Want to get more sleep for your baby and yourself in the year ahead? Don’t think too hard; the correct answer is YES, PLEASE! You can do it—and all of us here at Nod are excited to help.
To start you off on the right foot, here’s a quick review of some of the basics for successful baby sleep. This is the stuff that applies no matter what phase of sleep training you’re in, and it will help set the stage for a well-rested year ahead. Goodbye eye-bags and intravenous coffee, hello bright eyes and decaf.
1. Choose a good time to start.
First things first: Don’t attempt sleep train your baby if they’re less than 3 months old. They’re just not ready (read this to learn why). Assuming they’re over three months, a good rule of thumb is to make sure you’ve got at least two weeks ahead of you without any travel or other planned disruptions to your schedule before you work on a new sleep training goal. Whether it’s cutting down nighttime feedings, weaning your baby off their pacifier or swaddle, or moving them into their own room, a good stretch of “normal” time will make it easier for both your baby and you.
2. Set the mood for sleep.
Like adults, babies need some wind-down time to make the transition from being wide awake to falling asleep. So, as you’re getting your baby ready for bed, keep the mood mellow and relaxing. Dim the lights, draw the curtains (good blackout curtains are priceless), use a quiet voice, and don’t overstimulate your little guy or gal with active play. In other words: This isn’t the time for a tickle-fest.
3. Be consistent.
One of the most important ingredients for successful sleep training is helping your baby learn to associate certain actions, behaviors and patterns with sleep. That’s why it’s so important to follow roughly the same bedtime routine, starting at about the same time, every night.
4. Be persistent, too.
Remember, sleep training is a marathon, not a sprint. Tortoise, not hare. So, whether you’re using the step-by-step coaching in Nod (which we think you should, of course, but we’re slightly biased) or some other method, don’t give up or start improvising if you don’t see immediate results. The key is to do the same thing again and again, until your baby learns the new sleep skill or habit you’re working on.
5. Write it down.
Was it last night or the night before that she woke up at five, instead of four? Did you nurse him twice or three times last night? Memory tends to get a little blurry when there’s a baby in the picture. But being able to see the patterns and track your progress is invaluable for sleep training. So be sure to keep a record of your baby’s sleep, wake-ups, and feedings—either the low-tech, pen and paper way, or the high-tech way, with an app like Nod. And do it in the moment when possible, so you don’t forget!
6. Go easy on yourself.
OK, so you folded and went in to your baby as soon as she cried, instead of waiting a couple of minutes, like you told yourself you would. Or you nursed him to sleep even though you knew you weren’t supposed to, because you’d had a particularly long day at work, and it was just so much easier than getting get him to go down on his own. Relax: it’s not the end of the world, and you haven’t doomed your baby and a yourself to a lifetime of sleepless nights. Shake it off, kick your guilt to the curb, and plan on doing it differently next time. You got this!
7. Celebrate every victory.
We’ll say it again: getting your baby to a full night’s sleep can be a long haul. There will be setbacks along the way, and probably a sleep regression now and then. Pesky things like teething, colds, and daylight savings happen. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the times you and your baby do make progress, even if it’s something as “minor” as stretching uninterrupted sleep out from four hours to five a few nights in a row. And, obviously, celebrate the big milestones, too. Personally, we like to do this with chocolate. But that’s just us.
You’re an amazing parent—you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t—and a better night’s sleep for your baby and you is absolutely within reach. Let’s do this, 2019!!