Has your “lullaby and goodnight” ever looked a little more like “lullaby and see you in 2 hours?” (Cue the collective sigh.) Cracking baby’s sleep code can be one of the first major challenges parents face, you know, after the whole getting a human being out of your body thing.  Good sleep habits for babies and toddlers require a few things—a solid routine, a bit of luck (spoiler alert: some babies don’t need tons of sleep!), and a little help along the way.  For the how and when of implementing a bedtime routine, the latest in sleep aid technology, and what signs to look for in an overtired baby, we drilled Rebecca Michi, the go-to children’s sleep expert for Whisbear, a snuggly sleep aid that uses pink noise and cry sensor technology to help baby get to sleep…and stay asleep.

Is there an ideal window of time to implement a bedtime routine with a baby? 

I always suggest trying to relax for the first 12 weeks; this is the fourth trimester and time for healing, bonding, and establishing feeding. The 12-week mark is the perfect time to introduce a night routine.

What are some elements that make up a good bedtime routine for a baby — enough to help them relax and signal it’s time to sleep, but not too much that it becomes overstimulating? Does this change over time?

We always want our bedtime routine to be nice and consistent, that means doing the same thing, in the same place, in the same order. The consistency and predictability is relaxing to your child as they know what will be happening next. Us humans find that relaxing, and the more relaxed your child is, the easier time they will have falling and remaining asleep. The brain will also have an easier time falling asleep as it knows that sleep is coming and is getting ready for sleep when you are working through your routine.

A bedtime routine should be between 20 and 45 minutes long, and should have at least four steps to it. Going into the bedroom, some relaxed play, massage, books, songs, feed, rocking, etc. are all great steps to have as part of the routine. The routine can be lengthened out as your child grows by making each step longer; a longer playtime, more books, and song, etc.

Let’s chat sleep aids.  They can be a total lifesaver, but should parents be concerned with letting their babies rely on them for too long? Like, well-into-toddlerhood too long?

No, not at all. If something makes it easier for your child to sleep, continue to use it! Plus, [a sleep aid like] Whisbear is so portable, it is easy to travel with.

What makes Whisbear different from other sleep aids out there?

Whisbear has a CRYsensor, meaning when it recognizes a cry, it will start up the pink noise again.  The noise starting again can actually help your child to soothe, stop crying, and fall back asleep. The Whisbear is portable, meaning it can be used at home, or in the car or stroller.

When newborns start to stir, fuss, or cry in the night, should parents give them a few minutes to settle back in?

I am a fan of listening to the cry. If your child is crying urgently go to them and help them, they are asking for help, no matter the age. If they are fussing and whining, you can wait until you feel that they are asking for help before going and helping. You never know… they may not need help and can get themselves back to sleep without you needing to help.

We know that every baby’s sleep schedule will look a little different.  Is there a way to measure what a healthy night’s sleep looks like?

Every child is unique and has a unique amount of sleep they need per 24 hours. The ranges of normal are quite large: anything between 10 and 19 hours per 24 hours at 3 months is a normal amount of sleep, and between 11 and 15 1/2 hours per 24 hours at 24 months. Look at how your child seems between naps. Do they seem tired and grumpy halfway through their awake times during the day? If so, they could probably use some more day and/or night sleep. You may be tired with the amount of sleep they are getting and they may be on the lower need for sleep, but if they seem okay and are quite happy, they are probably getting enough.