How to Create Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Little One by McKenzie Graham, A Certified Gentle Sleep Coach
Here are a few helpful tips that can be used with a baby 8 weeks & older AND for older children to help create more healthy sleep habits and success at night.
Nap nap nap! Naps can be challenging for many families, especially in the early months, as naps are typically short in length and inconsistent in timing. Watch for wakeful windows. Babies 6 months and younger will have short wakeful windows around 1.5 to 2 hours. Watch for sleepy cues and get those naps any way anyhow. Don’t worry, “bad” habits can be changed as early as 5 months. As babies become more alert, a dark quiet room with a white noise machine (do not place right next to the crib) can be very helpful for supporting naps. As babies mature (around 4 to 6 months), their naps will begin to consolidate and lengthen. At around 6 months I begin to work with families helping them nap train their littles because oftentimes babies need some extra support learning sleep skills.
Around 6 months or so you may be seeing two naps a day with a short third nap (just make sure they are up before 4:30/5). You can visit my website under the FAQ page to see what the average sleep needs are for your child based on age.
Bedtime RoutineMany parents really struggle with this, but it is a crucial component to bedtime and nighttime success.
Make the routine short, around 10 to 15 minutes for babies under 6 months. Pick a few simple things to include. Massage, a song, cuddles, (not bath time – that should come earlier) and of course this will always include a feeding. Make it the same routine every night in the same order. Make the time leading up to bedtime routine dimly lit and as quiet as possible. Have your dark room ready with the white noise machine on and make the room as un-stimulating as possible. Nothing overhead crib for example. Make sure you have black out curtains so early light doesn’t disturb your child’s sleep. For babies older than 6 months, bedtime routine can lengthen a little bit, but not much.
What time is bedtime?When I say bedtime it means the actual time your child is in their safe sleeping space, lights out and on their way to sleep. Please talk to your pediatrician about what a safe sleeping space includes. This is very important.
This can be hard for many families who come home late from work but it is crucial. It is counterintuitive, but a child who is better rested at bedtime and has an early bedtime is more likely to fall asleep with ease and sleep better throughout the night even experiencing less early rising. Generally speaking for a baby 8 weeks to 6 months, a great bedtime is between 6pm and 7pm. Each baby is different so watch your baby’s sleepy cues. Eye rubbing, crankiness, disinterest in interaction, etc. And watch the clock to see how long of a wakeful window they have had since waking from the last nap. For children 6 months and older bedtime can stay around 7pm. Some babies can handle 7:30.
Learn more about McKenzie’s work, and support offered to parents.
Plus view all of her upcoming workshops in the Bay Area for babes anywhere from 6 months – 2 years . Full schedule.