Every baby is different, but there are some ways to up your chances of catching some z's. Here, what sleep experts Conner Herman and Kira Ryan of Dream Team Baby have to say when it comes to maximizing baby's snooze-time.
Clear the clutter
Designate the nursery as a room for sleep, not play. Keep the area around the crib free of toys and other fun knickknacks. "Crib distractions confuse your baby," Herman says. “They'll make him or her wonder, ‘Is this a playpen, or is a place to sleep?’”
Ryan recommends putting baby in his her own room for at least one nap a day to start. "This gets baby acclimated to his or her room, so when it's time to move in there, it's not a total change." A daily solo nap also helps baby and you get used to being apart—these little breaks are healthy and necessary. Even if baby sleeps in your room, Herman recommends putting up a screen or partition for separation. "If baby wakes up during the night and sees you, it's easy for him or her to rely on you to fall back asleep," Ryan says. And you'll all be happy later if baby's able to put himself or herself back to bed.
Baby sleeps best when the temperature is consistent and cool—between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. "Most moms actually keep the nursery too warm," Ryan says. Putting your crib in the right spot is also key. "Pick a location that isn't in the direct pathway of your air-conditioning or heating vents," Herman says. Sudden temperature changes will startle and disturb baby. Also, move the crib away from windows to protect baby from drafts and outside noise.
Dim the lights
Light signals daytime to baby, so blocking out the sun will help keep him or her snoozing. In fact, cut out all the extra light you can. That includes the night-light—babies aren't likely to fear the dark until at least 18 months. "On a scale of one to five, five being pitch black, your baby's room should be a four," Herman says. If baby's a nighttime nurser, attach a dimmer switch to a lamp and turn it on and off slowly for nighttime feedings.
Teach baby to sleep through
Some babies start sleeping through the night on his or her own, and others may need some nudging—“ sleep teaching” as Ryan and Herman call it. This could happen at any age, but never before four months.
For some babies, teaching them to fall back asleep on his or her own may mean letting them cry for a few minutes before going to them in the middle of the night. “Baby might have some negative sleep associations,” Ryan says. “It’s about helping them create new, positive ones.”
Soothe with Sound
What baby hears (or doesn't) is just as important as what he or she does or doesn't see. Pick up a white noise machine to cancel out house noise, cars, and other distracting sounds (just don't turn it so high it could hurt baby's sensitive ears). Baby will begin to associate the constant and consistent sound with sleep. Some noise machines have lullaby, ocean, or other sound options, but simple white noise is fine—it'll bring baby back to being in the womb, and really, what's more soothing than memories of mommy's belly? Look for a portable machine so you’ll be able to recreate the sounds of the nursery while you're away from home.
Make a plan
Agree with your partner about what you’ll do when baby wakes in the middle of the night and who’ll do it. “The number one way to fail is not to have plan,” says Ryan. “Set a date on calendar to start and be consistent. That’ll make it so much easier for baby to learn.”
Experts: Conner Herman and Kira Ryan are coauthors of The Dream Sleeper: A Three-Part Plan for Getting Your Baby to Love Sleep.
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