Admittedly, as a sleep consultant, I help most of my clients prepare for, implement, and maintain new sleep routines -- in other words, I help parents teach their children how to go to sleep and back to sleep using detailed plans that are tailored expressly for the individual children. However I find that a huge part of my work happens behind the scenes focusing on all of the elements that play a role in good sleep whether you sleep train or not.
I sorted through my lists of products, reached out to my team members, and considered my recent conversations with clients who are probably in the same shoes as you and have come up with three essential steps to improving sleep without requiring ridiculous hoops to jump through.
Change #1 -- My 3 month old has stopped napping, or if he does it is just for 20 minutes at a time!
Between 10-12 weeks, you can start to skip the micro nap and establish a pattern that combines eating and sleeping but doesn’t always link the two. For many babies, feeding and comfort overlap; this is a good thing! However sometimes it is so comfortable that they sleep/eat rather than just eat. As a result, you get a micro nap (I call it a disco nap), your baby eats, sleeps while eating, and now is not tired enough to sleep easily and well for his real nap happening an hour and change later.
To skip the micro nap, aim to feed your baby 15-20 minutes after he wakes up in the morning or from his most recent nap. Make sure he is awake, hungry, and then engage with touch and voice while he is eating. Touch his cheek, his hair, and chat. If he is closing his eyes and no longer actively swallowing, then he is micro napping. Take out the bottle or shift your position/location and start over. Give it some practice, but it can help.
Change #2 -- My baby is too hot, he’s too cold, I need to check on him
What if there was a swaddle or a sleep sack that guaranteed the best temperature? Well, good news, there is! At sleepy on hudson, we are big, big fans of the sleep products at Little Lotus because they solve the problem of the over active heating/drafty house, and they do it with well designed sleep sacks and swaddles that improve sleep right from the get go. They have the research up on their website to support this, and I can tell you that I am hearing the same from our clients.
Even better, Little Lotus is mission based. They don’t just help us with our too hot/too cold houses making sleep for our baby just right (à la Goldilocks), they also help infants and babies in developing countries using their Embrace incubator. I just love the idea that while your baby is comfortable sleeping at home, there is an infant in the developing world with access to an incubator bettering his chances to thrive.
Change #3 -- Have someone else take over bedtime or one nap time
I know, I know, you are the only one who can put your baby to bed. Why? Because you are good at it; in fact you are the best. However doesn’t your partner deserve the chance to improve just a little bit? Or your friend, or your mother in law? If you step out of the routine (and I mean truly step out, not coach from the door), your loved one can do it. It might be rocky at first, but after a few nights, a few naps, it will work. So finish your feeding if you are breast feeding, and leave. Go to bed, meet up with a friend, take a yoga class -- if you need more ideas, I have plenty ;)
Why does this help? Your baby is ready to learn new ways to self regulate and is even open to it, if you give him the chance. As your baby learns to sleep without your bouncing, boob, or rocking, he can discover his other innate calming abilities. He might start sucking his fingers, his hands -- all essential tools for better soothing and better sleep.