I’m sure most of you are ready for winter to be over now, and what better way to start the fresh, rejuvenating season of spring than with a full night’s sleep! There are many special milestones parents like to record and cherish in baby’s first year but few can bring us as much relief and joie de vivre as her first full sleep.
Imagine going to bed at night and waking up actually feeling rested. There could even be light shining in through the window. Your first reaction might be to worry and think ‘Shouldn’t I have been woken up several times by now?’, but the dream is real. You’ll get there, and this post will provide some insight on baby’s sleep development and advice on how to attain that blissful “full sleep”.
Babies typically start sleeping for 8+ hour stretches when they are older than 6 months. There are a few physical and cognitive milestones that your baby needs to achieve first before she can sleep through the night:
- Decreased number of feedings during the night.
- Decreased startle reflex so that certain triggers don’t cause her limbs to jerk her awake.
- Increased food consumption and weight gain.
- Increased ability to self-soothe so that if she starts to wake she’s able to return to slumber on her own.
Kim Davis, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and owner of Babes and Beyond, provides the following advice to help your baby (and you!) get that much needed sleep.
One of the most important things you want to keep in mind is to start building a healthy sleep foundation early for your little one. You will want to make your baby’s room as conducive to sleep as possible. This may mean putting up blackout blinds/curtains and using a sound machine to drown out any unexpected household noises.
Once you have her room set up you can then concentrate on having an age appropriate nap schedule and bedtime. Usually around 4 months of age, when sleeping patterns become more like adult sleep, is a good time to start setting up a routine for your baby. Establishing proper nap times and bedtime will help prevent her from being overtired. When your baby is overtired it is harder for her to fall asleep independently and to stay asleep. Remember, daytime sleep is important for night time sleep. Having wonderful naps during the day will result in wonderful night time sleep.
Having a relaxing bedtime routine will set the stage and cue her body that it is time to sleep. During the bedtime routine try to identify the sleep associations or "sleep crutches" early on so that you can help shape her independent sleeping skills. Providing your baby with the opportunity to develop independent sleeping skills is crucial as this will enable her to transition into the next sleep cycle all on her own. Keep in mind that not all "fussing" from your little one is a bad thing as it will take time to develop her unique way of self-soothing (an important milestone mentioned above). So give her a few minutes to practice before rushing in.
When the time is right for your family to choose a sleep coaching method, remember that consistency is key! There are many GENTLE ways of helping your baby develop independent sleep skills and Sleep Consultants can assist in tailoring the right plan for your family. Before starting with any plan, consult with your pediatrician to make sure your baby is healthy and developmentally ready to begin this incredible journey towards a full night’s sleep!
To contact Kim with any questions or to book a free initial consultation, visit www.babesandbeyond.com.