Despite how much babies need sleep, getting them to actually go down is the biggest challenge. It feels like you’re constantly trying to find right formula. Is it warm bath + lullaby? White noise + pacifier? It often feels like half guesswork, half magic. And when you’re frantically pacing the driveway at 3 AM trying to get your baby to sleep, you’ll do anything to find a solution.
Hence, parents get very creative, engineering fake hands with kitchen gloves or shelling out major cash for a baby sleep coach. There are a ton of different methods (and if it works for your baby, it works), but there may be a simpler way to get a handle on your baby’s sleep cycles. Enter baby sleep tracking, your secret weapon.
Whether your baby is facing some serious sleep struggles, or you simply want to figure out ways to improve their sleep (and squeeze an extra 15 minutes of shut-eye into your own schedule), baby sleep tracking is the one habit that may drastically improve your parenting life.
Why Baby Sleep Tracking Can Save Your Sanity
After becoming new parents ourselves, we quickly learned how precious sleep is. But getting your baby to get on board can be a challenge. We’ve always known about the power of data, but we became particularly interested in baby sleep tracking after reading a fascinating article by Slate writer Amy Webb about how tracking data made her a better parent.
As Amy writes, “It occurred to us that while our baby daughter couldn’t communicate directly beyond crying, we could have a deeply intimate, beneficial conversation with her through data.”
This is why baby sleep tracking is so helpful. The more data you collect about your baby’s sleep life, as well as the elements that influence it, the more you can understand and improve it. Not to mention that data can be both insightful and beautiful. (Reddit user andrew_elliott had Reddit geeking out over his stunning visualization of his baby daughter’s sleep data.)
What Baby Sleep Tracking Can Tell You
Baby sleep tracking sounds cool, but what can it really do for you? First, let’s dispel a myth. Sleep tracking doesn’t directly influence your baby’s sleep. It’s simply a tool to help you see the bigger picture, to intimately understand your baby’s sleep patterns. With that insight, you can change behaviors and habits, both your own and your baby’s, and that’s what ultimately helps improve your baby’s sleep life (and, by default, your own).
So what exactly are you supposed to be tracking? You can track both sleep-specific data, as well as additional variables that may influence that data, including:
1) The amount of sleep your baby is getting. When babies are sleep deprived, life is pretty miserable for everyone. Making sure your baby gets enough sleep is crucial. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:
- Babies 0-3 months: 14-17 hours per 24-hour day, including 8-12 hours of sleep at night.
- Babies 4-11 months: 12-15 total hours of sleep per day, including sleeping through the night (up to 5 consecutive hours).
With baby sleep tracking, you can track exactly how much sleep your baby is getting in a 24-hour cycle.
2) When your baby goes to sleep and wakes up. Sleep times are an important part of sleep training, but it can be challenging to master if your baby’s circadian rhythm is off. Monitoring these times helps you better strategize how (and if) you need to tweak the schedule. (It can also be incredibly helpful if you are prepping your baby for a vacation, time change, or move.)
- Moods (crying, etc.)
- Diaper changes
Baby Sleep Tracking Tools Available
There are several ways to start baby sleep tracking. What matters is finding the right tool for your needs and lifestyle. Remember that baby sleep tracking doesn’t have to be an overwhelming data-collecting project. All you need to worry about is tracking the core info you want to track. To do this, you can choose either digital or analog options.
- Print: Pen and paper may seem old school, but it can be a simpler way to go—especially if you’re trying to keep yourself (and your baby) away from screens, beeps, and other digital distractions. You can simply start a sleep log, or go for something more visual, such as our baby sleep tracking poster, which lets you track sleep data, as well as other variables, for your baby’s first year. (An added bonus: Once completed, the poster makes a beautiful piece of art for your baby’s nursery.)
- Apps: Like all sorts of other habit trackers, there are several apps available to help you monitor your baby’s sleep (and other data). More popular ones include BabyConnect, Total Baby, or TrixieTracker. A caveat: While digital apps can be helpful, extra screen time can actually interrupt your own sleep—the last thing exhausted parents need.
Even if you only do it for a month, it's worth experimenting with these tools to help both your baby and yourself, so we hope you'll give it a try. And if you want to find out more about our unique sleep tracking tools, check out our sleep tracking posters for adults and babies.