Getting your baby to sleep often seems like a magical act in which all the cards have to be aligned perfectly for either of you to get a good night of rest. But despite the fact that each baby is different and will have vastly different sleep preferences, there are some common, small things you do that make it harder for your baby to fall asleep — an you likely aren't alone. These habits are so common that you might assume they're the "normal" way to get your little one to sleep.
Standard practice or not, experts say these nighttime habits may actual be wreaking havoc on the quality and quantity of your baby's (and therefore your own) sleep. Luckily, all hope isn't lost if you identify with a few or even all of these bad habits. All parents can relate to making a decision out of sheer exhaustion, without considering how it may affect their baby's sleep down the line. Most mistakes, however, can be corrected, especially when it comes to sleep. So don't fear if you've been the one making it harder for your little one to fall asleep at night. All of these habits can be changed with a little bit of effort.
1. You Wait Till They're Overly Tired
Most babies show signs of sleep readiness by 6 to 8 p.m. each night, but according to the Sleep Lady, many parents wait until 9 pm or later to put their baby down, believing that the later they're up the better they'll sleep at night. This theory almost always backfires, because letting your baby become overly tired can lead to excessive fussiness, even more difficulty falling asleep, and increased night wakings. Instead, wait until they start showing their first signs of sleepiness, and lay them down sooner rather than later.
2. You Don't Have A Consistent Bedtime Routine
Baby Center noted that failing to establish a consistent bedtime routine is another very common mistake parents make. Without a routine at night, the article stated, babies and children have difficulty winding down and preparing for a full night of sleep. Your bedtime routine doesn't have to be complicated — a bath, a story, and a song maybe — but it will help immensely when it comes to lay your baby down for bed.
3. You Always Nurse Or Feed Your Baby To Sleep
Although there's nothing wrong with nursing or bottle feeding your baby to sleep, if it becomes an every night thing, your baby will come to rely on it in order for them to fall asleep, also known as a "sleep association," according to What To Expect.
Instead, nurse your baby while they're tired and stop before they fall asleep completely. The Baby Sleep Site suggested laying your baby down while they're drowsy but still awake to allow them to fall asleep on their own and establish healthy habits for down the road.
4. You Let Them Sleep In Different Places Each Night
It sounds innocent enough, but letting your baby sleep in their crib one night, with you the next, and in a play pen another night can mess with their need for consistency. The aforementioned article from the Sleep Lady noted that parents should try and keep their baby's sleep environment consistent from one night to the next, which will both make it easier for them to fall asleep by themselves and stay asleep during the night.
5. You Let Them Sleep In Their Carseat Often
All parents do it, but like letting your baby fall asleep feeding, sleeping often in the carseat can cause unhealthy sleep associations that can difficult to break. Aside from the safety concerns associated with letting babies sleep in carseats, it can make them not want to sleep in their own bed, What To Expect noted.