When your baby is first born, it’s natural for her to wake up a few times per night, but there comes a time when natural development takes over and your little one should be able to sleep a long stretch on her own. No matter what age your baby (or child) is, establishing good sleeping habits early on is important – especially if you’re hoping to get some sleep in the future.

The Problem

Poor sleeping habits do a lot more than making the entire household tired – they can actually make your child live in a constant state of jet lag. Babies, and even young children, need to sleep when their bodies tell them to. They have a natural circadian rhythm that must be respected. Most parents, however, try to mold their children’s sleep into what is convenient for the entire house. The result? A sleep-deprived house.

How Much Sleep Should a Child Get?

Every child is different, but there is an average amount of sleep little ones need each day/night to feel refreshed.

  • 1 Month Old – 8.5 hours of night sleep, 7.5 hours of day sleep (naps)
  • 6 Month Old – 10 to 12 hours of night sleep, 3 to 4.5 hours of day sleep
  • 1 Year Old – 11 hours of night sleep, 2.5 hours of day sleep
  • 2 Year Old – 11 hours of night sleep, 2 hours of day sleep

Be Realistic

Parents need to realize they cannot force their baby into a sleep routine. Instead, create a secure environment that gives your child the chance to fall asleep. You want your baby to look at sleep as a positive activity – not a dreaded chore.

Avoid Sleep Trainers

Sleep trainers – such as noise makers – are pricey and counteract sleep training. Eventually your baby requires a sleep trainer in order to fall asleep. But, what happens when you’re on vacation? She’s staying the night with family? Or worse, it breaks? Sleep trainers don’t teach your baby to fall asleep on her own; instead, they teach her to fall asleep with the assistance of an outside source.

Set a Predictable, Consistent Routine

Children enjoy routines and schedules. By knowing what comes next and when they feel secure. Start early on with a predictable daytime and nighttime schedule. Your child should know what time to expect naps every day, about what time she’ll eat and when she goes to bed. Routines don’t have to be elaborate or rigid. You can be flexible and allow a timeframe. For younger babies, you won’t be able to stick to the clock as much, but you can time everything out. For example, after your baby wakes, plan on a nap about two hours after she wakes and perhaps a feeding one hour after she wakes. Once your baby establishes a routine and starts waking around the same time every day you can schedule things more consistently – such as a nap every day at 2:00pm.

Before naps and bedtimes, establish a routine that signals it’s time to settle down. Your routine could be as simple as a bath, book and pajamas. No matter what you choose, make it consistent, but also realistic. If you have a heavy duty routine, ask yourself how likely it is family or sitters can go through the routine? If you’re on vacation, can you still carry out the bedtime rituals?

By being flexible, consistent and predictable, you can establish healthy sleeping habits early on. Even if your child is a toddler, you can start working on a routine that establishes good sleeping habits for years to come.