Preparing Baby for Sleep
Everyone is going to be tired in the evening. Babies are not always able to form their own sleep habits. Start a bedtime routine that will help your baby learn to sleep at night. Feeding and changing their diaper right before going to sleep can extend that window of uninterrupted sleep. Most importantly remember this – You cannot make your baby sleep. Don’t even try to control it. You can encourage sleeping by focusing on your own behavior which comes about by creating your own good sleep hygiene.
Perform activities that associate with the time of day, more laborious activities during the afternoon and restful activities as you wind down for bed. When the sun is setting turn off or dim the lights, turn the volume down and minimize activity. I have found reading a book in the evening helps. You don’t have to read a children’s book – I read books I enjoyed outloud to my daughter during her first few months.
Babies sleep a lot more than adults, and you can keep them from becoming overtired by know when to lay them down to nap. If your baby is rubbing their eyes, yawning, and looking away they may be tired. Your baby may get fussy. If your baby is fussy and you have already fed and changed their diaper it may be time for a nap. And sometimes they just fall asleep because it’s not like you control when and where they sleep.
Rocking your baby and feeding them will help them to sleep. There are some ‘experts’ that say you should not allow the baby to fall asleep in your arms or during feeding as they may become dependent on this behavior and not know how to put themselves to sleep. For the first few months of your baby’s life do not worry about spoiling them. Don’t try to train them to behave a certain way. For the first few months let your baby train you on how to be a father. Other studies have shown that babies who are carried and held throughout the day have less instances of fussiness and the dreaded colic.
I will often sing to my daughter or play some soft music for her. Many of her toys play some variation of lullabies but personally I cannot stand the cheap, gritty sound quality. I have a couple of songs I put in a playlist I will pull from to play for her when it’s time to wind down.
Babies should sleep on their backs. Research has shown that there is an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in babies who sleep in the prone position. Babies who sleep on their stomach can suffocate when their face becomes covered by the bedding and the baby cannot adjust position to free their airway. Also take care not to overclothe your baby or use blankets which can cause the baby to overheat or obstruct their airway if the babies face gets covered.
Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made the “back-to-sleep” recommendation in 1992, the SIDS rate has dropped more than 50%.
A task force of The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the AAP, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development offer the following recommendations for infant bedding:
- Place your baby on his or her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
- Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib. Also remove any soft, pillowlike crib bumpers.
- Consider using a sleeper as an alternative to blankets with no other covering.
- If using a blanket, put your baby with his or her feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, only as far as the baby’s chest.
- Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep.
- Do not place your baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep.
- Offer your baby a pacifier at sleep times, but don’t force the baby to take it. Some studies have shown a lower rate of SIDS among babies who use pacifiers. (Breastfeeding mothers should wait until the baby is 1 month old or is used to breastfeeding before offering a pacifier.)
Room Sharing vs Co-sleeping:
I know some parents who Co-sleep but you should know the risks. Being first time parents it can be scary to be away from your baby for even five minutes. But co-sleeping is dangerous because you could roll over on your infant in your sleep. Sharing a room with your baby is a better option that is optimal for both baby and parents because it makes it easier to respond to your baby during the night. My wife and I room share with our daughter. I set up a lamp with a red light to allow us to feed and change our daughter’s diaper at night without blasting the room with bright light thus disrupting our sleep cycles.
The AAP recommends that parents room share but not bed share and after trying to understand the causes of SIDS they made the following recommendations:
- Parents should consider placing the infant’s crib near their bed for more convenient breastfeeding and parent contact for the first 6 months.
- Infants can be brought into the parents’ bed for feedings and comforting, but should be returned to their own crib for sleep.
- Infants should not bed share with others, including adults and siblings or other children. Twins and other multiples should sleep separately.
- Smoking and the use of substances, such as drugs or alcohol, that may impair parents’ ability to awaken, greatly increase the risk of SIDS and suffocation with bed sharing.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib. Use firm a firm mattress with only a sheet. No blankets! Do not place anything in the crib with the baby. This includes bumpers along the side of the crib. Sometimes the things we do thinking that we are protecting our children are putting them at greater risk for harm.
Swaddle your baby to sleep. It keeps them warm and comforts them by holding their arms and legs secure as though they were still in utero. However, discontinue swaddling once your baby is able to roll over, which increases the risk for SIDS since they cannot use their hands to push themselves up. Avoid swaddling if the weather is hot to prevent overheating.
Keep the room at a comfortable temperature (for the baby not you) think about what temp would be comfortable if you were lightly clothed and at rest. Typically this is between 70-74° Fahrenheit (around 23° Celsius). Check that your baby’s skin is not too hot to the touch or sweaty. If so you may be over bundling your baby. We just want to make sure our kids are safe and warm, but over bundling your baby can do more harm than good.
Always be mindful of your baby if they fall asleep sitting up. Never let your baby sleep unsupervised while sitting up, such as in a car seat or infant swing. Their head could slump forward obstructing their airway.