Is my baby ready... Sleep

You asked us: Is my baby ready? Our expert answers questions around sleep, including when it's safe to have pillows and blankets and much more

You asked us: Is my baby ready…

Expert: Cathryn Tobin is an Ontario-based paediatrician, licensed midwife and member of the Canadian Paediatrcis Society. She is also the author of The Lull-a-Baby Sleep Plan (Rodale).

…to sleep through the night
Ahh, if only your wee one would go to bed at sunset and sleep soundly till sunrise. Tobin says it’s important to start encouraging healthy sleep habits very early on. “Young babies don’t have bad sleep habits to break; it’s a whole lot easier for them to learn good ones.” She says by just two months, most babies can learn to self-comfort to sleep if you encourage them. Try putting baby to bed with “feel-good conditions,” such as providing light background noise, swaddling her cozily and putting her down on a full tummy. Most babies from three to six months will start sleeping five or six hours each night without waking up.

…to sleep through the night without feedings
“A healthy baby who is growing and developing well can typically go at least nine hours without a feeding once he reaches 12 pounds,” Tobin says. You might want to try separating sleeping and eating as much as possible. “Most of us wrongly assume that if a baby wakes up during the night, he must be hungry.” The issue, says Tobin, is that once a baby gets used to suckling to sleep, he’ll need it every time he starts nodding off. The signs that your babe is ready to sleep without a feeding are: he won’t nurse for as long, won’t finish a bottle and he’ll doze off during feedings.

Is your baby ready to sleep on her tummy, without being swaddled or to have toys in her crib? Continue reading to find out >
…to sleep on her tummy?
Once a baby can roll from her back to tummy and vice versa (usually around seven months) she’ll end up on her stomach once in a while. You should still put her down on her back, says Tobin, but then she should “sleep in the position of her choice.” Sleeping on her back is considered the safest position to protect against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Plus, research has shown it can reduce the risk of congestion, ear infections and fevers.

…to sleep without being swaddled?
According to Tobin, most parents stop swaddling (wrapping a newborn cozily in a blanket) their baby at around the two-month mark. Studies have shown that swaddled babies accept the back sleeping position more readily. (This position is also recommended to protect against SIDS.) Tobin recommends swaddling until three or four months, provided the infant isn’t resisting. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reported babies slept more soundly while swaddled. Not sure how to swaddle your little one? Click here for our how-to video.

…to have stuffed animals and toys in her crib?
“A lovey or stuffed animal should not be left in the crib until a baby can roll over both ways, somewhere around seven months,” Tobin says. It is possible that infants can be suffocated by toys, dolls and other soft objects (quilts, blankets, etc.) in their crib, so your best bet is to keep her sleep area clutter-free. When you do put stuffed toys in with her, be sure it isn’t stuffed with pellets and doesn’t have ribbons, ties, eyes or other parts that are glued or stitched that could come off and pose a chocking hazard.

…to go to sleep without a bottle?
It’s natural for babies to fall asleep at the breast or with a bottle, but this habit is best stopped around two to four months of age, Tobin says. If baby’s hungry before bed, she should be fed, but it’s healthier for infants not to fall asleep with their bedtime bottle hanging out of their mouth. Not only will baby develop a habit of needing a bottle to get to sleep, but the risk of cavities (when their teeth come in) increases when they take a bottle to bed.

Is your baby ready to sleep with pillows or a blanket, to give up the mobile or ready to go without a nap schedule? Continue reading to find out >
…to have a blanket and bumper pad in her crib?
By about seven months, when baby can roll over from back to tummy and vice versa, a blanket can be put in the crib. Tobin recommends the feet-to-foot method: Start by placing baby with his feet close to the bottom of the crib. Tuck a light blanket in along the sides and foot of the mattress and cover him up to his chest. Be sure to use a lightweight blanket, and don’t leave it near the baby’s head when not in use. As for bumper pads (cushioned pads to protect baby from slipping through crib bars), Health Canada no longer recommends you use them in your child’s crib because of the health hazards they pose.

…to sleep with pillows in the crib?
While babies can have a blanket in their cribs when they start to roll over from back to tummy and vice versa at about seven months, all pillows should be kept out of your baby’s crib. If you are co-sharing the bed, all blankets, top sheets, comforters, duvets and pillows should be kept away from baby because of the risk of suffocation and SIDS. Most experts don’t recommend children younger than two years old sleeping on a pillow.

…to sleep without a mobile?
If you’ve put a mobile above your baby’s crib, the odds are she adores staring at the colours and moving parts. “Babies love mobiles but safety regulations must be met,” says Tobin. Remove the mobile from above her crib once she starts reaching for objects, when she’s about four months old. In the meantime, be sure it is fastened securely and that the length of string hanging down is no longer than seven inches. Don’t purchase mobiles that have parts that can loosen and fall into the crib.

…to be on a napping schedule?
Babies are generally more contented and calmer when you’ve scheduled their eating, playing and sleeping for roughly the same time each day. Little ones aged six to 12 months need about 14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour day. A common, easy-to-follow routine for infants this age would be to wake your babe, feed her, have playtime, put her down for a nap and then repeat the cycle. The time of day you do this is your choice; just make sure it becomes routine.

*Please note that the information provided should be used a guideline. If you’re concerned about a something specific always consult your family doctor or paediatrician.