I believe that parents have a lot of control over whether their baby or child is getting the sleep they need. Yes, your little one will have some say in their sleep routine, but for the most part, it’s up to you.
You set the schedule. You stick to the schedule. You do what it takes to protect your baby’s sleep.
Or, you don’t.
Take a little looksie at this list of what I consider to be the top six mistakes parents make when it comes to their baby or child’s sleep.
Expecting baby to sleep on the go
In the early weeks, a newborn can be toted around at her mother’s convenience. That luxury wears off after only a few weeks and your little bundle needs to be allowed to sleep in her bed. This is because there is no possible way, after the first few weeks, that your baby will get the type of consolidated, quality sleep she needs unless you allow her to sleep in her bed. Her sleep will be fragmented and will not give her the restorative rest she needs both physically and mentally.
Imagine if you were rarely given the chance to sleep in your own bed. You can take a guess at how incredibly uncomfortable, exhausting, and frustrating this would become for you. Why do you think it would be any different for your baby? Honestly, it isn’t.
Also, you could be creating a challenge for baby to fall asleep in her bed without motion she may become used to. If your baby is constantly on the go, she may likely get used to falling asleep while she is in motion. You can always break this association, but it is something you can also avoid.
Not setting a schedule
In many ways, not setting a schedule is like handing your toddler the keys to your car and telling them to go drive. You are giving a tiny little person an unimaginable task. In the same way, when you expect your baby to regulate himself with regards to sleep, you are giving him a near impossible task. He is the baby and you are the adult. He is dependent on you for absolutely everything. He is also dependent on you for sleep. Not because you can force him to close his beautiful blues, but because he needs you to protect the time he should be sleeping by giving him the opportunity to sleep in his own bed in a quiet and dark room. If you offer him this on a regular basis and at the right times, he will be able to sleep well.
For this reason, understanding when your little bundle naturally wants to be sleeping based on his innate sleep cycle is imperative. It is consistent for most babies and is something you can truly count on. You can check out the schedules I’ve posted for infants through pre schoolers.
Not allowing baby to have an early bed time
Your baby needs a lot of sleep. In fact, you can add up the hours they are currently getting throughout the day and night and then check out this post to see if your child is getting all the sleep they need.
After finding out just how many hours of sleep your little ones needs, one way to ensure they get all those zzz’s is to send them to bed early. Between 6pm and 7pm is a great bedtime for babies and toddlers. For all three of my kiddos, 6pm has been their bedtime until they have turned two. And they sleep for twelve glorious hours. In fact, my first little one slept for fourteen hours. Every. Single. Night. That was amazing. And all of my kids take all their needed day time naps based on their age. You see, having an early bedtime does not mean your baby won’t nap during the day and them napping during the day doesn’t mean they won’t sleep twelve or more wonderful hours at night. According to sleep expert Dr. Marc Weissbluth, sleep begets sleep. The more sleep your baby gets, the more she will want. She needs all the sleep that you read about in my sleep schedule and a huge problem I see over and over again is that parents do not want to send their babies to bed so early.
In my experience, there are a couple reasons parents fight the early bed time. First, they don’t want to have to be home from 5pm onwards to allow for a bedtime routine and an early bedtime. I get it. That’s a big commitment to be at home every evening. But the sleep and happiness that will result for both you and baby will be worth it. Second, one or both parents may have a work schedule that causes them to get home later than the 6-7pm early bedtime. If this is the case for one parent, I suggest that parent wake up early and enjoy the morning with their baby. Or, if they can get home to be the parent doing the bedtime routine and putting baby to bed, this can be just as special as playing together. The fact is, you’ll have a much happier and well adjusted little one to play with and watch grow if you choose to give him an early bedtime.
Not having a bedtime routine
A bedtime routine is well worth the time and effort. This is your signal to baby that bedtime has come, not just another nap time. It is also a time for you to help baby calm down and get ready to snuggle in for a long night of sleep.
Bedtime routines have been the same for us with all of our kids. We take a bath, get on pajamas, read a book, and have a bottle. It is a routine that can take as little or as much time as you want and have.
And simple adjustments can be made as kids grow. Omit the bottle and the routine can last for many years!
Going to baby too quickly
Your baby is learning how to sleep. She hasn’t got it all figured out yet so she will make little peeps and whines….and then she will go back to bed. You just have to give her the time to do it. When you hear a little noise and even a little whimper, you don’t need to run to your baby like she needs rescuing. In fact, a well rested baby will wake up happy and leaving her in her bed to coo and look around is a great practice. It allows you to finish up whatever you need before getting baby and also shows your baby that the crib is a happy, relaxing place to be.
Also, when putting baby down for a nap or nighttime, allow them the time to work things out themselves. As long as baby is older than 8 weeks, they can start to learn to self sooth. Before this age, they don’t have this ability according the Dr. Weissbluth. However, after baby is a couple months old, they can learn to sooth themselves as long as you don’t take the opportunity away from them. Let your baby learn how to fall asleep. The key here is to make sure baby has a full tummy, is comfortable, is in a dark and quiet room, and is drowsy but not yet tired. You can determine when the perfect window occurs for laying your baby down by checking out my baby sleep schedule post. Also, you have to let your baby fall back asleep once they have woken up but it is not yet time to get up. Don’t give up on a nap because you hear your little one stirring. Let them stay in their bed and fall back to sleep. If you notice your baby is continually waking up from naps earlier than she should, check out this post to help you get her sleeping for a longer amount of time.
The key here, don’t go to your baby too quickly. Let her learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep. And as crazy at it sounds, you will learn the different cries of your baby. I always thought this was scary when people said this with my first baby. I had no idea what the different cries where for quite some time! But, I figured it out and I learned to tell if my baby was distressed and needed me or if she was just working things out and would eventually get herself to sleep.
Not aligning feeding and sleeping schedules
A baby who goes to sleep with a full tummy is more likely to stay asleep for a longer period of time than one who stirs and then wakes up because he is hungry. So, make sure that you are filling your baby’s tummy before he goes to bed, especially before the long afternoon nap and bed time.
Alright, there you have it! These are the top six mistakes I see mamas making that often leave them frustrated and with a frantic and overtired baby. Making adjustments in these areas will most definitely help everyone in your family become more well rested!