New parents quickly realize that they won’t get much rest if their baby isn’t sleeping well. Research suggests that around half of all infants experience night awakenings, which can persist for the first two years of life. As babies grow, these awakenings typically lessen, but there are some helpful tricks to promote better sleep for your little one in the meantime.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Research suggests that even children as young as seven months can benefit from a regular bedtime routine. A study found that following a 30-minute, three-step routine led to significant improvements in sleep for infants and toddlers aged seven to 36 months. The babies not only fell asleep faster but also experienced fewer nighttime awakenings and enjoyed more restful sleep.
In a separate study, a 15-minute bedtime massage with lotion was found to result in fewer nighttime awakenings and longer sleep duration for children from newborns to toddlers. Another research involved a 30-minute massage therapy session for infants aged 10 to 14 days. By 12 weeks, these babies showed increased melatonin secretion during the night, helping them adjust their body clocks at an earlier age.
A Soothing Bath
Multiple studies have connected a bedtime warm bath to better sleep quality. For babies, incorporating a relaxing bath into the bedtime routine can create a calming environment, making it easier for them to fall asleep and enjoy more restful sleep. Bedtime baths can remain a beneficial part of their nightly routine as children grow.
Turn Off the Lights at Night
To help a baby’s sleep patterns, create a dimly lit room at night. This supports circadian rhythms, while bright rooms can inhibit melatonin production. Expose newborns to light during the day and dim lights in the evening. Keep the room dark and quiet during nighttime feedings for a soothing atmosphere.
Following a baby’s hunger cues instead of a strict feeding schedule can enhance sleep patterns. Experts suggest baby-led feeding for bottle-fed and breastfed infants to establish healthy sleep routines. Babies wake up every few hours to feed in the early weeks, supporting circadian rhythm development. Keep feeding sessions brief, calm, and quiet without stimulating the baby.
To help a child feel sleepy, their cortisol levels need to decrease. Lullabies have proven to be effective in calming babies. Pediatricians suggest dimming the lights and playing soft music and tranquil sounds or using a white noise machine or app to soothe the baby’s senses and lower their cortisol levels.
Teach Them to Sleep on Their Own
After the last nighttime feeding, take some time to rock or cuddle the baby. Make it a calm and distraction-free moment for both parent and child. When the baby feels sleepy but hasn’t fallen into a deep sleep yet, place them in their bed. This practice helps them learn to fall asleep independently from an early age, leading to healthier sleep patterns as they grow older.
The CIO Method
The Cry It Out (CIO) method is controversial and aims to teach a child to soothe themselves to sleep. Some studies found no negative effects, while others are inconclusive. Graduated extinction is one variation, but doctors caution against allowing the child to cry indefinitely due to potential stress and unhealthy outcomes.
The Fading Method
The Fading method is a gentler version of the CIO approach, taking more time but reducing the baby’s crying. Parents delay bedtime in increments each night to find the right time for the baby to fall asleep. Similar to graduated extinction, this method effectively reduces sleep latency and the number of night awakenings for the child.
Do Not Expect 12 Hours of Sleep
Each baby’s sleep needs may vary, and researchers suggest a combination of 12 to 16 hours of nighttime sleep and daytime naps per 24 hours for most infants. Forcing a strict 12-hour nighttime schedule can result in sleep issues like split nights, where the baby wakes up in the middle of the night or extremely early in the morning.