When you first bring your baby home from the hospital, it can be an exhausting, exciting, terrifying, inspiring, beautiful experience. Here are a few tips for helping your baby to sleep peacefully in those first few days, weeks and months.
1) Get to know your baby
At the start, you will just be getting to know each other. Take time to learn about your baby, not the baby in a book you’re reading, but your baby. Observer her. You will learn to read her cues, learn to know what different sounds mean, what different cries mean.
2) Develop a bedtime routine, and stick to it.
Even early on babies pick up on patterns. Routines allow babies to learn to know what is coming next. A routine can be as simple as feeding them, changing their diaper, putting them into bed, singing a lullaby and leaving the room. Develop your routine based on how you would want bedtime to go. This routine can continue into toddler years and even into childhood with only a few small changes if needed.
3) Put your baby in her crib just before she starts showing she is tired.
Take note of how long the period is between your baby waking up, and your baby showing that she’s tired again. If you notice that often there is around a 45-minute period between her last nap, and the next time she shows that she is tired, try to get your baby ready and into bed by around the 40-minute mark. Overtired babies can find it harder to relax and fall asleep.
4) Let your baby learn to sleep on their own.
Many people believe that they need to help their baby go to sleep, with methods suck as rocking, shushing and patting. Sleep cannot, nor should it be forced. Like learning to use the toilet, and learning to feed one’s self, learning to sleep is a skill that needs to be learned. You can help your baby learn to go to sleep by giving her the time she needs to unwind. Let her lay in her crib and wiggle around or watch the trees out the window.
Eventually they will learn the art of drifting off.
5) Be calm.
Be calm. Be quiet and gentle. If you are anxious and overwhelmed, remind yourself that this will pass and she WILL sleep.
If you need to, take a few minutes for yourself and try to relax. Take some deep breaths.
Remember, the calmer you are, the calmer she can be.
6) Babies cry and that’s ok.
If she is crying in her bed, wait. Wait to see if she if her crying softens. Wait to see if that is the last little bit on energy she needs to get our before she can sleep soundly. Unless your baby sounds seriously distressed, wait to see what happens.
If she is continuing to cry, respond to her. Hold her hand, touch her shoulder, stroke her hair. Let her know you are there for her.
But if all her needs are met, then that is all you need to do.
Just like everyone, babies need a way to release their energy. Let your baby spend some time on the floor on their backs, moving their arms and legs about and exploring their bodies.
8) Create an environment that conduces sleep
Create a space that you would want to sleep in. Make sure the temperature of her room is just right – not too hot, and not too cold. Use curtains to darken the space. Use a dull nightlight for nighttime feeds to avoid disrupting her with brighter lights. Consider playing music or white noise. Many people use aromatherapy to help their newborns relax and sleep.
Ensure that she is safe. No heavy blankets or pillows. Put her to sleep on her back.
9) You don’t need to respond all the time
Give her a chance to work through things on her own. You don’t need to respond to every sound, wiggle or whimper.
Let her wake up and spend some time relaxing in her bed. Let her move around and stretch her arms and legs. Let her try to settle herself. Let her fall back to sleep if she wants.
Don’t feel guilty for waiting. She is learning.
10) Do what works for you.
Make sure that you are comfortable that she is safe and secure so that you can get a good night sleep too.
Have a video monitor in your baby’s room. Have a breathing monitor under your baby’s bed. Keep her crib in your room. Do whatever it is that makes you feel okay.
If you feel confident that she is safe, you are more likely to get a good night sleep and won’t feel the need to be checking on her constantly.