If you follow me on Instagram or are part of the private Facebook group I started for moms, then you probably already know that we used ‘The Happy Sleeper’ book to help our daughter with sleep. And if you don’t follow me on either, we LOVE and recommend that book. It’s been a tremendous help!
After reading, implementing and telling everyone I know about the book, Heather Turgon, the co-author, and I connected over social media – as a super fan I was stoked! And even more stoked to learn that she does sleep consultations. Which by the way, she offered to give any of you readers 20% off! If you’re interested in a consult email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to thehappysleeper.com to learn more under “consults.” If you’re in LA or NYC they come to you; if you’re outside those cities, they do the consults by phone or Skype.
Anywho, I was excited to learn she offers consultations as we had a few sleep challenges that I was looking to resolve so I signed up. She came over, I walked her through our current sleeping schedule, routine, habits, etc. and she gave me all sorts of wonderful advice including how to wean night feeds which we’re still working on – more to come on that.
I asked her to share her sleep advice with you too, naturally! Here are her thoughts and tips:
LITTLE BABIES 0-4 MONTHS:
Support the internal clock
Babies are born without a mature circadian system (that’s the body’s time keeper, which controls all kinds of processes like eating, metabolism, hormones, and sleep). Over the first 5 months or so, that system matures. You can help this along by exposing your baby to indirect sunlight first thing in the morning and keeping her sleeping place completely dark at night. Use a dim nightlight that can be easily turned on for feeding, changing, and soothing in the night.
Start with an early bedtime
Around 2-3 months of age, most babies do well with an early, consistent bedtime and a regular routine. Depending on the family routines, between 7-8pm works well. At this age, many babies will still wake frequently in the night, but have one longer stretch of sleep in the first half of the night. The first half of the night contains more deep sleep and it’s usually the first part of the internal clock to mature (whereas the second half of the night is more wakeful).
Let babies feed without a schedule
If you’re breastfeeding, this is the way to ensure you and your baby get on the right foot and your supply is strong. When babies are weaned at night too early or have strict feeding schedules in these early months, mom is more likely to experience a drop in supply. If bottle feeding, it’s still very normal for babies to eat at night when they’re little.
Create space for self-soothing
As you’re snuggling, rocking, or feeding your baby to help her feel comfortable, imagine that she can do the falling-asleep part on her own. Try putting her down awake after a little routine and see what happens! At some point, she might surprise you and do it herself, which is a wonderful learning experience. If she cries for more than a minute, pick her up and help her soothe.
Little babies can only be awake for about 60-90 minutes before they experience a drive to fall asleep. After this span of awake time, put them down if you’re home or pop them in a carrier or stroller while you’re out.
BABIES 5 MONTHS AND OLDER:
Into bed awake
After the age of about 5 months, babies are very capable of soothing themselves to sleep. They also have more mature internal clocks, so they’re ready and able to sleep through the night (if they still have a feeding in the night, their bodies are inclined to go right back to sleep). The biggest predictor of good sleep is how a baby (or a bigger person, for that matter) falls asleep at the beginning of the night. Babies who go into their cribs awake are much more likely to sleep a full 11-12 hours. This is the number one reason we get calls for sleep consultations! It takes a good, clear plan for many babies and toddlers to learn this pattern, but we have lots of success with it and it sets them up for good sleep for years to come.
Often parents hang on to routines that are for younger babies (feeding, bathing, rocking, etc). Older babies, toddlers and preschoolers need interesting, engaging bedtime routines. Books, songs, talking about the highs and lows of your day, saying goodnight to the house, kisses on both cheeks — bedtime routines are about spending time together in an enjoyable way that is developmentally on par with your child’s abilities.
How much sleep?
Babies can typically sleep for 11-12 hours/night. This continues until they reach school age, when that number goes down just a bit to 10-12 hours.
Cool and dark like a cave
The ideal sleeping environment is completely dark. Babies don’t need nightlights (although you might need one in the hallway if you’re still feeding and need some light to see). Most devices have a light on them, so either take them out or put tape over those lights. A small light source can seem really bright in the middle of the night.
Less is more
We often find that parents have too much stuff in the room and in the crib. A simple sleeping space is more calming, with fewer toys and clutter. For the first year, the crib should be empty except for a breathable lovey once the baby is mobile. For toddlers, the crib should also be simple and easy to move around in. At this age, a small blanket (that your child can pull up on his own) and a small stuffed animal is fine.
You can always find us at thehappysleeper.com and reach out for a sleep consultation if you want personalized help!