What You Need To Know About Baby Sleep
Sleep is important. Well, that's the understatement of the day I suppose. You obviously know the amazing need for sleep since you have lived as a sort of half-awake human since the little one showed up.
However, there is an amazing difference in the need for sleep between adults and young children. As far as adults go, getting three or four hours of sleep still allows us to survive and perform tasks (at least with the help of a double shot latte).
Babies, however, need an amazing amount of sleep just to function and grow. Without proper sleep a child won't eat well, will be irritable and can cause serious damage to their long-term health. This is why sleep scheduling is so important in the life of you and your baby.
Sleep is important
Newborns sleep 16 - 17 hours a day! But don't let that fool you. They usually aren't courteous enough to do that consecutively. Most babies only sleep four hours at a time tops.
If you do not utelize this time wisely and figure out how to schedule the right sleeping habits, it can lead to bad sleeping habits, irritability and many double shots of espresso for parents.
The good news is, you can help your child develop better sleeping habits, and help your own sanity by creating a sleep schedule for your child. This article will cover some simple, straightforward ways to do so.
Good sleeping habits are better than coffee (...in a way)
Take Note of Baby Wake Times
I would like to take a moment and bring you into my world before sleeping schedules.
Does this scene seem familiar to you?
You are feeding Junior and in the middle of the meal - it happens. You see the sweet spot. The moment when the baby is yawning, closing their eyes and acting tired. You know what that means. It's happened, the moment of tireness is upon us!
Hurry! It's nap time!
QUICK! You know you only have five minutes to get them rocked and in the crib. Otherwise, you totally miss your perfect window of opportunity for the optimal nap!
This is what I USED to believe and adhere to. It was stressful, panic-stricken and erratic. (I'm sure the espresso didn't help either).
It wasn't until shortly after my youngest was born that I started to find out that the "key" to effective sleep is NOT actually focusing on the tiredness of your child - but on the babies wake time.
Babies may not always show that they are tired, but waiting till your child shows signs of drowsiness can many times be too late and your baby will be overtired and irritated, which makes it hard for them to actually fall asleep.
Track the patterns of awake times and sleep times
Follow the pattern and watch the clock
"What patterns am I looking for?"
Patterns keep us moving and working. Patterns help give us boundaries and balance.
Even our youngest babies follow patterns. It's a part of our biological clock, we all truly are natural pattern followers. It may not seem like it in your current moment of parenting with sporadic wake times and feedings, but I promise you, they do adhere to a pattern.
Specifically, they follow patterns of "wake" and "sleep" times. Let's cover exactly how to find and follow the pattern to most effectively help create your optimal sleeping schedule.
How long was my child's last nap?
How long did the baby sleep?
Many researchers have shown that figuring out the wake time has to do with their time of napping and the age of your young one.
First, pay close attention to how long your child's last nap was. One hour? Thirty minutes?
This week, take a notebook with you and start making note of how long the baby stays asleep for.
Remember, there is no wrong or right answer here, we are just collecting this to help create a schedule more concrete later on.
Adding in the "wake factor"
You will now add the "wake factor" (my term). The amount you add in the wake factor depends on the age of your child.
- If you child is birth - about 2 months, add no more than 60 minutes to the time that they have slept. Newborns need a lot of sleep and it is important to encourage this in your daily routine.
- From 2 months to 4 months add about 60 to 90 minutes. Remember, keeping your young one on a schedule is good for you and good for them.
- From 4 months to 6 months add about an hour and a half. The baby is starting to do more and needs more time to explore and play.
- From 6 months to 8 months your child is growing and is becoming more active, which means more time in between naps. At this stage, you can add 2 and sometimes 2 and a half hours to their nap time to factor optimal "wake time".
Coming up with the formula
Come up with the formula
As stated before, the formula for the sleep schedule of your young one is nap time plus wake factor.
Meaning, if your child slept for one hour and is 3 months old (60 min + 60 min = 120 min), then you know that they should be going back down for a nap 2 hours past the time they last woke up.
If your child is 8 months old and slept for 30 minutes (30 min + 2 hours = 2 hours 30 minutes) they will go down for another name in two and a half hours.
From this formula, you can start determining a more solid sleep schedule as routine.
Set a Sleep Schedule
Setting the sleep schedule
For the next few weeks, follow what seems to become the norm for your child. By this, I mean around what time are the regular nap times and wake times that your child seems to follow.
This will help you determine a sleep schedule that you can help your child adhere to.
Setting in stone a sleep schedule is vitally important, not just for your baby, but for yourself. This gives you scheduled times throughout the day to do things that you need to accomplish, instead of constantly waiting for the tiredness of Junior to kick in.
YOU NEED A BREAK! And you need to schedule it to the best of your ability.
Free Chart Printables by age
Who doesn't love FREE printables?
The following are some simple FREE chart printables to help you find and create the sleep schedule that works for you and your baby
Templates.com is a great resource for many different printables. Although it is not strictly a parenting site, I find many printables for parents on it regularly. This template is simple and to the point in helping to record and figure out the routine you are setting with you and your child.
Dr. Smith's Sleep Tracking Sheet
Dr. Smith has an amazing amount of parenting advice and free resources for parents to engage with. Here Dr. Smith has several free sleep tracking sheets available for free download.
Take advantage of the wisdom shared in these pages by checking out other resources he makes available throughout the site to help parents of younger children.
The Suburban Mom
This is a site my wife loves to frequent. Jen is a mom from Orlando, FL who blogs and creates things specifically for families of younger children. Her advice, resources, and stories that she shares are incredibly helpful for parents of young ones.
Attached are her free printables for tracking a babies sleep schedule, but on her site there are so many more printables and free things that can help you along the journey of parenting.
Mommy Over Work
This is another fun blog I've picked up in my endless website researching. Sylvia terms her site as a "fun and functional lifestyle blog". She offers advice about money, shares fun crafts and recipes, and gives plenty of resources and advice for parents with young children.
These printables are simple but efficient. If you are looking for something that is functional but not overly decorated but straight to the point, this would be a good printable for you to use in tracking your babies sleep schedule.
YOU can do this!
Let me finish this post by saying this: YOU CAN DO THIS!
I know it seems like a lot of work in the beginning, but it will help you in amazing ways in the long run. Children follow habits we help create for them, and ones that are natural to their own rhythm. In this process, you will help to find and create a rhythm with naps and sleeping that will benefit both you and your child not just for the moment, but for months and years to come.