Should I Log My Baby's Sleep?
Parents frequently question what information they should be tracking for their new baby. Usually, when you leave the hospital you are tracking diapers and feedings. But should you also be tracking sleep?
The short answer is that it depends! For the first 6-8 weeks, and up to 16 weeks, sleep will be disorganized as your baby has no circadian rhythms to help regulate a schedule. Tracking sleep this early on can be frustrating and lead to the misconception that a pattern should be emerging when in fact, this is very unlikely. After 6-8 weeks, however, tracking sleep can be a useful tool in helping to get to know your baby’s sleepy cues and to identify emerging patterns. While circadian rhythms do not solidify until closer to 16 weeks, there is some important information you can learn about your baby before this time.
In the first 16 weeks of your baby’s life, your primary job when it comes to sleep, is to ensure your baby is well rested. There is little risk of developing so called “bad habits” prior to 16 weeks and this is especially true for babies less than 6-8 weeks. After around 6-8 weeks when your baby is socially smiling and making eye contact, sleep associations can start to form. Sleep associations can be positive or negative. A negative sleep association would be one that you are unable to sustain long term. Rocking your baby to sleep is an example of a sleep association that can be positive or negative depending on your baby and parenting style. If you are able to rock your baby to sleep and then place him/her in their crib and they sleep all night (except for necessary feedings) then this could be considered a positive association. If, however you are rocking your baby to sleep at the beginning of the night and your baby is then waking up every hour and you feel you cannot sustain this habit, then rocking to sleep would be considered a negative sleep association. So, while primarily you are still ensuring your baby stays well rested, logging sleep can help to identify developing sleep associations in addition to patterns starting around 6-8 weeks.
What information should I log?
Good Morning Time: Record what time your baby wakes for the day. You could also include your baby’s mood upon waking if you’d like. If you do not have black out shades and are noticing your baby’s wake up time changing with the amount of sun that’s shining in the morning, then consider darkening the room.
Daytime Sleepy Signs: What was your child’s mood right before a nap? Was your baby calm, hyperactive, yawning, stretching, shaking their head, rubbing their eyes, or something else? These are all considered sleepy signs. What time did your baby start showing their sleepy signs? Record it!
Daytime Sleep: Log the time your baby falls asleep for naps, where they slept, and how they fell asleep. Did you have to feed, rock, or walk your baby to sleep? Record it! Did your child sleep in the crib, bassinet, stroller, car, or somewhere else? Log it! In addition to the time your baby fell asleep, record the time they woke up.
Mood Right Before Bedtime: What is your baby’s mood right before bedtime? This can give you and your friendly sleep consultant (should you ever need one) a lot of helpful information. If your child is calm, happy, and bright eyed, this could mean your child is well rested. If, however, your baby is fidgety, fussy, cranky, emotionally labile, or hyperactive at the end of the day you may consider that your baby needs more rest.
Bedtime and Routine: Record the time you put your baby to bed as well as what was required to help your baby fall asleep. Were you able to leave baby in the crib awake and leave the room while he/she fell asleep? Did you have to feed baby to sleep or rub their belly or use your voice to “shush” him/her to sleep? All of these things are okay, by the way! It can just be helpful to know what your baby needs to fall asleep.
Nighttime Wake Ups: Now record every time your baby wakes up in the night. Does your baby wake up and need you to help them back to sleep? Record it! Or, when yours baby wakes up can he/she sometimes put themself back to sleep without your help? Record that too.
Try not to look at day to day progress because this can be frustrating. Progress with sleep training efforts can be nonlinear when you look at the day to day. If you step back and look at the weeks and even months, however, that is where you may start to see some great progress. Often times a napping schedule won’t start to emerge until as late as 6 months, especially if nighttime sleep hasn’t consolidated quite yet. So keep your expectations in check and be patient. You can’t necessarily force your child into a pattern, but you can support emerging patterns!
When I customize a 2-week sleep plan for a family who has a baby less than 2 years old I always give them a sleep log to fill out if they aren’t already utilizing one. For a sleep consultant, having this data is so important in helping to coax out naturally emerging schedules and patterns and to help track progress. When a family is already tracking sleep before working with me, we are usually able to use their pre-existing sleep log. If you are tracking your baby’s sleep and would like some help analyzing the data, feel free to give me a call. I’m happy to take a look via my Happy Littles Connecting 3-Day Email Plan or my Happy Littles Questions 30-Minute Phone Call Plan.