Getting Better Sleep Starts with the Sleep Environment
When it comes to baby and toddler sleep, there is little we as parents can control. Yes, you heard me right. Other sleep consultants may sell you on the idea that if you do ‘xyz’ then you’ll have a baby who is guaranteed to sleep a set amount of hours. I’m here to tell you this is not true.
Now hear me out. I’m not saying you’ll never have a baby who will sleep 11-12 hours consecutively and takes multiple glorious, long naps. What I am saying is that when it comes to baby sleep, you are only in control of a few things.
The sleep environment
When to offer them the opportunity for sleep
How you respond to their sleep needs
Providing adequate nutrition aka full and frequent feeds during the day
Let’s chat the sleep environment. Is your baby’s room cave like? I mean so dark you can barely see your hand in front of you? That is optimal for baby getting better and longer stretches of sleep. Because we sleep lighter in the early hours of the morning due to less melatonin production, light can trigger baby that it is time to wake up. Also during naps as baby transitions from one sleep cycle to the next, light can interfere with the transition since the sleep pressure has worn off. My favorite products are Blackout EZ - a blackout vinyl that velcros around the window frame making it easy to put on/take off, the Slumberpod for traveling, Blackout roller shades installed outside of the window frame, cling on blackout vinyl on the window panes or ole faithful black trash bags for temporary blackout needs. I also recommend adding blackout curtains on top using a wrap around or French style curtain rod.
The perfect temp is a thing. Make sure you dress baby according to the temperature of the room and follow the tog rating of your swaddle or sleep sack. Formal recommendations from the AAP state 68-72 degrees is the optimal temperature, however this can be unrealistic especially during southern summers.
Do yourself a favor and get a sound machine that runs continuously at 60-65 decibels. I hear parents say they don’t want their baby to become reliant on the sound machine in order to sleep. Having a sound machine like the Hatch will help drown out the background noise of your household and provides a calming atmosphere in baby’s room allowing him or her to relax and fall asleep easier. I’m almost 30 and have been sleeping with a sound machine since college and will never go back!
Implement safe sleep practices. No blankets, toys, pillows or bumpers in the crib (Blankets and toys after 12 months, pillow after 24 months, bumpers never). Do not place the baby monitor or any other device with a cord within reach of the crib. Make sure the mattress is on the lowest setting for the developmental stage your child is in. If the baby can roll, lower the mattress a setting, if they can sit, lower again, if they can stand - put the mattress on the lowest setting.
For those sensitive sleepers, you might want to invest in a few more things to have the ultimate sleep environment. I like to put a twin size fitted sheet around the bedroom door. while not great for aesthetics, this really helps keep light from penetrating around the door. Door cushions can also be helpful to eliminate noise opening and closing doors.
Now to touch briefly on the other elements that are in your control. Following wake windows and sleepy cues and getting your baby on a predictable routine will help tremendously with ease of falling and staying asleep. How you respond to baby's sleep needs will also impact his or her ability to sleep independently and return to sleep from wakings independently. If you are always rushing to their side to rock or feed them back to sleep, they will expect that response every time. If it is working for you, then you do not have to change anything. However, if you have a sleep crutch or habit you want to break, I offer 1:1 consultation packages tailored specifically for you and your baby's sleep needs. Lastly, focus on adequate nutrition during the day by offering frequent feeds and ensuring baby is taking a full feed every time. If you have a drowsy eater, try to keep them awake by undressing them, tickling their feet, making noises, and feeding in a bright but calm environment. If baby continues to fall asleep easily during feeds, pops on/off the breast or bottle frequently, clicking sounds while feeding, or leaking milk from the sides of the mouth, please see an IBCLC to rule out oral ties.
Better rest is coming,