Developing Healthy and Sustainable Sleep Habits Early On
by natalie fitzgerald
We all know the importance of implementing healthy habits for ourselves (I like to think my wine habit is healthy but I’m sure my doc would say otherwise…) and the same concept goes for our babies! Helping your baby learn healthy sleep habits from the beginning can actually keep you from having to “sleep train” later on. There are usually less habits to break (if any) when you can help them learn good sleep habits from the start. Babies only know what you teach them, and teaching them healthy sleep habits will be an investment you won’t regret.
How do I start implementing healthy sleep habits with my newborn?
1. Create an ideal sleep environment for your little one. Did you catch my last post on creating a safe and comfortable sleep environment for your baby?
(READ HERE) There, you can find 5 simple tips to help your baby drift off into dreamland a little easier. You can also try and lay your newborn down awake so he has a chance to fall asleep without a prop such as rocking or feeding. The longer they get used to falling asleep with a prop, the harder it can be to take that prop away. I always encourage families to “start as you mean to go on” and if rocking or feeding your baby to sleep is not sustainable for you, try to find a way that IS sustainable and teach it from the beginning.
2. Establish an eat-play-sleep pattern during the day. This rhythm helps your baby start to differentiate day from night, and can help him learn what the rhythm of his day will look like, which can bring security and comfort to your baby. Ensuring your baby is well-fed during the day can also help him get those longer stretches of sleep at night.
3. Watch for sleep cues. Getting your baby down before he is overtired can help him fall asleep more peacefully and with little or no assistance. Try to pick up on that first cue your baby gives that he is tired – usually a first yawn or tossing head side to side is a good indicator to start your nap routine. A wake window for a newborn should be about 30-45min, just enough time to get in a full feeding, burp, and go through a short ritual before naptime.
4. Be flexible! Newborn sleep can be unpredictable and erratic, so try to be flexible and go with the flow. Even if you’re a schedule mama like me, some days just don’t go as planned and it’s important to improvise to help your schedule serve you, and not the other way around. With newborns, I always encourage full feedings every 2-3 hours during the day, and getting your baby to nap in the time between – however that looks for you. Enjoy those newborn snuggles, and bring your baby on date nights - they won’t sleep in the carseat forever, so enjoy those days!
Text by Natalie Fitzgerald, Contributor
Natalie Fitzgerald is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Postpartum Doula. Natalie’s approach to sleep training is tailored to each family she works with, meeting them exactly where they are and developing a customized plan to help them reach their sleep goals, based on their unique baby’s needs and their parenting style. Natalie walks alongside families during the time they need the most support, encouraging parents and helping them find a rhythm that works best with their baby and lifestyle. Before consulting with families, Natalie taught high school English and Campus Ministry. Natalie and her husband Danny live in San Diego with their three children Connor (6yrs), Kate (3.5yrs), and Makenna (10mo).