As we gear up toward spring and summer, we know that with warmer weather we also welcome a busier schedule. For our babies and toddlers, it is a wonderful opportunity to get them outside to play at a park, swim at the local pool, go on picnics, go to the zoo, and many more fun activities that help them learn, and grow, and experience life. Here are a few helpful tips to improve babies’ sleep!
With that said, we need to focus on ensuring our babies are getting adequate sleep, so we are not pushing a stroller through the zoo trying to get an overtired baby to sleep or calming a fussy baby in the pool. As we are still in the winter months, now is an opportune time to work on our sleep schedules to create habits for the warmer months.
Our certified sleep experts at Rocky Mountain Sleeping Baby are here to share with you our top tips for troubleshooting what isn’t working to improve sleep for your child.
As we have discussed in previous blogs, the environment your baby will spend most of their time sleeping in needs to be dark, quiet and a cool temperature. These factors help your baby sense that it is time for sleeping, whether it is nap or bedtime.
Blackout blinds or curtains are ideal to create a pitch-black environment as even the slightest bit of sun can provoke your baby to fight sleep, or if they awaken after a sleep cycle and see a sliver of light, they may recognize that sunlight indicates daytime, and daytime indicates playtime. Our babies familiarize day and night routines easily after you implement them.
You can find inexpensive blackout blinds or curtains at several home-good stores or online, and they come in all shapes and sizes to fit your windows perfectly to block even the smallest glimmer of sunlight. You can also use Blackout EZ blinds which are a great option!
During the winter months, we know that the sun rises, and sets far earlier than it does in the summer. Therefore, blackout curtains are vital to your, and your babies sleep, come spring and summer when the sun rises and sets earlier every day. All of us have an alert hormone called cortisol inside of us that triggers our eyes to detect light, and know it is time to awaken. When it is pitch black in the room, even if it is sunny and bright outside, we will not be triggered and we will stay asleep until we naturally wake up or are awakened by an alarm, or in our baby’s case, by us.
Make Some Noise:
With a sound machine, that is! A sound machine is not music, nor does it emit music to soothe your baby into sleep. Rather, a sound machine blocks out external noises that may distract or wake up your baby when they are in a light sleep stage. This sound machine helps eliminates disruption as your baby cycles through sleep. These are sold at many stores that carry baby essentials, or online. Make sure your sound machine is only on white noise without a timer. Avoid sounds like ocean, heart beats etc.
As we have discussed in a previous blog, temperature plays a big role in our sleep environment. Our body will detect the temperature and base how warm or cool we are at what time of day our body may think it is. Keeping it on the cooler side will engage our mind and body into thinking it is nighttime and will help ease us into sleep and help us flow through sleep cycles without disruption. An ideal temperature is 68-72 Fahrenheit. If there are factors that play into your child’s health where they need to be warmer, or colder, for medical reasons, please use the advice provided to you by your pediatrician.
As we just discussed, we have an alert hormone called cortisol that will alert us to wake up when we detect sunlight. This hormone may also be activated if our body is overtired. Cortisol kicks in as a defense mechanism thus creating a very tired, and often fussy, baby who doesn’t want to stay asleep.
Schedules truly do matter so that we are avoiding either a very tired baby/toddler or one who is not really that tired yet. In a previous blog we discussed how to know when your baby is ready for less naps, and a later bedtime, if you feel that you may be ready for that, please refer to that blog for some very helpful tips. As always, any of our certified sleep experts at Rocky Mountain Sleeping Baby are happy to provide a remote appointment with you to discuss your child and determine what their individual needs are to create a schedule specific to them.
Sleep Props and Independent Sleeping:
One of the most common interferences our certified sleep experts see when working with families is the use of sleep props. Examples are a pacifier, a bottle in bed with them, breastfeeding them to sleep, etc. Anything that soothes your baby to sleep, is a sleep prop. Therefore, we stress a simple, silent, dark room is the most ideal atmosphere for the best sleep your baby can receive.
We sleep in cycles that range from light to deep and typically take about 90 minutes to complete each cycle. At the end of a cycle, we may experience a brief awakening though it is so insignificant we do not even realize, nor remember it. If a baby is used to falling asleep with a sleep prop, they are more likely to wake up fully as they are aware they are missing something that had previously lulled them to sleep, and now that piece is missing.
When our baby can fall asleep independent of sleep props, they experience an environment that never changes. They will not awaken fully during cycles, and they go to bed, and awaken in a calming environment that helps them fall and stay asleep to wake up refreshed and having had plentiful sleep.
We recommend weaning any sleep props you may have implemented with your baby, and we have many helpful strategies that our certified sleep consultants can walk through with you to help create and implement removing sleep props. Remember, we are here to help you, never judge you, and are on your side. As parents ourselves, we know firsthand all the emotions, struggles, questions and more, raising a baby can bring about. Think of us as part of your team. It truly takes a village, and we love expanding ours.