If you want your baby to get more high quality sleep, a good place to start is by looking at their sleep routines - and to establish good sleep habits that benefit their health and development.
Any new parent can tell you that you're grateful for any amount of time that your baby stays snoozing, and for many, this can often be random and tough to predict. So how do you go about creating a routine and nurturing positive bedtime habits so that your little one gets the best stretch of sleep they can every night?
In this blog, we'll cover some of the best ways to establish and maintain healthy sleep habits, from keeping a consistent schedule to making time for special bonding activities like massages.
Why are healthy sleep habits important?
In adulthood, we know the importance of getting a good night's sleep (especially when we miss a few hours!) They keep us energized and feeling positive for the day ahead, and allow us to rest and heal from all the activities of the day before. For babies, sleep is even more important - not only does it provide them with the rest they need, but it's also the time of day that's most important to their brain development and growth.
Though they won't necessarily remember what their newborn bedtime routine was in a few years time, establishing good sleep habits for your child now can prevent bad sleep habits from becoming a problem down the line. For instance, if your baby has always been used to having a set bedtime and specific routine, they're likely to find it easier to continue these routines as they grow and develop into toddlerhood and beyond.
5 ways to promote healthy baby sleep habits
Consistent bedtime routine
When it comes to getting your baby to sleep, nothing is more important than staying consistent - not just with their bedtime, but with the routine in the runup to their bedtime too. Knowing that a bath, a cuddle, and a bedtime story means that it's time to snooze every single night can help your child sleep more regularly through the night, as they get used to the rhythms of the day.
If you're unsure of what your baby's bedtime routine and sleep schedule could look like, you can check out our charts for more information. But ultimately, whatever schedule you choose, make sure you stick to it - again, consistency is the most important thing here!
Peaceful sleep environment
No matter how sleepy your baby is, it's tough to fall asleep in an environment that isn't quiet and calming. But don't worry - there are a variety of ways to bring some tranquility to your baby's sleep space, especially if you're living in a busy household or on a loud city block. For instance, a baby-safe white noise machine can help drown out sounds that could be interrupting your baby's sleep, while blackout curtains can keep out any bright lights that keep them from settling in past light sleep.
Additionally, you could try to make choices while setting up their nursery that contribute to creating a calm, peaceful space that eases the womb-to-world transition. Sticking to a simple, muted color palette stops them from becoming overstimulated at bedtime, and ensuring that the room is around 68 degrees on average will prevent your baby from overheating or getting too cold.
Calming skin routine
Even as adults, there's nothing more soothing than a nice massage, and it's easy to give your little one a calming rubdown before bed to help soothe them to sleep. Baby massages are also a great time to bond with your little one through skin to skin contact and plenty of eye contact and talking, and hopefully leave them calm and drowsy enough to fall straight to sleep!
A routine like this is even more important if your baby suffers from a skin condition like eczema and requires a regular moisturizer. If you're looking for a baby-safe cream to soothe any itches and help them snooze, Embeba is the answer - with a range of natural balms suitable for sensitive skin, they can calm any baby ailment, from dry skin to diaper rash.
Healthy feeding habits
Like having the same bedtime routine each night, maintaining consistent and healthy feeding habits can help your baby fall asleep easier. This means not only ensuring babies over six months are eating healthy, non-sugary foods appropriate for their stage of development, but also that younger babies are being fed on a schedule that works effectively with their natural sleep rhythms.
We've put together feeding schedules for babies at every age so you can get to know how often your child should be eating, but you may also want to consider a 'dream feed'. This is where you wake up your baby just enough for them to eat, but keep them drowsy enough that they can fall back to sleep quickly.
Sleepwear to promote self-soothing
Resting in a pair of comfortable PJs is always a surefire way to get yourself ready for bed, but did you know that your baby's sleepwear can promote self-soothing habits for a better night's sleep? If you're looking to build a healthy sleep routine (and catch a few extra Zs yourself), our Zen Sack is the perfect addition to your little one's bedtime routine!
Designed to recreate the settling feeling of swaddling even after your baby has grown out of it, the Zen Sack features our carefully placed Cuddle Pads, providing safe and gentle weight to mimic your soothing touch.
This is what Zen Mom Molly B. has to say about her experience with the Zen Sack:
We love these sleep sacks. They provide just a little pressure like a gentle press of our hand would to soothe him. It is easy to zip either way if you have to do a tired diaper change in the middle of the night. The quality is fantastic and I believe it will last on him for much of the rest of his first year and then will hold up for any more kids to come.
Commonly asked questions about good sleep habits
What causes poor sleep in babies?
There are a wide range of factors that can impact the quality of your baby's sleep. Though your baby's health can play a role, and you should always consult a medical professional if you notice a negative change in their sleep habits, there are also external factors to take into account, such as a stressful or overstimulating sleep environment, or a disruption in their routine caused by a different bedtime or a travel schedule. In many cases, there are simple changes you can make to their routine sleep habits that don't require any interventions like sleep medicine.
It's also important to note that any routines and habits you establish should fall in line with safe sleep guidelines to lower your baby's risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). For instance, placing your baby on their back to sleep, refraining from using sleep positioner products, and removing any blankets or soft toys from their crib has been shown to reduce the risk of sleep related infant deaths.
How much sleep does my baby need?
The amount of sleep your baby requires is directly tied to their age, with newborns needing to sleep the most at around 18 hours per day and older babies needing increasingly less as they grow. Of course, as any new parent can tell you, this amount of sleep isn't in one long stretch - it's divided up throughout the day into naps and (hopefully) a longer period of snoozing at night. If you need more information on what normal sleep might look like for your baby, you can refer to our chart that provides a regular sleep schedule for little ones of all ages.
The amount of sleep your baby gets each day can be impacted by poor sleep habits. Children who have only known these habits may find them harder to break from, so it's important to establish habits like a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine early on.
Will my baby's sleep ever improve?
When your baby isn't sleeping through the night, it can be easy for worries to spiral, but don't worry - things will get easier! As your baby gets older, they'll be able to sleep for longer stretches at a time, and while the odd sleep regression can be discouraging, it's just a temporary blip on the way to more consistent sleep in childhood, especially if you start building healthy sleep habits now.
If you're struggling with your baby's inconsistent sleep, it's important to remember that every baby is unique, and that it's hard to say when a baby's sleep habits and routine might start to improve. But as a lack of consistent sleep tends to be associated with newborn babies and periods of sleep regression, you can at least rest assured that it won't be forever! When it comes to babies, most of these sleep issues are temporary blips, and can be resolved with the help of a soothing and regular sleep routine - you've got this!