Sleep is king in my house. Actually, let me rephrase that. Sleep is king in my house—to me. Like most families, my children have had their fair share of sleep challenges, which also means I have had my fair share of sleep challenges. But I heard some great advice from some wiser mothers about the beauty of implementing “sleep cues” to your baby, which are physical objects that can signal to your baby that it’s time for sleep. For instance, a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket can serve as a sleep cue. Here are a few simple sleep cues that you can implement right now to help your little one learn to drift off to dreamland, no pixie dust required:
1. Use a pacifier—only for sleep. One mom I know uses a pacifier solely as a sleep cue for her little one. She doesn’t allow her baby to have a pacifier at any other time except for nap time and bed time, so it serves as a sleep cue for him to sleep. As soon as she pulls out the pacifier, he knows it’s sleepy time. And, as a bonus, the pacifier is soothing to help lull your little one to sleep.
2. Use a fan. I use fans in my house as a sleep cue. They’re off during the day, but when I’m winding down the kids for a nap or bedtime, I always switch on the fans first. It helps them get into the sleep routine, drowns out any other noises going in the house or outside, and I think it’s soothing to create a calming environment. (Especially in the summer, when it’s hot out.)
3. Use the same blanket. Even if your baby doesn’t have a favorite blanket for bedtime, it can be helpful to use the same blanket for rocking her or swaddling her for sleep. We use the same blanket for naps and bedtime and as soon as I pull it out, my daughter starts doing her little “hold me, Mama!” cry because she knows it’s cuddle time. It’s kind of adorable. (Also, you may want to buy a back-up of your sleep cue blankets, because you know accidents will happen.)
4. Read a book. You knew this one was coming, but it’s solid advice because it works. Even if you think your baby is too young, the act of sitting with you and hearing your voice while you read a book will be soothing and the whole process can be a sleep cue to signal your baby it’s time to hit the hay.