Everyone needs a little help to prepare for their best night’s sleep, especially babies! Sleep is such an important part of our day. It helps us to feel positive, healthy, driven, and human! Now, how many of you reading this are parents? Do you get 8 hours of sleep every night? No?! I could almost hear you laugh at how comical that question was. Well, what if I told you that I had something that could help prepare your baby for their best night’s sleep, yet! It won’t be an overnight fix, but it helps, I promise!
As parents, sleep is something that many of us all struggle with. The moment your little bundle of joy joins this world their systems are shocked. They are no longer in their warm, dark, secure home inside mommy. Instead, there are temperature changes, bright lights, and they are surrounded by an array of noises. It is no wonder they have trouble staying asleep!
Though babies are biologically programmed to sleep, as are all humans, they still require help from mom and dad. Everything is new to them. They were just inside mom for nine months. They loved it there! So, it is our job as parents to help them through this new journey and prepare them for sleep for now and the future.
Preparing for your BEST night’s sleep
I hope you noticed that I said prepare for sleep. I did not say, “How to get your baby to sleep through the night.” This is important because all children and families are different. When it comes to sleep, I truly believe you need to do what is best for your family because no one else is in your home at 2 am. My husband and I really struggled with this. We were trying to listen to everything else others told us we “should” be doing, rather than doing what made us happiest. However, I do believe that all babies and children need their parents at some point to help with sleep. It is just the level of assistance they require that is dependent upon the child.
I needed the reassurance that it was okay for my daughter to need me sometimes in the middle of the night. It was okay for her to want to be snuggled while she was falling asleep. Not all children or families may need this, but ours did. You can read more about my sleep journey here.
As an educator, I have learned that teaching reading is not a one size fits all model. Sleep is the same way. Some kids may need that comfort of mom or dad to fall asleep and that is OKAY. Some kids may want to be all alone and guess what, that is OKAY too! I believe, it is important to listen to your child. Whether they are 2 days old or 2 years old, I promise you, they can tell you what they need.
I can also promise you that no matter what your situation is, ALL children will benefit from their parents providing support to help set up their sleep environment. This sleep environment lays the foundation for a great night’s sleep and is what my 6 steps are built upon. Children thrive from guidance and routines. If you follow these six steps daily, I promise you will prepare your baby, and you, for their best night’s sleep yet!
What are these 6 steps?!
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1.) Full belly – Now, this first step may seem too simple, but it is important to remember! When babies are little, they have little stomachs too! They can only eat so much at a time. If my daughter doesn’t have a completely full belly before getting ready for bed she almost always will wake up in the middle of the night hungry. However, that makes sense, right? They are just little people and if we go to bed without a satisfying dinner we will wake up hungry too! So, make a yummy dinner, give them some warm milk, and enjoy that family mealtime together.
2.) Quiet time – A rule in our house is that there is no stimulating play, screens, or music (things that can rev up and overstimulate our daughter’s nervous system) after we finish dinner. She knows that she can read her books, color, or anything else calming. Typically, she doesn’t even try to get out her music toys or ask for any screen time because she hasn’t been offered it at that time since she was a teeny tiny baby.
Having this quiet time allows children to calm down their minds and bodies prior to falling asleep for the night. Similarly to adults, when our mind is reeling about all of the things we need to get done tomorrow we are going to have a harder time falling asleep. If we read a book quietly and put our phones down we oftentimes will fall asleep quicker and also have a deeper and more restful night of sleep. The same goes for children!
3.) Bedtime routine – A successful bedtime routine can be different in every house. If you have one that already works for you, great! Then you can skip this step. If not, this is the one we found works great in our house and you are more than welcome to give it a try!
First, we time dinner around the same time every night so that when we finish eating, she knows it will soon be time to go upstairs to get ready for “tubby.” Once upstairs, our daughter picks out her jammies, helps close the curtains, and starts reading her books while we start the water in the bath. When the bath is full and we turn the water off, she knows its time for tubby which she LOVES! We help her undress, she puts her dirty clothes in the hamper on her own every night, her dirty diaper in the diaper pail, and scurries into the bathroom.
In the tub, we play quietly, read bath books and relax together. Around the same time every night, we finish up the bath and wrap her up in her cozy towel. Next, we follow her eczema routine and massage her with lotion. Finally, we put her jammies and sleep sack on, brush her hair, close the curtains, turn on the white noise, and rock her to sleep! (My favorite part of my day!) This routine is so important because like I said earlier, children love routines and to know what is going to happen next. Having a consistent nightly bedtime routine gives your baby that mental trigger of, “Oh, we are taking a bath and reading books? Must be time for bed soon!”
4.) Bedtime comfort item – A bedtime comfort item is for sure going to help prepare your baby for their best night’s sleep. A bedtime comfort item can be many things: a lovey, a blanket, or a sleep sack. Mainly, a bedtime comfort item is something that helps soothe and relax your baby when it is bedtime. It is something they are used to and what they expect to see when they snuggle into their bed.
Of course, please follow safe sleep guidelines with blankets and loveys! I was not comfortable putting blankets or a lovey in my daughter’s crib so my daughter’s bedtime comfort item is her sleep sack! When she was little, little it was her swaddle and now that she is older it is her sleep sack. Our favorites are the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle, Halo Sleepsack Wearable Blanket, and Halo Early Walker Sleepsack (what she is wearing now!)
A few months ago we were really struggling with her naps. We didn’t know why she wasn’t sleeping for her naps like she did for bedtime. So, my husband and I thought about what we did differently between bedtime and naptime. We didn’t use her sleep sack at nap time! I don’t know why we just never had thought of it. Once we replicated bedtime and snuggled her into her sleepsack she was taking longer naps! Win!
5.) Blackout curtains – These next two steps I used to think were so silly. Why do I need those? I didn’t use them as a kid. Don’t make the same mistake I did!! The second we started using these in our bedtime routine, our daughter started sleeping SO much better. I kid you not!
Humans are not nocturnal! We sleep best when it is dark. In comes: blackout curtains! These curtains will not only make the room very dark and block out sunlight during naptime but they are also extremely useful when helping your young babies develop the correct circadian rhythm. There are so many options out there for blackout curtains. There are ones that velcro right to the window and make the room completely pitch black! I wanted something a little more fashionable so I went with these pink ones to match our nursery. They don’t block out every sunray but they do the trick for us!
6.) White noise – This final step makes me giggle. I always think about the early days home with my daughter while my husband and I walked her around to the sound of the hairdryer praying for her to fall asleep! Why didn’t we just get a white noise machine from the start? Who knows! You live and you learn.
Once we bought our white noise machine it became a sleep staple in our house. My husband even enjoys it now! It blocks out all of the excess environmental noise, allowing for a deeper and more restful night’s sleep.
Similar to blackout curtains, there are so many options out there. We decided to go for something small and something we could take with us from place to place when needed. It also has a handle on it which we loved because for many months we had to walk her to sleep, she is one active little girl!
We truly fell in love with the Yogasleep Hushh Portable White Noise Machine. There were many nights my husband and I would look at each other and wonder what on Earth we would do without it!
Well, there you go!
Now you have it! My 6 simple step recipe to help prepare your baby for their best night’s sleep. I hope they work as well for your family as they have for ours. Please remember, as, with any type of change, it takes time. Don’t expect to be able to implement these steps into a new routine and see a change instantly. Make slow and gradual changes to prepare your baby. You know your baby best! Follow your mama gut and you’ll do amazing things!