When your baby sleeps better, you will notice a more patient, more tolerant, more engaging baby after a good nights rest or quality nap. Be encouraged. It’s never too late to foster excellent sleep habits in a baby, and ultimately help yourself get some much needed rest as well.
Newborns have a hard time distinguishing between night and day, which explains their maddeningly short bursts of sleep around the clock. But once your baby is a few weeks old, you can start to teach him the difference – and establish healthy sleep habits while you’re at it. These expert tips can help:
Use light strategically
“Lights push your child’s biological ‘go’ button,” says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution. On the flip side, darkness triggers the brain to release melatonin, a key sleep hormone. Keep your baby’s days bright and his nights dark and he’ll quickly figure out when it’s time to sleep.
During the day, allow plenty of sunlight into the house or take him outside. Put your baby down for daytime naps in a well-lit room (unless he has trouble falling asleep at nap time).
To induce nighttime sleepiness, consider installing dimmers on the lights in your baby’s room, but also in other rooms where you both spend lots of time. Lower the lights in the evening (up to two hours before bedtime) to set the mood.
It’s fine to use a night-light in his room, but choose a small, dim one that stays cool to the touch. (Don’t plug it in near bedding or drapes.)
If your child wakes up during the night, don’t turn on the lights or carry him into a brightly lit room. The shift from dark to light tells his brain it’s go time. Instead, soothe him back to sleep in his dark bedroom.
If early morning sunlight prompts your child to wake too early, or if he has trouble napping in the afternoon, consider installing room-darkening shades.