Alright mamas, how often have you said something like… “My neighbor is so lucky that her baby sleeps well”?!
Maybe it isn’t your neighbor. Maybe it’s your sister-in-law. Or your boss. Maybe it is even your best friend who is the “lucky” one.
Or MAYBE, just maybe, there wasn’t any luck involved.
Solving Baby Sleep Problems: Is It Too Soon?
Though “sleep training” a newborn isn’t developmentally appropriate, even the itty bittys are at the perfect age to start setting in place some healthy and safe newborn sleep habits.
There is such a great value in setting the stage for a good sleep in these early weeks, rather than trying to fix old habits and “start over” when they are older. It is pretty likely that the mamas in your life that have babies that are great sleepers started setting up healthy sleep habits from a very young age! Sometimes they even do this without knowing they are – how cool is that?!
If you want to be as “lucky” as them, give these quick newborn tips a read!
Be Mindful of the Sleep Props
This proactive pathway of starting off young by teaching sleeping skills often involves preventing common sleep props from becoming habits.
Sleep props such as rocking to sleep, bouncing to sleep, car motion to sleep are all great TOOLS to use and a fantastic way to bond with your babe, but when they become THE ONLY WAY that your little will get to sleep, these methods can quickly become a crutch or necessity.
Please don’t misread this… There is NOTHING WRONG with using these methods to get your little one to sleep, but if you notice that they must have that one (or more) thing to get to sleep every time, be aware that you are likely going to have to break them from this prop at some point. After all, your biceps will be hurting if you are rocking a 30-pound two-year-old to sleep for his nap and bedtime!
Beware of Overtiredness
One of the biggest mistakes that newborn parents make is keeping their little one up too long during the day. Most newborns only have a “wake window” between 45 and 90 minutes. It is a perfect time for feeding, burping, changing, and playing. However, if your little one is kept up beyond that time, the overstimulation and overtiredness kicks in - making it so much harder to fully solve baby sleep problems.
The “lucky” parents among us most likely keep an eye on the wake threshold of their little one in order to prevent this vicious cycle of overtiredness creating even more overtiredness as the biggest and most common reasons why newborns experience baby sleep problems is that they have missed their ideal wake window.
One of the biggest mistakes that newborn parents make is keeping their little one up too long during the day. Most newborns only have a “wake window” between 45 and 90 minutes.
You can recognize that your little one is overtired when she is curling her legs up to the chest and thrashing head side to side (generally speaking being very fussy). Our best tip here is to pay close attention to the baby’s wake windows. From birth to 6 weeks it is typical that little ones are unable to stay awake much beyond a feeding session so their wake windows often overlap with feeds. After your little one reaches his second month, the awake threshold should be around 45 minutes - the best tip is to set a timer to cue when the next nap should start to avoid overtiredness. The wake window increases by about 15 minutes every 2 weeks through the newborn stage.
Solving Baby Sleep Problems With a Bedtime Routine
Another frequently overlooked but very important piece of newborn sleep education and healthy newborn sleep habits that can solve many baby sleep problems is implementing a consistent bedtime routine. This piece of a little one’s schedule is essential but often rushed, inconsistent, or completely neglected by busy parents.
Since newborns don’t need a bath every night, parents are often reluctant to start with a routine. Afternoon, newborns fall asleep when they are tired, right?! NOPE!
Frequently overlooked but very important piece of newborn sleep education and healthy newborn sleep habits that can solve many baby sleep problems is implementing a consistent bedtime routine.
Getting a bedtime routine in place is important for PARENTS to start creating consistency in their little one’s day and night, plus it allows for predictability for the entire family.
Here are the most essential best practices for creating a perfect evening routine that will go a long way in solving baby sleep problems:
- Change your baby’s environment
- Give your baby a relaxing bath
- Massage your little one
- Dress your baby appropriately
- Put your baby down to sleep when they’re still drowsy
- Introduce a dream feed
The Name of the Game… Variety
When picking WHERE and HOW to get your babe to sleep, variety is key! Similar to not wanting anyone sleep prop to become a dependency, we don’t want the swing or the glider or the pillow to become a necessity.
Many of these products are not intended for unaccompanied sleep, so we want to be sure to keep an eye on our littles when they are in them, and we don’t want to ALWAYS have to sit by the swing during naptime. That just doesn’t allow us to shower or nap or sit down and relax!
There is nothing wrong with an occasional nap in the car or the swing, but be sure to switch things up in order to get your little one accustomed to the crib or bassinet, too!
Solving Baby Sleep Problems With a Perfect Crib Layout
While striving for variety and switching things up a bit from time to time could be great for solving your baby sleep problems, a crib is a place where strict and consistent rules should be followed, not only for better sleep but more importantly for the safety of your little one.
Number one tip: keep your baby’s crib bare. Remove any unnecessary toys, blankets, pillows, or pacifiers at night when your little one is sleeping. According to the National Institute of Health: ‘bedding such as thick blankets, quilts, and pillows can block an infant’s airway, leading to unintentional sleep-related suffocation. This type of bedding can also increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the unexplained death of a child within the first year of life’.
Lastly, an important note: make sure the mattress in the crib fits closely to the frame so that your baby does not get trapped during sleep.
Swaddle for the Win
Newborns are noisy sleepers and move a lot during their sleep, too! They are known to squeak, squeal, flail and wiggle during their active sleep stages. This active sleep plus a biologically uncontrolled startle reflex means that newborns actually wake themselves up a lot if left with too much freedom during sleep.
At the same time, while babies suffer from moro and startle reflexes, they can feel uncomfortable in their swaddles or simply outgrow them. An ideal product for solving baby sleep problems would be a combination of a restricted, womb-like, enclosed environment, that still offers some room for comfortable movement at night.
The Zippy Swaddle by Sleeping Baby is designed to prevent this active sleep and wild reflexes from accidentally waking your little one between sleep cycles while allowing for natural leg movements at night. And don’t worry, once your baby starts to show signs of rolling, or outgrow the Zippy Swaddle, there is always an option to move into the Zipadee-Zip as a swaddle transition!
For an ultimate guide on swaddle transitioning (which can be either a big problem or the blessing in solving baby sleep problems) please reference our dedicated blog that answers important questions like:
- When is the perfect time to stop swaddling?
- What are the most important signs to stop swaddling?
- The science behind swaddles and swaddle transitioning.
- What are the best swaddle transitioning steps?
- What are the best swaddle transition products and how to choose them.
Maybe it’s the teacher in me who loves the fresh start of a new school year, but there’s something about a blank slate and brand new life of a snuggly little baby that just brings me so much hope and happiness!
And when newborns have healthy sleep habits… WOW, my baby fever starts all over again! I’m sure I’m not alone here.
Luck be Gone!
So, stop searching for the leprechaun, the four-leaf clover and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and start getting a few of these newborn techniques in place for solving baby sleep problems. Maybe someone in your life will start calling you the “lucky” one when it comes to sleep. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me that it has little to do with luck!
Brittney Stefanic is a whole-family certified sleep consultant and founder of Sleeper Teachers Sleep Consulting. As an enneagram 1 and recovering perfectionist, she was a mama bound and determined to get her son sleeping through the night but quickly found she wasn’t that LUCKY. Having walked the sleep struggles herself, Brittney believes in the power of teaching the skill of sleep in the newborn stage and loves to help families in meeting setting sleep goals. Brittney and her team love educating and support families around the world in finding sleep solutions through their customized sleep plans. You can follow the teachers on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook @sleeperteachers for access to their sleep tips + tricks and opportunities for free sleep Q&A sessions.