5 Hacks to Get Your Baby’s Sleep on Track

By Amy Lage, Sleep Expert at Well Rested Baby
My first daughter was a terrible sleeper.  That is what got me into
this business.  Before she came, we expected that this little being
could simply be toted around with us and would just sleep when she
needed to…easy breezy.  No, not so much.  When we realized our error we
quickly digested every sleep book we could get our hands on.  Still, we
were at a loss with so much conflicting advice and information.  At
around 9 months we hired a sleep consultant and within 2 days our
“terrible sleeper” was suddenly an incredible sleeper.  It turns out
that all along she (like all babies) had this ability, we just had not
taught her.  So what’s the secret?
Introducing the Well Rested Baby Cheat Sheet, 5 Simple Rules to get your baby’s sleep on track:
Rule #1 – Your Baby Needs to Sleep in His Crib.  Period.
Unfortunately, as I learned babies are not fashion accessories that
we should just expect to fit into our social calendar.  The sooner you
can come to terms with this the better.  Life would be much easier if we
could tote our kids anywhere, at anytime and expect that they will get
the sleep they need, but unfortunately that’s not the case.  Babies and
toddlers will achieve their very best sleep in their bassinet, crib, or
bed, and it should be your goal for them to do the majority of their
sleeping in this consistent location.  Yes, very little babies have the
amazing ability to sleep through anything, but once they reach about 2
months old they start to become social beings and have a much harder
time blocking out what’s going on around them.  Sleeping at home in
their own darkened room will make sure there are no distractions.  Also,
babies and toddlers have better quality, more restorative sleep when
they are sleeping in a stationary location like their own bed.
Vibrations or motion during sleep (think strollers and car seats) force
the brain into a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of
the nap.  It’s similar in comparison to the sleep that you get on an
airplane: ok, but not really restful.  A nap on-the-go here and there is
fine, but most naps should be taken in your child’s bed.  This does
make you a bit of a slave to your house but ask anyone who has kids –
that first year flies by.  Before you know it you will be out and about
and personally, I would rather stay in and have a well-rested child than
be out with a cranky, overtired baby.
Rule #2 – Your Baby Needs to Nap at the Correct Times
Naptime should follow your baby’s biological clock.  We all have
internal clocks called circadian rhythms that make us feel drowsy at
certain times.  It is easiest at these times to fall asleep and get our
most restorative sleep.  These times change as your child grows older.
If you can base your child’s nap schedule so that they sleep in sync
with these rhythms they will be able to achieve their best sleep.  While
it is sometimes daunting to follow a schedule, it will provide you the
confidence to know exactly when your child will need to sleep and that
he is getting the sleep that he needs.
Rule #3 – Insist on An Early Bedtime
Bedtime should be early enough to ensure that your child goes to bed
before they become overtired.  A child who is overtired has a harder
time falling asleep and staying asleep.  This is because when we get
overtired we release the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and
noradrenaline.  This is a primitive fight or flight response, which is
intended to keep us going.  While this was probably helpful to cavemen,
it is not when it kicks in for your baby and he gets a “second wind”.
When this response occurs on a regular basis these hormones actually
build up in your baby’s system and then cause him to wake-up in the
middle of the night or early in the morning.  Although it sounds
counterintuitive, an early bedtime WILL NOT cause your child to wake
earlier in the morning.  In fact, early bedtimes help children to sleep
later as they are better able to self soothe and consolidate sleep
without the presence of these hormones.  In short, an early bedtime
allows babies to achieve longer stretches of better quality sleep.  As
an added bonus, it provides more time for you to unwind and have “you”
time in the evening.  What parent doesn’t need that?
Rule #4 – A Consistent Routine:
This one is so simple to achieve, yet so important!  Babies and
toddlers crave routine in their daily schedules as it helps them know
what to expect.  They follow patterns and your cues, so if you create a
consistent soothing routine before sleep times then they will know to
expect sleep to come next.   Your soothing routine does not need to be
anything complicated – maybe a book and a nice soothing song – but it
needs to be consistent and should always end with your child going into
bed sleepy, but awake.
Rule #5 – Teach Your Child to Fall Asleep
If your child relies on you to be with them until they are fast
asleep, how will they know how to put themselves back to sleep when a
sleep cycle ends during nap time or when they wake at night?
Self-soothing is a skill that every child must learn to be an
independent sleeper.  Once your child is on the correct schedule and is
falling asleep before he becomes overtired, self-soothing will come much
more easily.  There are lots of methods for teaching your child to
self-soothe.  Some methods involve more tears but work very quickly and
some have little or no tears but take a bit longer.  They all accomplish
the same end goal – teaching your child to fall asleep on their own.
This is one of the best skills you can teach a child as it enables them
to become well rested, independent and better able to handle the
opportunities and challenges each day presents.
Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and
a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant.  She is
founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com).
She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and
Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s
needs and schedule.  Amy, her husband Jeff, their 5 year old Stella,
their 2 year old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in
Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.  Please email her at
amy@wellrestedbaby.com with any questions.  Be sure to follow WRB on
Facebook too more great sleep tips!