“It’s best to understand what your own expectations and needs are, so that you can create a bedtime routine that works for your family,” she says. “Every family is different, and every baby is different. Parents shouldn’t try to follow someone else’s advice unless it suits their own needs.”
Pantley says a routine an hour before bedtime is crucial in actually cueing and preparing your baby for sleep. Some of these things may better prepare your baby for sleep:
Warm, calm bath
Playing soft music
Taking a walk
“The hour before bed should be peaceful,” Pantley says. “Your routine should be done in rooms with dim lights. Write down your routine, and make it very specific. Your last step should end in the quiet, dark bedroom with little talking and your usual go-to-sleep technique.”
Jessica S of Sydney, Australia, says her infant son usually responds well to simply being put in his pajamas and nursed to sleep.
“If he seems unsettled or not tired enough I bathe him, which seems to expend that last bit of energy from the day and he sleeps very well at night,” she says.
Ruth W of Mequon, Wisconsin, says she has learned the only time her daughter doesn’t sleep through the night is when she feeds her right before bed.
“For our routine I read her a story then sing a song to her when I carry her to her room,” she says. “By the time I put her down, she falls right to sleep. It’s a defense mechanism regarding my singing.”
Make sure your baby is comfortable
Pantley says before making any attempts at trying new ways to soothe your baby to sleep – such as a bath, reading a story or singing — parents should make sure the child is comfortable, healthy and not hungry.
“A baby who is hungry, cold or has an ear infection, allergies, or any other health problem may wake at night because of pain or discomfort. Rule out these issues before you embark on your plan for better sleep,” she says.
Pantley recommends parents make sure baby’s sleeping environment is comfortable – quiet, dark, and a bed that is warm and soft, but not too soft or yielding as to create a safety hazard. She says to make sure you don’t overdress the baby so that he gets overheated. Instead, dress him according to the temperature of the room to ensure he doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
One way to encourage your baby to sleep well is to get familiar with your baby’s sleepy signals and put him down to sleep as soon as he seems tired, Pantley says.
“A baby cannot put himself to sleep, nor can he understand his own sleepy signs,” she adds. “Yet a baby who is encouraged to stay awake when his body is craving sleep is typically an unhappy baby. Over time, this pattern develops into sleep deprivation, which further complicates your baby’s developing sleep maturity.”
When babies wake frequently
Pantley says when all else fails and routines don’t seem to be working to help your baby sleep soundly and they wake frequently, she recommends parents take a break.
“It’s often a good idea to take a break from dealing with your baby’s sleep issues for a few weeks,” she says. “By this I mean do whatever works to get your baby back to sleep fastest. Get rid of your bedroom clock, or at least turn it around so that you can’t see it. Go to bed as early as possible, and stay in bed as late as you can in the morning. Prioritize your life, and don’t do anything that can wait a few weeks to get done. Take naps when and if you can.”
She says parents should take this time to research babies and sleep.
“Doing this research at the same time that you take a breather will help you get some rest and will allow you a fresh outlook when you start again to begin working on your baby’s sleep plan,” she says.