Sleep! It is essential to life and, yet, do any of us really get enough? If you’re towards the end of your pregnancy or have a new baby in your home, you know just how precious a commodity sleep can be. As parents two of our top concerns are safety and sleep (for everyone!). Want current safety tips that will help your whole family sleep better? Grab your wearable blankie and let’s learn how to catch some ZZZ!
Catching ZZZs Safely
Perhaps the most important bit of information I can give you regarding sleep for children is this: do not keep a baby up longer so they will sleep better. It doesn’t work. What happens is baby becomes over-tired and it becomes more of a battle to get them to sleep in the first place. Follow the accompanying wakeful periods, along with observing your child’s cues, to help make nap time easier.
Second, good sleep habits begin from day one. Our doulas firmly believe in the importance of laying a solid framework for sleep when a baby is young to help avoid issues with sleeping as they get older. What does this look like? Putting your baby down to sleep while they are still awake (you don’t have to do this all the time – you can still get snuggles in!). Swaddle your baby to stifle their startle reflex so they can sleep better (some babies do better with blankets, others with pods, and others with swaddle wraps. See what works for your baby (and when you find what works, don’t worry about finding alternatives). Once baby starts to show signs of figuring out how to roll over, or when they reach 12 weeks, it’s time to transition them out of a swaddle to keep them safe. At this point they can use a wearable blanket. Pillows and regular blankets are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics until a child is in a toddler bed.
Your baby should always sleep alone on a firm, flat surface. There should be no toys, Wubbanubs (or the like), loose blankets, pillows, bumpers, or stuffed animals in the crib. The current recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics is to room share for at least 6 and ideally 12 months; use your discretion and discuss this with your pediatrician.
Optimal temperature for your baby to catch some zzz’s is between 68 and 72°F.
Propping up the crib mattress is no longer recommended, even for babies with reflux.
ZZZ During “Sleep Regressions”
Some parents dread “sleep regressions,” which can occur when your baby is going through a developmental leap. During these times our best advice is to stick to your routine. A simple routine is best (so whoever is with your baby at sleep time can duplicate it). It signals to your baby that it is time to go to sleep and helps them to anticipate what is coming next. Your baby may be a bit more clingy or fussy than usual and it is okay to deviate a bit from your routine, just not every time they are going to sleep (as that breaks the established routine). Their sleep will get back on track!
I have summarized the points from this post into a visual chart for easy reference. Feel free to save it to your phone and share it with those helping take care of your baby. Consistency in sleep routines is so important! With the help of your child’s grandparents/baby sitter/nanny/etc you and your baby can get amazing nights full of ZZZs.
Download a PDF Copy of Our Safe Sleeping Reminders
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The content of this article is not meant to take the place of consultation with your medical professional. This article is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.