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10 crucial habits that help baby (and parents!) get better sleep

Teaching your baby healthy sleep habits doesn't have to start when they've reached a certain age or milestone. Although each developmental stage will have different sleeping habits and patterns, introducing healthy sleep hygiene from the start is a great way to ensure long-term sleep health.

Adopt these 10 sleep habits with your child from birth to help you establish a strong foundation for sleep. (And don't worry, if your baby is older, you can still incorporate these habits into your current routine!)

1. Use light and darkness to your advantage. 

Exposing your baby to light first thing in the morning and throughout the day will help them distinguish the difference between day and night, driving their circadian rhythm. Natural sunlight will keep baby alert and stimulated throughout the day, which is important for development.

Darkness is equally as important. Your baby's room should be dark for all naps and bedtime, signaling to their body that it is time to sleep. In the evening, you can start dimming the lights in the house about two hours before bedtime to prepare them for the transition to sleep.

2. Develop a routine

Even when your baby is a newborn, you can start thinking about a routine that will help them learn when sleep is coming. Although a newborn's sleeping patterns are erratic and unpredictable, a bedtime routine is still beneficial at any age.

When your child is younger the routine will likely include more rocking and helping to settle, whereas an older baby might fall asleep more independently. Some ideas for a routine are: Bath, books, rocking, swaddling, infant massage and singing. Of course, you can decide what works best for your family and your baby.

3. Eliminate exposure to blue lights and electronics before bed.

This is true at any age, including adulthood. Blue lights from screens easily suppress melatonin, our sleepy hormone, and it happens fairly quickly. This is why it is best to turn off the television and any other electronics at least two hours before bedtime.

​4. Keep your baby's sleep environment consistent.

When your baby is first born, it might seem like they will fall asleep anywhere and everywhere and it will be tempting to let them do so. While napping on the go is somewhat inevitable for the first couple months, I always encourage sleep to happen in your baby's own sleep environment.

So whether that is in a bassinet in your room or a crib in their room, teaching them to sleep in the same environment consistently will help avoid difficult transitions later and encourage longer sleep stretches without distraction.

​5. Encourage healthy sleep "props."

Many parents worry that the use of a pacifier or other sleep objects creates a habit that is difficult to break later on, but I highly encourage the use of sleep objects as long as they don't become the only thing that will get your child to sleep.

A pacifier, white noise machine, lovey, small blanket, or swaddle/sleep sack are all great sleep promoting objects, depending on baby's age. Many babies will naturally transition out of using one or more of these items as they get older and if they don't you can help them do so using various methods.

6. Honor sleepy signs and cues. 

Most babies will show clear signs that they are ready for sleep as early as six weeks. Following appropriate awake windows for your baby's age will help avoid over-tiredness, but sometimes listening to your baby is all you need to do.

Rubbing their eyes, consistent yawning, extreme fussiness and drooping eyes, are all signs that your child is ready for sleep soon and it is important to put them down quickly to avoid missing that window.

​7. Make sure your baby's environment promotes sleep.

One of the reasons sleep in transit or sleeping in different environments each day isn't a great idea is because it can be overstimulating and distracting for your baby. But some parents don't realize that their baby's room or dedicated sleep environment is also distracting.

The area that your baby is sleeping should be free of distraction, which includes toys, lights, artwork, and colors. It is best to have minimal objects in the room and neutral colors to eliminate overstimulation.

Room temperature is also key as you don't want your baby waking because they are too cold or too hot. The recommended room temperature for your baby is between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.

​8. Follow a consistent schedule and routine as best as possible. 

For the first eight weeks of your baby's life, a schedule really isn't possible since sleep isn't consolidated yet. As they get older, it is a good idea to set consistent nap and bedtimes and stick to it. As your baby's sleep cycles develop, she will have the ability to follow a schedule and it is a good idea to implement one that you follow consistently.

Of course, there will be times when you need to adjust nap times because of a commitment, traveling, or having to get out of the house, but it shouldn't be the norm. I encourage the 80/20 rule which means 80% of the time you are following a sleep schedule and 20% of the time you can be a bit more relaxed.

​9. Practice independent sleep skills.

When your child is younger, they will need more assistance from you to fall and stay asleep. As babies develop, they have the capability of sleeping independently more often and it is important to encourage that.

Independent sleeping does not mean you should leave your child to cry until they fall asleep, as this is often the perception—but, rather teaching them that they can fall back asleep on their own as they transition from one sleep cycle to the next.

One way you can do this is by recognizing what their noises and cries mean and when you need to come to their assistance. For example, it is completely normal for your baby to wake up multiple times throughout the night and stir, change positions or make noises.

If you run into their room the moment they're awake, they'll associate all wake-ups with a parent coming to the rescue. If you allow them the opportunity to fall back asleep, they will learn that they are capable of doing so.

If they become upset very quickly after waking up, that might be an indication that something else is going on and they truly do need assistance.

10. Prioritize adequate nutrition. 

It is important that your baby is getting enough to eat during the day to avoid multiple night wakings. Although babies newborn to about 6 months will still be taking feeds at night, it is a good idea to encourage a full belly throughout the day and before bed.

Once they start solids, you want to avoid certain foods, such as sugar, that could interfere with their ability to fall asleep.

Healthy sleep is as vital to our bodies as eating and drinking and although baby sleep can seem complex, starting with these foundations might be all that your baby needs to become a great sleeper!

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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