Whether you are ready to sleep train your baby or not, there are three key factors in making sure your baby is getting healthy sleep. I call them the 3 C’s. I wanted to call them the 3 Z’s but there are very few words that start with a Z!
The 3 C’s are: Clock, Crib, and Consistency.
Although we are used to running our lives by strict and set schedules, babies don’t work that way. We CAN train them to work that way but that usually requires some crying - and I don’t like to hear babies cry - so I prefer to follow their natural schedules and watch as a more predictable schedule appears over time.
Babies of every age have a specific amount of minutes they can be awake between sleeps for optimal alertness. For example, newborns should be awake between 45-60 minutes, 90 at the very most. When they get closer to 6 months they can take longer periods of 120-150 minutes before needing a nap. If babies exceed these periods of awaketime they become what we call ‘overtired.’ An overtired baby doesn’t function well, doesn’t learn or retain memory as well, and worst of all – does not sleep well. So, we have to really hone in and find out how long they can be awake for by watching them carefully. When baby’s limb and eye movements start to slow down and redness appears under their eyes, this is an indication that they’re tired and it’s time to sleep. If we wait for them to yawn and rub their eyes, then that’s a sign that they’re already starting to be overtired. I have a sleep chart on my blog that you can check out for a guideline to how long a baby should be awake for according to their age. The more in-tune you are with your baby’s natural sleep cycles, the better they’ll sleep at night.
This one stands more for ‘environment,’ but that doesn’t start with a C! Whether you have chosen the AAP (Association of American Pediatrics) recommendation of putting your baby in a crib with a flat sheet and nothing else or you are co-sleeping - or a mix of both - the important thing is to have a sleep-conducive environment. A perfect sleep environment requires darkness, a soothing white noise, a cool temperature (69-72 F), and it has to be a space that baby can associate with sleep. Newborns can of course sleep anywhere for the first few weeks, but as they grow older, they need a specific space that’s only for sleep. This helps them have positive associations they can use when having a hard time settling.
This is THE most important part of baby sleep. We HAVE to be consistent in what we do so that baby can have clear expectations of what needs to happen when it is naptime or bedtime. The more positive sleep associations we give a baby, the easier it is for them to go to sleep without sleep associations like having to nurse or be rocked to sleep.
All of the adults in the home should create a plan that everyone can abide by and stick to. For example, if the plan is that baby is to sleep in the crib and is expected to stay there all night, all the adults present should agree to that and never break that rule. Even if baby is crying and won’t calm down, if the expectation is that baby sleeps in a crib, then baby shouldn’t be brought into bed in the middle of the night. Doing something like that is not just disruptive to baby’s environment; it is also unsafe for baby to co-sleep without planning ahead. If baby is supposed to safely co-sleep with mom and nurse all night, then again, baby should do as is agreed. Any sudden changes in a plan can really confuse baby and make night wake-ups harder than they need to be.
Another important part of Consistency is having routines. Bedtime routines are a HUGE help in getting baby to fall asleep independently. A bedtime routine should be anywhere between 15-20 minutes and include a change of diaper and outfit, one or two quiet activities, and some time cuddling and talking about how much you love baby. Anything more than that could hyper stimulate a baby instead of calming them down for the night. Start tonight with a bedtime routine if you’ve never had one, and use it every single night for best results!
Following these three C’s will help you have a good foundation for healthy sleep. These three areas will help you get through sleep regressions, illnesses, teething, traveling, and any other sleep disruptions you may encounter! If you have questions, feel free to send me a message at email@example.com so we can talk about it!