Toronto Zoo

The secrets to sleep and safety

By Christine Davis

When I had newborn babies at home one of the first things people always asked me was: “Is the baby sleeping through the night yet?”

Before becoming a parent I had no idea that getting a baby to sleep through the night would be my penultimate goal. With my daughter, my first, I got lucky. At seven weeks she slept through the night and pretty much has continued that way for the last four years.

My son, however, was a different story. He didn’t sleep for the better part of a year.

As I write this, just by fluke on the one-year anniversary of when he finally started sleeping through the night, I almost forget how exhausted I was. I say almost because last night was the first decent sleep I’ve had in a month because both kids have been sick on and off and I’ve been back and forth between their rooms, alternately soothing them, trying to sleep with them and sometimes just cleaning up their vomit.

According to sleep consultants, and parents of six, Brad and Greta Zude, babies need two main things to successfully sleep through the night.

“The first is enough calories throughout the daytime,” they begin, “the second is a stomach big enough to hold all those calories.” The Zudes say this typically happens around the 8 to 10 week mark, at which time most babies have the ability to sleep up to eight solid hours at a time.

My son clearly didn’t get that memo.

There are many ways to help ensure babies are getting the calories they need through the day and one of the best, according to the Zudes, is by keeping them on some kind of schedule.

“Some of the best advice in having a solid routine is doing things in this order: Eat, play, sleep,” they say, explaining that when babies get up, they are wide awake and can take a good, full feeding. The Zudes then suggest letting baby play for a while after eating, before their next nap. “This helps avoid falling asleep while feeding.”

This is the first of three tips the Zudes, who are also founders of MyBabyCanSleep.com, share in their widely popular “3 Secrets of A Sleeping Baby” video.

Secret number two is that children must be taught sleep, not bought sleep. “There is no need to buy expensive toys, gadgets and beds for sleep. A good routine and full feedings will get you there!”

The third and final secret is that information alone is not enough. “Having a new baby is an exhausting time and reading a book and expecting your baby to follow it the next day is a little lofty,” they say. Instead, the consultants, who have helped thousands of babies around the world get sleeping through the night with their online Sleep Accelerator Course, say that parents need answers and support. “Ideally you just want someone to tell you what to do and help you do it. That’s what we do. We take all the guesswork and anxiety away from moms.”

In addition to a routine, full belly and support, babies also need a safe place in which to sleep.

That safe place, according to the Zudes is a crib with nothing else in it. “A tightly fitted sheet, no blankets, no padded bumper and no toys.” Though the sleep consultants admit it sounds “pretty crazy” they say it’s what is safest for babies.

I discovered baby sleep sacks as an alternative to blankets. Not only do they keep baby safe and warm in their crib, they also signify sleep time to babies, playing a significant role in their bedtime routine – along with stories, of course.

As babies grow and begin exploring their surroundings, they need more safe spaces in their lives.

While most parents are familiar with the term “baby proofing your house” the Zudes say you should also house proof your baby.
“Baby proofing your house refers to moving and securing things in your house. House proofing your baby means teaching your baby boundaries and teaching them certain things are off limits.” While they say that you still want to lock up things like dangerous chemicals, you also want to be sure to help your baby understand that “it is not OK to go into the kitchen and empty every cupboard and play with what they want.”  

And when they do empty the kitchen cupboards you can clean it up once they go to bed and sleep through the night.