Sleep Schedule for Your Infant or Toddler
A lot of modern parents balk when they hear the words “sleep schedule”. Actually, I’m not sure balk is strong enough language. How about this: A lot of modern parents scorn the phrase “sleep schedule for your infant”.
I think of myself as a balance between the progressive parent and the traditional parent. I like to take the most effective (and by effective I mean in scientific language, effective for parent and child outcomes) aspects of parenting styles. In my eyes the most important outcome is the physical and mental health of both child and parent.
Having an infant or toddler who gets quality sleep has obvious benefits for the parent. Sanity comes to mind first. Now let’s look at some of the how’s and why’s of having a regular sleep schedule for your infant or toddler:
Newborn days and early infant days are an adjustment and learning period for both parent and baby. My babies took 4-6 months to settle into any sort of schedule. Please be aware that the *Sleep Schedule* I’m talking about is not the same as the rigid sleep training advocated in past decades. It is about being aware of your child’s natural wake/sleep patterns and adjusting your parent schedule to accommodate that.
How to get your baby on a sleep schedule
- Help baby recognize the difference between night and day. Keep the house light and bright during the day. Dim the lights in the evening (this is good for your circadian rhythm as well), and keep the lights off at night. When the baby wakes up at night, as much as possible refrain from turning any lights on. I used to just put my cell phone flash light on when I had to change the baby’s diaper.
- Listen to your baby’s cues. This is often fairly easy to do during infancy. Most babies will either play, eat, sleep or eat, play, sleep. Try not to delay when you recognize your baby’s cues an extremely hungry baby will often fall asleep during his feeding only to wake up mid-nap because he is hungry.
- Begin a nighttime routine. My children each began consistently sleeping through the night at different ages. Regardless of how many hours your child sleeps in one stretch at night time, it is helpful for your child if you have a nighttime routine. Ours was always feed, brush teeth, story, bed. For my youngest who breastfed until he was almost two it was brush teeth, story, nurse, bed.
- Be mindful of how many hours of sleep your infant or toddler should be getting. Here is a helpful baby and toddler sleep chart.
- If you look at the link above for the sleep chart, it also suggests appropriate bedtimes for infants and toddlers. Bedtime matters. Remember #1 above? Recognizing that it is nighttime (dark outside) will become one of the strongest cues for your baby and toddler’s body to begin producing melatonin in preparation for sleep.
- Put your baby’s schedule first. In other words, naps are important! Some infants and toddlers are amazing sleepers. They can sleep just about anywhere. My kids, for whatever biological reason, were always very light sleepers as babies and toddlers. If you kids are like mine were, make sure you schedule is such that they can have their naptime, uninterrupted, each day.
- Don’t expect your infant and toddler’s sleep schedule to always work like clockwork. There will be sleep regressions, there will be the overtired sleep protests. Just do your best, follow your instincts, and remember that your sanity comes first because “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.
To make sure your child stays asleep comfortably once they fall asleep, it is important to have a good mattress. Candide Baby sent me their Candide Baby Seasonal Crib Mattress for Little Z to try out. Previously he had had a really cheap foam mattress–one that came with his crib. Little Z had never liked how loud and crinkly the vinyl waterproof cover was, and I never liked the fact that after a couple years that same waterproof covering began to tear and disintegrate.
The Candide Baby Seasonal Crib mattress certainly isn’t cheap, in quality or in price. Priced at $189.99, the Candide Baby Seasonal Crib Mattress is on the higher end of price for baby crib mattresses. It, however, is a night and day difference in quality from the cheap piece of vinyl covered foam we had before. The Candide Baby Seasonal Crib Mattress is really quite luxurious!
Okay, so what’s with the “seasonal”? The Candide Baby Seasonal Crib Mattress has two different sides. The Winter side has a 7 oz. polyester batting to help keep baby warm in the winter.
The Summer side, on the other hand, has just 2.8 oz polyester batting to help keep baby cool in the summer.
Candide Baby Seasonal Crib mattress is also waterproof, anti-mite, and anti-bacterial. It meets the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 (an independent testing and certification system that tests for harmful chemicals in textiles) which means the Candide Baby Seasonal Crib mattress meets standards that exceed national requirements. As a parent, this is very reassuring.
The Candide Baby Seasonal Crib Mattress is a firm mattress, but it isn’t so firm that it is uncomfortable. The polyester batting gives just the right amount of cushion while still being safe for baby. When we moved into our house a few weeks ago, the movers put Little Z’s toddler bed together incorrectly, so his Candide Baby Crib Mattress is on the floor until I can locate all the hardware for his bed (never have movers re-assemble furniture! Sheesh!). Because the mattress is on the floor, Little Z often asks me to lay down with him when he goes to bed at night. I actually find his mattress very comfortable and supportive. 🙂
Benefits of Having a Sleep Schedule for Your Infant or Toddler
Good sleep for babies and toddlers has many benefits–beyond that of keeping Mom and Dad and the rest of the family sane!
- During sleep is when the growth hormone is released.
- To say your baby is learning a LOT during the infant and toddler stages would be an understatement. The first three years of life are the most critical in shaping your baby’s brain “architecture”.
- Quality sleep (which is uninterrupted sleep) is essential for your baby or toddler to have optimal alertness which translates into optimal learning periods during their wakeful times.
- Quality sleep also helps your baby develop a healthy nervous system (the lack of which can lead to hyperactivity, irritability, or being easily stressed out).
If you enjoyed this post, check out these other great baby posts.