Getting your baby into a solid nap routine is crucial to his growth and development — and can help your well being also.
Establishing the schedule can be more difficult than most new parents expect. As soon as you develop a nice pattern that works, your baby will hit a milestone — and the plan that’s worked beautifully for the last month or two no longer measures up.
Here are a few tips to help your baby get the shut-eye she needs during the day.
- Start at the right time. Start working on a sleep schedule when your baby is around 3-4 months old. Babies younger than that just need to eat and sleep on demand.
“Parents are sometimes eager to get babies on a schedule before the baby needs it,” says Veronica Linares, MD, FAAP and internist/pediatrician with Adventist Medical Group. “Pay attention to your baby’s cues — not what your mother, sister or friends are saying — to decide when she may be ready for a more regular naptime schedule. If the night shift is getting tough, tag team with your partner or see if a friend or family member can pitch in one night so you can get a break and the rest you need.”
- Keep a log. Write down when your baby is alert, hungry or sleeping. You’ll quickly identify a pattern to set a routine to his natural rhythms.
- Establish a naptime routine. Say a few nursery rhymes, read a book or settle down with another calming activity before every nap to help your baby learn what to expect.
- Check the temperature. Is your baby’s room too warm or too cool? Experts suggest keeping rooms between 65 to 70 degrees.
- Keep the crib safe. Babies should always be put to sleep on their backs. Remove all bumper pads, blankets and plush toys. Be sure to check that no more than two fingers can fit between the end of the mattress and the crib.
Bottom line? Getting baby to sleep is one of the most stressful aspects of parenting.
“We see many new moms that are just exhausted when they come in for their postnatal appointments,” says Dr. Linares. “It really is important to take care of yourself while taking care of your newborn. Try to sit and relax, even if just for five minutes, once your little one finally goes down for a nap. The dishes and laundry can wait, but your health really shouldn’t.”
Remember, as your baby grows, so will his sleep needs. He’ll start sleeping for longer stretches at night, with more predictable naps during the day. If you have concerns about your baby sleep, talk to your pediatrician.