A baby needs between 16 to 18 hours of sleep, but we all know that doesn’t always happen, especially during their first few weeks in the world. Babies will wake up every other hour, day or night for a cuddle, feed, diaper change, or to simply make sure that they get you through enough hours of hair-pulling and zombie-like days before you can get your beauty sleep.
The reason why a baby’s sleep is erratic and almost unpredictable is because they are born with their days and nights reversed, which would mess anyone up, let alone a baby therefore, it will take them a while to figure out the difference between night and day.
Because most babies don't stay asleep for more than 2 to 4 hours at a time, day or night, it’s important to have a few sleep training strategies under your belt so that your baby gets his or her rest and you stop looking like something a cat dragged in all the time.
While a baby's natural preference after 4-months is to sleep, they usually won’t stay asleep and will immediately start crying. Because you know that the baby is neither hungry nor wet, you stick a pacifier into their mouth in order to calm the baby, satisfy its sucking instinct, and maybe get him or her to self-soothe themselves back to sleep.
Avoid the pacifier
While several studies have reported that using a pacifier may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and it’s an ideal tool to use when the baby is still fussy even after you've fed, burped, cuddled, rocked, you know how it goes. However, sucking on a pacifier can easily become a habit that may become that much harder to break in the future. Once your baby is used to the pacifier and nothing else other than breastfeeding and the binky can soothe him or her, then you have a big problem in your hands.
It’s time to get rid of the pacifier. If your baby has taken to it, avoid using the pacifier to delay feeding time because they will always relate to it as the only object that can comfort them especially during nap times. Try to wean the baby off the pacifier especially when it drops of their mouth when they sleep and when they wake up, soothe the baby by rocking, cuddling, singing, etc.
Let the baby self-soothe
This may be a tough one to hear because all you want as a parent is to instinctively comfort your child. However, using the cry it out (CIO) method, traumatic as it may sound, can decrease a baby’s over-dependency for your comfort at bedtimes. Provided that you know your baby is not sick, is well fed and burped, is not wet, you cuddled and spent adequate time with him, letting him cry it out as you check in on him periodically will train him to self-soothe while still young.
Avoid lengthy soothing times
A baby goes through several growth spurts than you can catch up with, and regardless of the time they wake up from their sleep even if it’s 3 am, they are good and ready for a chat or a play session. When your baby wakes up at all times of the night, especially if they are going through a developmental growth spurt, soother him or her for a few minutes, put the baby back to bed and leave the room.
Granted that your baby will experience some level of separation anxiety in the first few days, however, be firm, remember, babies are resilient, but they can also be tenacious when they need attention. When you start training them early-on in their infancy, your baby grows knowing that night time means bedtime and daytime's are for chatting, playing, cooing, all that and more.
Use a white noise machine
A white noise machine or fan can help you and your baby catch your beauty sleep. Your baby has spent 9-months in a womb that’s almost as loud as a lawnmower; from your voice, your breathing, your heart beating, and blood flowing, which makes life outside your tummy is relatively quiet or similar. White noises from a baby’s perspective are normal and the constant repetitive sounds from a white noise machine or fan won’t necessarily put your baby to sleep but it isolates or drowns out other noises from the surroundings.
When you play a white noise machine, especially at nap or bedtime, the baby learns to associate those sounds with sleep. Using a sound machine has been shown that it’s registered at a higher decibel, which can create a calming and safe environment for your baby to calm down and fall asleep.
Put the baby down when sleepy
You essentially want your baby to learn how to fall asleep on their own and putting him or her down just before they completely fall asleep will not only help them sleep longer, but it will also minimize the confusion of when they wake up and aren’t cradled in your arms.
Start solid foods at 6-months
Due to the pressure of going back to work or maybe due to lack of sufficient breast milk, some parents start feeding their babies solid foods earlier than six months. But did you know that feeding a baby solid food too soon can potentially trigger food allergies and gastrointestinal issues and essentially hinder sleep?
Let your baby guide you
Watch your baby’s sleep cues such as yawning, stretching, rubbing their eyes to help determine your baby’s patterns so that you can carve out sleep, nap and feeding times around that schedule. Finally, slowly reduce multiple feedings at night, your baby will stop angling for it and sleep throughout the night.
Create a soothing environment
A whole-body massage after bath time with soothing baby oils will relax your child. The baby cot should be comfortable - not too hot or cold. Also, limit any unnecessary distractions above or inside the baby crib.