As our children begin to grow and develop, so does their ability to sleep and stay awake for longer periods of time. While it’s always good to keep in mind that no two children are alike and sleep schedules can vary wildly, there are many steps you can take to ease your child into sleep more quickly and keep them asleep for longer as they grow older.
In this article, we’re going to look at some simple steps you can take to establish a newborn sleep schedule, enhance their bedtime environment to make it more conducive to sleep, and help them develop skills of self-soothing that will allow you to get more rest as a parent.
What Are Sleep Training Methods for Your Baby?
From the Cry It Out Method to the Fading Method to the Check and Console Method, there are plenty of methods for sleep training your baby. Perhaps the reason so many methods exist is because every child is different. While the average child may sleep through the night at six months, some do it earlier and some later. They may sleep through the night right off the bat, then suddenly regress developing sleeping issues you thought were gone.. Not only can this be confusing, particularly for new parents, but it can also leave them feeling even more exhausted.
The best method for sleep training your baby is always the one that works best for them and for you. While we often associate the term “sleep training” with letting your child cry themselves to sleep, sleep training is more about teaching your child that they can fall asleep naturally and on their own.
How Should Babies Sleep?
Although it may seem like babies are up all hours of the night, the average newborn will sleep up to 16 hours a day—usually for two hours at a time until they are 3 to 6 months old. While their sleep schedules may vary by age and personality, parents can do a great deal on their own to improve the quality and quantity of sleep their babies get. First, parents should understand and recognize the telltale signs of sleepiness and the importance of creating an environment conducive to sleep for their children.
Step 1: Create a Sleep Rhythm for Your Baby
Getting your baby into a sleep rhythm or routine is the first step in sleep training your child. While babies may not be able to speak, they can be taught to recognize cues in the environment that help set their internal clocks to sleep. Lowering the lights, reducing the amount of stimulation they’re receiving, and singing or storytelling following the nightly bath are all great ways to establish your start to sleep training.
Step 2: Create an Environment Conducive to Sleep
Does your nursery let in outside light? What about sounds? Do you have soothing environmental elements like a white noise machine to help your child doze off? Paying attention to and curating an environment that encourages your child to sleep will be key when it comes to getting them to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep through the night. Once you’ve got the lighting and mood of your child’s bedroom situated, it’s time to make sure their bedding is nice and cozy. With hypoallergenic laundry detergents from Dreft, you can be sure your child’s bedding is comfortable, warm, soft, and cozy, so they’ll sleep undisturbed for longer.
Step 3: Create a Sleep Habit
Children and parents alike can be attentive to the cues of sleepiness. Things like eye rubbing, yawning, and fussiness are all indicative of oncoming sleep. By recognizing the signs and body language that your child is ready to drift off, you can get them to a place where they can sleep soundly as quickly as possible. Perfecting this process means you can help ease them into sleep more effectively. You’ll also begin the work of helping your child associate those signs of sleepiness with falling asleep in their bed so they’re able to get to sleep more easily in the future.
Step 4: Use Quality Diapers So You and Baby Will Rest Easier
In the first few months of their lives, children will cry for a few reasons, mainly when they’re tired, hungry, or have a soiled diaper. You should always include a clean diaper change in your bedtime routine to ensure they’re happy and comfortable, giving them the best chance of falling and staying asleep. You’ll also want to make sure you’re choosing the right Pampers diaper size for your child, giving them room to breathe and provide enough absorbency to prevent leaks during the night.
Swaddling a Newborn
When your child is a newborn, they may find sleeping easier when swaddled. Swaddling is simply the method of wrapping your baby in a thin, muslin blanket or sleep sac so that their arms are secured to the side. This can help soothe them and reduces the risk that their arms will startle them awake during a nap. You should always swaddle your baby on their back and stop swaddling once your child is able to roll over on their own. Of course, it’s always best to swaddle in a sheer, breathable blanket to keep the baby from overheating. Care should also be taken to wash baby’s swaddling blankets in a gentle detergent like Dreft to keep baby’s sensitive skin irritant-free.
Sleep Training Outlines for Your Child
While no two children are alike and your child may transition back and forth through sleep patterns as they grow and develop, there are some general statistics based on a child’s age that you can reference as you implement sleep training techniques. It should be noted that none of these are hard-and-fast rules—rather, they highlight expectations and some common patterns in childhood sleep that you can use as a reference on your own journey. For more in-depth help diagnosing sleep issues your child is having and customizing a sleep training routine that suits your needs, visit the Pampers Smart Sleep Coach for more information.
0–2 Months Old
While newborns under two months of age sleep upwards of 16 hours a day, there is little rhyme or reason when it comes to when those hours of sleep occur. A newborn will seldom sleep more than two to four hours at a time, waking up to eat and have their diapers changed. While sleep training won’t be happening at this stage, you can certainly do yourself a favor by optimizing your child’s sleeping environment and improving their quality of sleep.
2–4 Months Old
During this period of infancy, children often begin the transition from newborn to toddler, progressing dramatically over short periods of time. You may also experience them sleeping through the night or regressions back to infant-like sleep. The important thing to keep in mind is that every child progresses at their own pace and in their own time. Focus on learning to recognize signs that your child is sleepy and helping them associate those signs with bedtime as you begin to develop a routine.
4–6 Months Old
At 4 to 6 months old, children often begin sleeping in more recognizable patterns with scheduled naps and bedtimes. On the other hand, your child may need more time before sleep patterns develop. If they’re still having trouble, it’s even more important to establish a nightly routine that helps ease them into sleep. Starting with bath time, PJs, and other cues like brushing teeth, establishing an order and routine around these practices will help your child’s internal clock recognize that it’s time for bed.
During this phase, parents can also begin practicing laying baby in the crib while they’re still awake. This allows the child to experience drifting off to sleep on their own. By placing the child in the crib still awake, you will help them understand they can go to sleep on their own, making them less reliant on you to rock them to sleep.
6–12 Months Old
While some children may experience regressions at this stage, children should be getting anywhere from 12 to 16 hours of sleep each 24-hour period and will probably be sleeping through the night at this point.