Any parent who can’t remember the last time they got an uninterrupted night of sleep will appreciate Baby Sleep Day on March 1. The day, which got its start in 2016, was organized by the Pediatric Sleep Council (PSC). And while observing Baby Sleep Day doesn't guarantee a successful Baby Sleep Night at your house, you can still use the day as an opportunity to learn a ton about how to help everyone in your family get a better night’s sleep.
That's because on Baby Sleep Day, PSC experts from around the world will be posting sleep tips to the PSC Facebook and Twitter accounts (and if there were ever a reason to scroll through Twitter, the promise of free information that can help your family sleep more soundly sounds like a pretty good reason to me). "Everyone is happier when the whole family is rested," Patti Ideran, an occupational therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital who works with infants (and is nicknamed "The Baby Whisperer”), tells Romper.
If you wish your child (and therefore, you!) were sleeping better, then know you're not alone. “We know that not only do about one-third of parents identify their baby as having a sleep problem, but that over 90% of parents want to change something about their child’s sleep,” Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., DBSM, and Chair of the Pediatric Sleep Council tells Romper. “Thus, we hope that all parents have the information that they need to help everyone get a good night’s sleep."
That information will include tips like the following: Instead of looking solely at the hours a baby spends sleeping, Ideran suggests paying attention to what she calls "awake time" by making sure they're not going too long without sleep. While it may seem counterintuitive, "if you drop the afternoon nap, and the baby doesn't go to sleep until 8 p.m., that’s way too long to be awake,” Ideran says. "When babies are overtired, they’re irritable, they’re hyper-alert, and they need much more assistance going to sleep. If they don’t have good daytime sleep, they usually don’t have good night time sleep."
Other suggestions and recommendations address the challenges faced by households where both parents are working. For example, Mindell says that the foundation of a good night’s sleep for babies is based on two factors: an early bedtime and a consistent bedtime routine. It can be hard to get kids to bed early especially if the evening is when a working parent has time to bond with their little one, but true bonding won’t come when your baby is exhausted. Ideran says it’s ideal if you can come home from work and spend some time with your kiddo first thing, or take turns with your partner (if possible). One night they make dinner while you play, and the next night the roles reverse. That way you’ll feel like you’ve had some time to bond before you start the bedtime routine.
Oh, and speaking of bedtime routines... a consistent bedtime routine doesn’t need to have a ton of complicated steps.
“A good bedtime routine is three to four steps that occur every night, with a preference for an inclusion of a bath and making feeding the first step rather than the last step,” Mindell tells Romper.
Having a nighttime routine has far-reaching benefits beyond helping your little one fall asleep faster (which is a major win in itself). A solid routine, “contributes to so many positive developmental outcomes, such as language development, literacy, attachment, and family well-being," Mindell continues. "For example, a bedtime routine includes activities that support good nutrition, such as a healthy snack, hygiene (bath, brushing teeth), and language development (reading, lullabies). It also usually involves cuddles and touching, all things that are great for babies and parents.”
As for the mistakes parents make when it comes to getting their babies to sleep, Mindell's viewpoint is very reassuring: “We do not think that parents make mistakes! Rather there are some things that parents do that they may wish to tweak to help their baby, and themselves, sleep better.”
Lots of babies have at least some difficulty sleeping. Still, if your baby snores or seems to have any difficulty breathing while sleeping (or if you're concerned for any other reason), don't hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician, Mindell says.
In the meantime, the PSC has members that span the globe, and Baby Sleep Day is a great way to come together as one (very tired, potentially over-caffeinated ) group with a shared goal of cultivating better sleep for the whole family. I'll cheer-Zzz to that.
Patti Ideran, infant occupational therapist ("The Baby Whisperer"), Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., DBSM, Saint Joseph’s University/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Chair of the Pediatric Sleep Council