What happens if babies don’t get enough sleep?
What baby sleep tips work?
Skip ahead to any section you find the most interesting!
Being a Mama is tough. There is the seemingly endless mess, the meals that must be cooked for the family, the growing list of tasks you have at work, and more. But it’s complicated for new Mamas who have yet to get used to the constant demands of motherhood.
And so, in this article, we’re focusing on one aspect of motherhood that can genuinely help you, your baby, and your sanity—baby sleep tips that work.
As adults, sleep comes to us effortlessly (well, most of the time). So we need a cool room and a cosy bed, and we’re bound to conk out quickly. But with babies, it isn’t the case.
Why Do Babies Need Sleep?
A scientific study published in 2017 revealed that infant sleep plays a vital role in an infant’s cognitive and physical development. When your baby is sleeping, they’re not just recharging energy but also allowing their brains to absorb what they’ve learned and discovered in the day. Indeed, brain development happens when they’re asleep.
In an article published on Parents.com, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center highlighted that growth hormone is “primarily secreted during deep sleep.” Hence, the reason why we sometimes notice our babies seemingly growing overnight!
Moreover, sleep also has an impact on their immune system. Jenni June, a certified sleep consultant who pioneered the practice of pediatric sleep hygiene, highlights that optimum, quality sleep “helps clear waste, toxins, and stress that build up on the brain each day.” She explains further that with poor sleep, “the essential bacterial in their [babies] gut and colon have trouble digesting the fibre and other vitamins and nutrients from their food.”
Whether or not an infant gets enough sleep is also a factor in childhood obesity. A study of 915 children found out that infants who got less than 12 hours of sleep per day had twice the chances of being obese at three years old compared with those who slept for 12 hours or more.
How Long Should Babies Sleep?
The amount of sleep a baby needs varies depending on their age. Newborns, for instance, sleep the most at about 14 to 19 hours over 24 hours. But of course, a newborn’s sleep is typically short, waking every 1 to 2 hours to breastfeed or every 3 to 4 hours to bottle feed.
While most newborns will wake on their own, some newborns do sleep so well. Stanford Children’s Health says a newborn sleeping through the night should be woken up. But this wouldn’t be necessary once the baby shows weight gain.
Reading that newborns wake every 1 to 2 hours can be scary (when do you get to sleep, then?), but don’t worry Mama, some babies start sleeping for as long as 6 to 8 hours at night when they are around 3 months old.
By six months, babies should sleep about 15 hours in the day and 9 to 11 hours at night. When your baby hits one year old, they would need 12 – 14 hours of sleep in 24 hours, including one or two daytime naps.
How To Create A Safe Sleep Environment?
Did you know that in the US, an estimated 3500 infants die each year because of sleep-related causes? A safe sleep environment is vital for quality sleep and protecting your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following to ensure safe sleep:
- Babies sleep on their backs
- Use a firm sleep surface
- Do not place loose, soft objects to minimize Sudden Infant Death Syndrome risk.
- Share a room but do not share a bed; place babies in a separate crib, bassinet or play yard.
What Happens If Babies Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
With such playing such a vital role in babies’ development, not getting enough sleep could spell a slew of daytime disasters for Mamas. Irritability, crankiness, and increased stress are just some of the effects of lack of sleep. Thankfully, some tell-tale signs can help you catch when your baby is not getting enough sleep:
- Loss of interest in people or toys
- Pulling ears or rubbing eyes
- Fluttering eyelids
- Looking away from stimulating things
- Becoming more clingy
What Baby Sleep Tips Work?
Now that we’ve covered the importance of sleep and how much sleep your baby should get, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: baby sleep tips that work. We’ve scoured every corner of the Internet and asked fellow Mamas (and our respective Mamas) about their tried-and-tested baby sleep tips that worked for them.
1. Ensure a comfy sleeping space.
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2. Use a white-noise machine.
White noise machines can help ensure your baby gets a good night’s sleep. Its purpose is to mask sounds that would otherwise wake a sleeping baby, such as traffic and household noises. Moreover, a study also found out that it helps babies fall asleep faster.
If you are keen to try this out, make sure you have a machine that is no louder than 50 decibels. Any more audible, and you risk damaging your baby’s hearing. The AAP also recommends that you place it 7 feet away from the crib and stop playing with it once your baby falls asleep, if possible.
3. Swaddle your baby
Firstly, what is swaddling? It’s the practice of wrapping a baby up in a breathable blanket. This mimics the feeling they used to have inside your womb, where they felt snug and secure. As such, it helps them feel calm. Swaddling also helps minimize the startle reflex, which often leads to premature walking.
Did you know that a study revealed that babies swaddled in sleep get 1 to 3 hours more sleep than when they are not swaddled? If you are keen to try swaddling, remember the following tips:
- Use a thin, breathable blanket
- Don’t wrap your baby’s neck or head
- Always put them on their backs to sleep
- Don’t swaddle too tightly that they are unable to move their hips or knees
- Once your baby is learning to roll over, stop swaddling
4. Keep your room cool
Notice how your baby seems to like kicking off their blankets? It’s because 68°F-72°F is the best and safest temperature for babies. They mustn’t overheat because, at their age, they’re still unable to regulate their core body temperatures. And so, in addition to keeping the baby’s nursery (or your room if you are sharing a room) cool, avoid overdressing them.
Certified sleep consultant Jenni June emphasizes this in her blog. “Yes, babies sleeping in warmer rooms will eventually crash,” but they won’t experience the “deeper, more restorative stages of sleep” that comes with good quality sleep.
5. Give baby a warm bath before bedtime
As adults, we know firsthand how a warm bath can do wonders and help us relax after a long day. But how does this work exactly? You see, a warm bath helps our bodies cool down and, in turn, helps us feel drowsy and fall asleep.
It may seem counterintuitive how a warm bath cools down the body, but there’s a scientific explanation. As the skin temperature increases during a warm bath, the blood vessels dilate and adjust blood circulation from the core of our bodies to our hands and feet. And what’s the best time to give a baby a bedtime bath? One to two hours before bedtime.
In addition to the perfect timing and water temperature, consider using a bedtime baby wash. They’re usually enriched with ingredients that promote relaxation and good sleep.
6. Put the gadgets away
Mobile phones and tablets are indeed a modern marvel. These days, we use it to keep our little ones busy when desperate, but they pose a significant risk to babies. But, gadgets also hinder babies from getting good, quality sleep.
The TV, laptop, or tablet should be turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This is because they emit blue light, which can overstimulate the brain and make it more difficult for infants to fall asleep. Once you turn off all the devices, wind your baby down with soothing lullabies.
7. Avoid eye contact
It may be difficult not to look at your baby’s adorable face, but when trying to get it to sleep, try very hard not to make eye contact. This is because eye contact is particularly stimulating for babies. The same goes for when your baby is sleeping, and they suddenly wake. And when this happens, use a gentle voice to encourage your baby to go back to sleep while avoiding eye contact.
8. Limit daytime naps
A consistent daytime nap schedule for older babies can help them sleep better at night. Typically, babies have two distinct napping styles. Some babies nap for long stretches, while others nap for shorter hours, like 30 minutes at a time. Think of them as a marathon napper and a sprint napper, Mama.
Naps are essential for babies’ growth and development, but you also have to ensure their daytime naps aren’t too late in the afternoon, as it may interfere with their nighttime sleep. When this happens, it may be time to adjust nap time. How often should your baby be awake in between naps? Let this be your guide, Mama:
9. Dim the lights
Not all adults like sleeping in the dark, but did you know that babies find the dark comforting? Plus, it minimizes stimulation and helps your baby ease to sleep. Even better, the dark promotes the release of melatonin which, according to sleep experts, is a hormone crucial for a baby to sleep well.
10. Minimize diaper changes or be stealthy about it
Should you not change your baby’s diaper in the middle of the night while they are sleeping? Some Mamas have overcome this little challenge by letting the baby sleep and changing in the morning instead (unless it’s completely soaked).
But of course, not without some measures to ensure their baby doesn’t get a rash. So how are they doing it? First, applying a generous amount of diaper rash cream protects the baby’s bottom in case of nighttime wetting.
However, when your baby soils their diaper, you must change the diaper. To avoid waking up your baby, experts recommend using a wipe warmer or warm water to clean the bottom. It also helps to use onesies that lets you snap open the bottom part so you don’t have to jostle your baby too much during a diaper change.
Indeed, sleep is more important than we think for our babies. Not only is it a way for them to recharge, but a way to maintain their health and well-being. So, while sleep isn’t always easy for babies, with the right combination of patience, persistence, and our baby sleep tips, we hope you find it easier to put your little one to bed.
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Mama's Choice Team
A team of passionate writers, young mamas, and creative superheroes who help mamas face motherhood one educational article at a time!