5 Ways to Create Healthy Sleep Habits From Birth
From the early risers to the late sleepers and the ones that just don’t want to sleep - infant sleep expert Francesca Kendall shares her top tips for creating healthy sleep habits from birth and beyond.
For many parents, sleep and children are just a combination that doesn’t mix. While some may credit their good snoozer to ‘pot luck’, there are a few things you can do to encourage healthy sleep habits from the moment your baby is born.
From newborn to three weeks, sleep babies in the daylight for their naps, and in darkness for overnight sleeping to activate their circadian rhythm in a positive way.
White noise: White noise turns on the calming reflex for a baby, blocking out sudden unwanted noises around the house and allows babies to feel secure as they connect through sleep cycles. White noise is a positive sleep association so can be used for as long as you want.
Darkroom: From week three onwards, sleep your little one in a space that is darkened to activate their melatonin (sleepy hormone) so that they receive a more restorative sleep. As they grow older have as many of their naps in as darkroom as possible to enhance the quality of their sleep to ensure better sleeping overnight.
Early bedtime: Between 6-7pm depending on the age of your baby. Their melatonin starts to rise at this time and their cortisol starts lowering between 6pm-12am meaning they will receive quality sleep between these hours, which will help the second part of the nights sleep better. I recommend beginning this habit with newborns too as their melatonin level is also the same at this time as an older baby so they are going to be less fussy, but understanding this early bedtime might not be achievable every night in the early days as you are getting to know your baby.
Feed play and sleep (70-80 per cent of the time): For babies 4-6 weeks plus, creating this will reduce the risk of a ‘feed to sleep’ association being created.
Tips for the early risers
Darkroom until 7am: This allows for their melatonin to maintain a higher level to keep them asleep
Check room temperature: between 2 and 7am is when their cortisol (awake hormone) begins to rise for the day, so they could easily be woken from being too cold when the outside temperature is at its coldest as well. An ideal temperature should be 18-22 degrees overnight.
Correct sleeping bag: Check you are sleeping them in the appropriate and correct TOG sleeping bag as per the climate you live. Based on typical Australian weather in winter, I suggest for a night below 16 degrees: a vest/singlet, 1.0 bodysuit and 3.5 tog sleeping bag.
For our late sleepers
Last nap: Check their last nap isn’t too late in the day, or too long at the end of the day. The drive to sleep will significantly reduce with the above factors, meaning bedtimes ends up being pushed out. Check your current routine with my suggested programs that are created based on nap timings and durations that your little one needs as per their neurological age.
Room temperature: Room temperature control is hard to perfect and something that I find worries parents a lot during winter. It often depends on the climate the specific baby is used to, the efficiency on air con units, the clothing the baby is wearing and much more. Typically, parents tend to believe they need to make their babies room ‘cosy’ during winter, but like us as adult sleepers, babies sleep better in slightly cooler temperatures of around 18-22 degrees.
A baby will let you know by crying if they are too cold, however, they are not as good at communicating they are too hot, so from my perspective, I believe it’s beneficial to start out on the cooler side of 18 degrees and adjust accordingly up to 22 degrees to figure out what your baby likes to sleep in.
As per the red nose guidelines, feeling a baby’s chest, tummy, and back to make sure they feel warm, is a good indication of the room temp required. Accredited baby sleepwear companies Ergopouch and The Gro company have great informative guides around what to sleep your baby in according to the climate you live in and they can be easily followed as the seasons change throughout the year.
General tips for healthy sleep habits in kids
Oil panel heaters are a safe way to heat your little one’s room, and for peace of mind (which is what all parents want), purchasing an auto one that turns on when the room temp is 18 degrees or lower and turns off when its above 22 degrees.
Don’t judge the sleepwear required from baby monitors. These tend to be inaccurate by a few degrees (which can make all of the difference) and typically parents place them higher than the baby’s cot/bassinet meaning they read higher temps than what the baby is experiencing a bit lower. Purchase a thermometer instead.
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This article was first published in Kidspot and republished on theAsianparent with permission.