Yesterday I hiked down to sub-basement 2C below the Sandy waterline to present my favorite sleep tips to an engaged group of parents and their babies. Here is a recap of what I shared …
Family Sleep Rescue - In 5 Easy? Steps
Sleep Science (helps to know):
There are two main kinds of sleep cycles, REM and Non REM. Babies and young toddlers have 50% of each in their sleep. Therefore, half of their sleep is choppy, bumpy, and active (REM sleep), and then other half is deep and motionless (Non REM sleep). It is normal to have a baby cry out, grimace, smile, laugh, snort, roll, crawl, and even stand when she is in REM sleep. She is practicing her skills and processing her day. It is healthy and normal all be it disruptive to your sleep.
Sleep is developmental. As a baby matures, his sleep matures. He can get longer sustained stretches of sleep as he gets older. Start with a good bedtime around 8 weeks, and naps can start to finally come together in a consistent way closer to 4/6 months.
Get your timing right! Figure out the best sleep environment, trouble shoot scenarios in advance. Plan your mission. Who is going to respond, when and how. How will you plan your feedings, dream feeds, etc. Is your baby ready, are you ready?
Feeling ready? Move on to step two.
Lock in a good daytime feeding schedule. Be mindful of the best feeding interval for your baby. Try to stretch out to longer intervals (not more than 4 hours though), and look to feed her when she is truly hungry. When a baby is properly hungry, she gets a much better feeding.
You can use naps in between these feedings to help a baby wake in time for her feeding feeling hungry and also awake enough to really eat. You might need to offer a short bumper nap or bridge nap 30 minutes or so before the next feeding so she can eat feeling rested rather than cranky and tired.
Consistent approach to night wakings - sleep training plan for nights.
Decide how you are going to approach bedtime -- going down awake -- and night wake ups -- how to navigate feedings.
Plan how you will check and reassure your baby if that is the style that works for you.
Remember if you do checks, keep them very short and allow a long enough interval between checks for your baby to work on soothing herself.
Dream feeds are very helpful tools to give a baby a consistent message during wake ups. You can supply the calories and keep your supply up if you are breastfeeding without confusing your baby.
You can do this step in conjunction with step three, or you can wait until you know your baby is good at putting herself to sleep at night. Some parents wait for a baby to roll over before they begin to nap train. Do what feels comfortable to you, but I do suggest doing it before 7/8 months as babies tend to get more upset being put down for naps.
How to maintain...
It is totally fine to go to your baby if he is sick or teething. Just revert back to your routines and habits as soon as he is better, keeping in mind that you might have to reset a bit.