Becoming a new parent is exciting, overwhelming, and amazing all at once. And while we all parent differently, one thing is true no matter our parenting style – we all want to do what is best for our children.
A lot of work is currently being done to improve the United States Infant Mortality rate. Many infant deaths are sleep related and can be prevented. I talk with a lot of parents, and it seems that almost everyone knows the ABC’s of safe sleep for babies – Alone, on their Back, in an empty Crib, but in the middle of the night when a parent is desperately tired, they don’t always adhere to the ABC’s.
During residency, the two things new moms asked me about most often was infant sleep and breastfeeding, neither of which I knew anything about. So, when I had my first child during residency I decided to use my maternity leave to learn about both.
The time I spent learning about healthy sleep habits in infants and children has paid off. My husband and I implemented these strategies with our first child and used them consistently with all three of our kids and, to this day, they are all fantastic sleepers. Here is a little about what I learned:
Develop a routine and stick with it. A nice bath, singing a song or reading a story are opportunities to bond and calm a child before bed. Routine is the key to establishing good sleep habits! Infants and children who are overtired have more difficulty falling and staying asleep – get babies to bed before they get overtired.
Put the baby in their crib while still awake. This teaches the child to fall asleep themselves and not rely on an adult to help.
Consistent, regularly scheduled naps are a MUST. Sleep begets sleep – a child who is well rested is a better sleeper than a child who is overtired. Although it is tempting to run errands and get other things done with the baby in tow, a nap is more important to brain development and for establishing healthy sleep habits.
Good quality sleep results in a well-rested baby. This means sleeping in a quiet, safe place, not on the go, in a stroller. Obviously, you need to run errands and the baby will inevitably fall asleep in the car seat, but the baby should be moved to their crib as soon as you get home. Sleep should be a priority!
Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, works as an attending physician in the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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