The earliest days of our childrens’ lives are magical, wonderful, and joyful. But no parent in these early days will deny that sleep is a challenge. Adapting to newborn nighttime wakings all the way through the first year of establishing routines can be a huge curveball for your family.
The good news is that there are research-backed principles that offer guidance for how to create the perfect sleep environment for a baby. Read on to learn what these are.
At Bloom, we are with you from day one through the teen years. We know that adjusting to parenthood is hard, but it’s also full of the endless wonder of fostering a precious life. We’re here to support your journey: learn more about Bloom membership.
Expectations for Baby Sleep “Norms”
First, it’s important that new parents have accurate expectations about infants through toddler sleep patterns. All babies are different. You will hear stories from friends who alternately had babies who “slept through the night” at three weeks and those who were up every hour for six months or more.
It’s important that you take your baby for who they are and learn their rhythms. Remember, even you sleep differently from other adults. There are very loose “norms” for what constitutes “sleeping through the night,” and babies with different attachment preferences and personalities will need to be soothed through wakings in different ways.
Bottom line: there is not a “good” baby who sleeps through the night versus a “bad” baby who doesn’t. They’re simply different.
That’s easy to say in the cool light of day, but please don’t think we’re insensitive to the immense frustration of endless, sleepless nights.
To that end, here are some ways to shape your environment to help babies sleep.
Environment Tips to Help Baby Sleep
The key ingredients to a good night of sleep for your baby include the following:
A Cool Temperature
Infant body temperatures typically run higher than adults, averaging around 99.5°F. You will want to lower the temperature of the room the baby sleeps in every night to ensure comfort. Warm, sweaty babies may feel restless and wake up more often.
Swaddling From 0-3 Months
Babies fresh out of the womb crave the closeness and even confinement of that small space. It was their whole world for nine months, after all. Swaddling is a proven way to replicate this feeling, and swaddled babies may sleep better.
Exercise and Activity During the Day
Any veteran parent will know that, in an ideal world, daytime activities “wear kids out.” The same is true of little ones. Tummy time, play time, socialization, and being outdoors can all give babies great physical and mental stimulation that will make them tired at night.
Sleeping in a Variety of Directions
As an adult, you probably make your bed with the pillow in the same direction and sleep the same way every night. Babies are still getting the hang of this crib thing, though. It may be useful to put them down in different directions at night. As they grow and can wiggle or scoot, they will use different muscle groups to move around into the positions they prefer.
A Note About Safe Sleep
Of course, anything you do to help your baby sleep better should strictly follow infant safe sleep guidelines. This includes following the latest directions on bumpers (don’t use them), blankets (also a no), stuffed animals (remove from the crib before sleep), and how you place them down. Thankfully, there is better and more widely understood information than ever about how to facilitate safe sleep.
What Can I Do to Feel More Energy When My Baby Doesn’t Sleep?
A word to all of the battle-weary, bedtime warrior parents out there: it does get better. Your baby will not wake up forever. Maintaining a positive attitude can be hard, but you can do it! We believe in you!
We also wanted to give a quick tip: don’t make caffeine your go to pick-me-up. This can have the opposite effect, making it hard for you to fall asleep when you have the chance and putting you in an endless cycle of sleep debt.
Drink extra, unsweetened, decaffeinated fluids to feel more energy through the day.
How Can I Help My Baby Sleep Better?
Circling back to our earlier point: all babies are different. What works for your baby may not work for your friends’ babies, and what works for one of your children may not work for the others. This point may feel even more relevant if your child is “out of the box.”
At Bloom, we encourage parents in our community to focus on learning your child: even babies begin to show preferences, repeat behaviors, establish and follow patterns, and try to communicate what they want. There are so many seasons in this journey of parenting, and these early days are just the beginning of endless opportunities to connect with your precious child.
It can be hard to remember this when you are exhausted and feel you have nothing left to give.
We wholeheartedly wish you the best as your baby learns to sleep.