Sleep routine is important for keeping your baby well-rested and happy—not to mention yourself! Although it can be tricky at times, sticking to that hard-won routine when you can’t be home all day (and when can you?) is well worth the effort, says Kim West, aka The Sleep Lady, an infant sleep coach. “A nap-deprived baby will have more difficulty going to sleep at bedtime and staying asleep,” West warns. “Plus, it will be easier for a well-rested baby to nap on the go than one who is already overtired.”
In the Bedroom
It helps to have baby in a bedside bassinet for the first few weeks so you can keep middle-of-the-night feedings simple and in the dimmest light possible. “The biggest task in the first two months is helping with day and night confusion,” West says. “In the evening, keep the house quiet, and interactions with your infant brief and boring.”
In the Den, Kitchen…Anywhere
A comfy, portable crib can be a huge help, especially in the early days, when your newborn’s internal clock can’t tell the difference between night and day. It will allow you to start dinner, put away groceries, or load the dishwasher while your baby naps nearby.
At Grandma’s House
“Timing for naps is everything!” West insists. “It’s essential that you watch your baby’s wakeful windows so that he doesn’t stay awake long enough to get overtired.” Therefore, it’s wise to always bring along a compact crib. Choose one with a canopy to block the sun and protect baby from insects so, even if you decide to go to the park, baby’s sleep schedule won’t have to miss a beat.
On a Walk
Turn your stroller into a “napmobile” by reclining the seat so your child can stretch out. Some babies need constant motion to go to sleep and stay asleep. “If you stop moving, and your baby wakes up after too short of a nap, then start moving again,” West advises. Also, consider using a stroller shade to block out light and distractions. “This is especially helpful for alert babies who have a harder time shutting the world out to go to sleep.”
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Hitting the Road
Car seat naps can go a long way toward keeping your tot’s daily sleep requirements met. If possible, plan car rides at your baby’s regular nap times to make it easier for her to snooze, West advises. Play relaxing, soft music, if any, and consider putting up a shade on the car window next to your child’s seat.
Bring a familiar piece of home—your little one’s favorite lovey or teether—to comfort and soothe her to sleep. West also recommends setting the scene: “quieting the environment, dimming the lights, playing soothing music, reading.” Finally, sticking to a consistent bedtime, eliminating noise, and slowing down with a low-key activity will cue baby’s body for sleep—and it works for parents, too.
Christina Vercelletto is a former editor at NYMetroParents, Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her kids, a chiweenie, Pickles, and a 20-pound calico, Chub-Chub.
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