Sounds simple? Let’s look at each step!
1. Time it right
The best time to put your baby to sleep is when you notice the signs of drowsiness – quieting of activity, less movement of the arms and legs, eyelids that droop, sucking that may be weaker / slower, slight staring off, hint of calmness. It is recommended that you put your baby down to sleep when the baby is drowsy but awake to teach them to fall asleep on their own.
Overtired babies have trouble falling asleep because of too much stimulation around him/her. Scientifically, it is said that there are chemical changes that occur to fight the fatigue and this interferes with the ability to easily fall asleep and stay asleep. Since all babies are different, there may be variations on how this might happen. Watch and monitor how long the baby has been up for (babies can only handle 1-2 hours of wakefulness!)
These are the cues your baby will give to let you know that they are tired/over-tired.
- Yawns – The reason humans yawn, is that as the body becomes fatigued, it doesn’t work as efficiently; the normal supply of oxygen brought in by the lungs, heart, and blood system diminishes a bit. Yawning is the body’s way of gulping down extra oxygen. Babies are the same!!!
- When they gain control over their heads- they may bury their face into your chest or may turn their head away from you or the object. They may make involuntary movements, flailing their arms and legs.
- When they gain control of their limbs – rub their eyes, pull their ears, scratch their face
- When they begin to gain mobility – arch their backs and lean backward
- Crawl/walk – Become clingy
2. Create an environment that triggers them it’s sleep time
Develop bedtime and nap time rituals. Try to have bed-times and nap times be done the same way each time. Babies are creatures of habit, just like we are and just as we like our sleeping environment to be a certain way (ie. comfortable pillow and bed please!) babies get used to their sleep environment which gives them the cue that it’s sleep time. Research shows that even very young infants who have been conditioned to expect a particular stimulus are able to predict when it’s coming.
Provide the environment for sleep - There is no one right answer!! Always get to know your baby and your circumstances, and start as you mean to go on. You as a parent are teaching the baby EVERYTHING! Even how to fall asleep. So if you co-sleep, then you will have to think about how long you can co-sleep with your baby given your circumstance, because once you condition your baby to fall asleep by co-sleeping, then your baby will naturally not like the idea of being transitioned to a room or a crib later, because they learned to fall asleep with you. If you want your baby to fall asleep on their own, you have to teach them to. If you rock your baby, cuddle them, or put them on the chest while sleeping, you are teaching them to learn to sleep in those specific ways.
Provide soothing activities such as moving the baby to a less stimulating place, swaddle, play a lullaby, give massages, give a bath, read a book quietly etc.
3. Lay down your baby in a safe place such as crib
Until the age of 12 months, to reduce the risk of SIDS, AAP recommends the following practices for safe sleep
- Keep loose items out of the crib - blankets, stuffed animals, comforters etc
- Place baby on his back to sleep
- Make sure your baby’s head and face stay uncovered during sleep
- Do not overheat your baby
- Offer a pacifier if the baby will take it
- Put your baby on a firm mattress