Getting your baby to sleep well is one of the best gifts you can give yourself as the exhausted parent of a young child. But it isn’t always easy. There are many variables at play, some of which you have control over and some of which you don’t. And that’s where baby sleep tracking comes in.
By tracking data related to your baby's sleeping habits, you can gain greater insight how much (and how well) your baby is sleeping, as well as the factors that may influence it. This insight gives you valuable clues as to what you can do to improve their sleep and, by extension, the quality of your own life.
Luckily, baby sleep tracking isn't that hard to do. Even if you try it for just a month, you can still see major benefits. So why not experiment?
How to Start Baby Sleep Tracking
Baby sleep tracking is a practice that can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like it to be. It really just depends on your needs. If you haven’t done it before (or want to get back into it), try our step-by-step guide to do it the right way and get the best results.
1) Choose the Right Tool For You
To really get the best results from baby sleep tracking (aka the best insights), you need to be consistent in tracking. That means making it a regular habit. That said, we know parents can be tired and distracted. Therefore, you need to choose the right tool that will help you track your baby’s sleep.
Depending on your lifestyle, the number of people caring for your child, and your preferred method of organization, you may choose between pen-and-paper tracking or digital tracking. There are pros and cons to each.
Pen-and-paper tracking: This type of tracking works best for people who prefer paper planners and other analog forms of organization, as well as those who don’t want yet another digital intrusion into their lives. It’s easy to jot down your baby’s sleep data, but it does require you to keep a consistent log around. If that’s your style, you can use several options:
- Printable sleep logs (available online)
- Baby sleep tracking poster
Digital tracking: Like everything these days, there are plenty of ways to use technology to help you track. Digital tracking still requires you to input the data, but it may be convenient if you’re already tracking things like feedings. Digital tracking is also helpful if you have multiple caretakers who are tracking the data (e.g., mom, dad, and nanny). There are also several options here:
2) Start With the Basics
You may be sleep tracking to simply gain insight into your baby’s sleep schedule—or because you desperately need to figure out how to get your shrieking demon to go down. Therefore, the type of data you track really depends on your goals.
That said, when you first start baby sleep tracking, it can be track the basics—the core data that can give you a baseline and a general snapshot of your baby’s sleep life. These include:Sleep and wake times: When does your baby go down and wake up? (This includes naps and overnight.) This is important to track to get a sense of your baby’s everyday schedule.
Amount of sleep: It’s crucial that your baby get enough sleep for their physical and cognitive development. Tracking how much sleep your baby gets in a 24-hour cycle (both naps and overnight) helps you ensure they’re hitting their quota.
Number of naps: How many naps are they taking each day? How does it affect their nighttime sleep? Tracking this data helps you ensure that your baby’s sleep is properly distributed throughout the day.
You can certainly track more sleep-related data, but these are a good place to start.
3) Consider What Other Variables Might Help to Track
The goal of baby sleep tracking is to understand your baby’s sleep life, as well as the factors that influence it. There are many things that can affect your baby's sleep, from feedings to baths. Additional data can be extremely helpful to gain larger insights, including things like:
- Diaper changes
- Play time
- Bedtime routine
As you try to build your baby’s sleep schedule, these may be the clues that will help you do it successfully.
4) Visualize Your Data
Unless you’re a data genius, just looking at your data—numbers in a spreadsheet or notes in a journal—won’t help you identify patterns. But if you can really “see” the data, you can easily spot trends. Tip: Even if you’re print tracking, visualizing your data (and color-coding) makes it much easier to see. (With our baby sleep tracking poster you can even turn that data into a pretty art piece to hang in your nursery.)
5) Look for Patterns and Trends
The more data you track, the clearer picture you can get. You can look at things like sleep and wake times, how certain schedule changes affect the amount of sleep your baby gets, as well as the variables that may improve or hurt your baby’s sleep. For example, you might see that feedings help your baby get to sleep quicker, or that longer naps reduce the quality of her nighttime sleep.
6) Experiment and Track the Results
Here’s where baby sleep tracking really shines. The insights you gain through the data can help you figure out what habits or behaviors you can change to help your baby sleep better. For example, through baby sleep tracking, writer Amy Webb discovered that swaddling and singing a song at a specific time drastically improved her baby’s sleep.
7) Rest Easy
Hopefully baby sleep tracking gives you a deeper understanding of your baby’s sleep life, helping you improve (or optimize) it as best you can. That said, if you’ve experimented and experimented and still felt unsuccessful, consult your pediatrician. At the very least, all that sleep tracking data will provide your doctor with invaluable data that can help them create a better sleep plan for your baby.
Consider How Sleep Tracking Can Help You Too
Remember: It's not just about your baby's sleep. If you’ve found success with baby sleep tracking, you may want to explore how data tracking can help your own sleep life. (For more on that, find out about the benefits of adult sleep tracking.)