Healthy Sleep Habits for Young Babies

Healthy sleep habits

Creating healthy sleep habits can be challenging if you don’t know what to do.  Babies less than 3 months old need lots of holding, touching and comforting to feel secure, grow and thrive.  You can’t spoil a baby in the first 3 months of life however, as a new parent there are always so many things to learn. Establishing healthy sleep habits for young babies can make a huge difference when they are developmentally ready to sleep through the night around 4 ½-6 months and beyond. Unfortunately, parents don’t always think about this until they are so exhausted and have already created some bad habits.  So here are three secrets that can set you up for success later.

Secret #1: Where

It is recommended that young babies sleep in the same room as the parents during the early months.  Many babies sleep in bassinets, co-sleepers, pack n play or with Mom during this time. A crib is seldom introduced until a few months later when parents want baby to sleep independently or they grow out of the bassinet or whatever they were in.  Where they should sleep is up to you as long as you do it safely.  A baby will fall asleep everywhere and often during the early months and often she ends up sleeping in a swing, bouncy seat, sling or arms during the day.  This is perfectly normal but if you would tweak this slightly and begin creating healthy sleep habits now it could make a huge difference later.

Most parents buy a crib prior to baby’s arrival and set up a nursery.  It is part of the excitement of having a baby.  However, most nurseries are not used for sleeping until baby is older which is fine.  What if you started placing your baby in her crib for naps just two times per day starting in the early weeks and months?  Babies sleep an average of 16 hours per day.  Most will be at night in parent’s room and the rest will be all over the house in whatever contraption baby fell asleep in.  If parents would make a deliberate effort to have baby sleep in her crib just two times a day the crib would be a more familiar place when a permanent transition needs to be made.  I am not talking about having structured naps at this time just make sure she has an opportunity to sleep in her crib for short periods of time during the day.  This would be considered a healthy sleep habit for a young baby to establish as it is something that will slowly become familiar and comfortable to her when she is older and you are ready to make the switch.

Secret # 2: How

The next thing to consider when creating healthy sleep habits is allowing your baby to sometimes be put down when drowsy and not totally asleep.  Now this is very difficult for a baby in the early weeks because they have such short wake windows but if you become familiar with baby sleep and wake states and baby sleep cycles it can be done.  Read my other blog articles on states and cycles.

It is not going to happen all the time and when baby is fussy you will more than likely be implementing the 5 S’s ( from “Happiest Baby on the Block”) and baby will be put down asleep or even sleep in your arms or a sling as this is all you or her are capable of doing. Babies still need lots of touch and holding but look for opportunities when everything lines up right and she is primed for sleep but not asleep yet.  She is calm, has a full tummy, relaxed and receptive.  Doing this just once or twice a day can lead to more success when she is older and it is necessary for her to learn these skills.  She will already have a head start establishing healthy sleep habits and this one she will need to learn.

Secret # 3:  Don’t force it.

Remember all babies grow and develop differently.  It may not be possible for your baby to develop some of these skills till she is older.  Do not force any of this upon her if it is not working.  When she is ready she will respond and during the early months it will be with a lot of inconsistency. So keep trying and when it doesn’t work let it go and try again the next day.  Soon it will begin working and become easier and easier. 

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