Want to get less sleep? Here are 9 easy ways to make that happen! Just kidding of course. We all have the right intentions, and do the best we can to get our babies to sleep. I mean, who on earth DOESN’T want their baby to sleep?! However, sometimes even our best intentions miss the mark and end up causing more harm than good. And by harm I mean less sleep. Which is pretty much the worst kind of harm as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve been around here long enough, you know the great deal of value that I place on sleep. Like, it makes EVERYTHING better. In ALL aspects of life; your marriage, your relationships, your mental health. I really believe that if you are well rested, you can handle just about anything. I’ve worked with thousands of babies all around the world and have seen first hand the mistakes that well-meaning parents make. So let me help you NOT make the same mistakes. Here are the 9 ways you may be ruining your baby’s sleep. 

 

1. Putting them to bed later so they are extra tired and sleep longer 

This is a huge misconception among parents. So many people seem to think that if you want your child to sleep longer at night, then push bedtime later so they are exhausted. Spoiler alert: the exact opposite will happen. Say it with me now: “sleep begets sleep!” If your little one is waking too early in the morning, then I suggest putting them to bed EARLIER, not later. Yup, you heard me correctly. It all comes back to sleep begets sleep. Trust me, and give it a try!  

 

2. Feeding TO sleep instead of BEFORE sleep

You should all know by now that I don’t subscribe to the “Eat Play Sleep” schedule. I mean, if it works for you, great! However, it can cause parents so much unnecessary stress. So if “Play Eat Sleep” works better for you, then you do you! The key with this is to make sure you are not feeding TO sleep, and instead feeding BEFORE sleep. The reason is that we want our babies to fall asleep independently. If you provide too much of any type of soothing before sleep, and you end up putting your baby down so drowsy that a rousing game of twister wouldn’t disturb them, then they are going to wake up easier and when they do, they won’t be able to connect their sleep cycle. So by all means, feed before sleep and soothe so they are nice and calm, however put them down awake. 

 

3. Mistaking boredom for sleepy cues

This is another big one. First off, there is a difference between Tired Cues and Sleepy Cues. Sleepy Cues are like when you go to make coffee and use the last scoop. It signals to you that you need to buy more coffee. Tired Cues are when you ignore that signal and go to make another cup of coffee and realize you’re out of luck. When your baby is staring off into the distance, is becoming calm and still, has a reddish hue on their eyebrows/eyelids, and/or offers a subtle yawn, they are not bored! So do not pump up the music and start dangling a bunch of toys in their face. Instead, get them to bed! If your baby is fussing, rubbing their eyes, tugging on their ears, avoiding eye contact, arching their back, becoming rigid, and/or jerking and flailing their limbs, I am sorry to be the one to tell you….but now you’re completely out of coffee.  So watch for those Sleepy Cues and try to get them to sleep before the Tired Cues start!   

 

4. Skipping the bedtime routine 

Humans are creatures of habit. We thrive off of routine and feel safest and secure when we know what to expect. This is also true for bedtime. Most of us have some type of bedtime routine that signals to our bodies that it’s time to sleep. Maybe it’s wash your face, brush your teeth, pajamas, mindlessly scroll through IG for an hour, listen to a calming meditation, and fall asleep. Babies need this too. It doesn’t have to be complicated or long (and it probably shouldn’t include social media scrolling), however it does need to be comprehensive and consistent. I recommend including feeding, bath, story/song, pajamas/sleep sack/swaddle. It doesn’t matter what order you do it in, or if you have other pieces in your routine. Just make sure it is enjoyable for everyone involved, and it is something you can consistently maintain.  

 

5. The sleep space is too light 

Don’t underestimate the value of a completely dark sleep space. And the real MVP here is blackout curtains. Seriously. If you have regular blinds or curtains, it’s probably not cutting it. You don’t want any light creeping in. The reason is, the darkness helps our bodies create melatonin which aids in sleep, and light breaks down melatonin. So keep your baby’s room nice and dark. If you’re travelling, you can buy travel blackout curtains. Or garbage bags and tape do the trick! Just as a side note, naps on the go are totally fine if you have a newborn.

 

6. Allowing too much daytime sleep 

Now I KNOW you’ve heard “never wake a sleeping baby”. However, you can safely file that away under “annoying advice from my mother-in-law”. It’s not as common as your partner forgetting to put the toilet seat down, but there IS a time and place for controlling how long you let your baby sleep for. Babies of any age should not be napping for longer than 3 hours at a time. I say this because it will likely mess up their nighttime sleep. You also want to make sure your baby has age appropriate hours of daytime sleep. If they are getting too many total hours of daytime sleep, then it can negatively affect nighttime sleep. As a general rule, newborns get 4-6 hours, 4-9 months get 3-4.5 hours, 9-12 months get 2.5-3.5 hours, 12-18 months get 2-3 hours, and 18 months-3 years get 1-2 hours.  So if you need to wake your baby to keep a nap less than 3 hours and total daytime sleep in an appropriate range, then you have my full support. 

 

7. Getting them up after one sleep cycle 

I’m talking about those dreaded crap naps. When you finally get your baby down for their nap, and they wake up well before the hour is up. Your initial response may be to pour an extra cup of coffee and go and get them, however I urge you to put on the brakes. Give your baby some time to see if they will fall back asleep; they may surprise you. And I don’t mean 2 minutes. As long as they are not losing their bananas for more than a few minutes, try giving at least 15 minutes to see what they can do. Just think of what you can get done in that 15 minutes! (read- face masks and coffee, not dishes and toy clean up).  

 

8. Not following age appropriate wake windows 

In order for your little one to get great sleep, both at night and during the day, they need to be following age appropriate wake windows. Scheduling your day around the wake windows can sometimes be super inconvenient, I get it. So just do what you can. And if you need to squeeze in a nap on the go every once in a while, that’s totally fine. 

Age WW 1 WW 2 WW 3 WW 4 Last WW before bed 
0 – 3 months  Naps will all be super inconsistent and the number of naps will vary, but keep each WW between 45 – 90 min long  45 – 120 min 
4 – 5 months  60 – 120 min  ~ 90 min  ~ 90 min  ~ 90 min  90 – 120 min 
6 – 8 months  ~ 90 min  90 – 120 min  90 – 120 min  90 – 120 min 
9 – 15 months  ~ 120 min  ~ 180 min  ~ 240 min 

 

Remember that all babies are different, so your baby may not follow this chart exactly, however I will say that one of the biggest mistakes I see parents make is having wake windows that are too long. 

 

9. Trying ALLLLL the things 

When things start falling apart, it’s natural to want to do whatever it takes to get back on track. You may start playing around with wake windows, dropping a nap, trying out a new sleep sack, changing up the white noise machine sound, shortening the bedtime routine, lengthening the bedtime routine, switching wine for whiskey…… I’m going to recommend taking a breath, and then a step back. There are so many common sleep regressions (you can read my blog post about that here), plus teething and illness that can all throw off sleep. If you hit a sudden change in sleep behavior (for the worst) give it a week or two before making any big changes. And when you do make a change, choose just one or two things (max!) to change at once. If you change too much all at once, it can A) throw your baby for a loop, resulting in even worse sleep and B) be much harder to determine what change is making a positive difference.  

 

If you can relate to any of the above, don’t worry! It happens to the best of us! And if you would like even more nonjudgmental advice for getting great baby sleep from amazing moms, check out our exclusive Facebook community. It’s PACKED with incredible parents supporting each other and giving super helpful advice.