Hmmm, s-l-e-e-p. It’s pretty high on everyone’s list of priorities, and here are some tips to help you and bub get more of the good stuff. It’s important to remember, though, we’re all individuals and there are no set rules for baby sleep, so if you have a system you’re happy with, stick to it.
A good night starts in the day
If your little one has unsettled days it can flow on to night-time when she may be too stressed to sleep. Try these tips:
- Make naptime the same time each day
- Make sure she has plenty of day feeds
- Wake her after a couple of hours of day napping for longer night stints
- Playtime and walks outside late in the afternoon make for a sleepy baby.
Follow the same routine every night to help her see the signs. Make an evening ritual of bathtime, a feed, a short play and top it off with relaxing time. This can include a story, gentle music or a lullaby. It will relax you too and you will learn what night habits work best.
What to wear?
Dress her in clothes that aren’t too heavy or restrictive. A baby regulates her temperature through her face, so follow SIDS and Kids recommendations and leave her head bare and put her to bed on her back.
A sleep-friendly setting
Put baby to bed in the same place each night, preferably where it’s dark and with no interesting things like mobiles to gaze at. But remember that baby is an individual and might not like this scenario, so experiment. A humming fridge, a radio turned down low and slightly off the station, or even sharing a room can work wonders.
The room needs to be warm but be careful it’s not overheated. Use your own temperature as a guide and check your baby later in the evening.
Fill them up
There’s mixed opinion about whether a filled-up baby sleeps longer. Some say a quiet, late-evening feed without even a nappy change will help baby stay full and sleep for longer. The other school of thought is that this feed will give them an unsettled tummy and wake them. They are both valid points and the only way to find out what works is to experiment with your own baby.
To wrap or not to wrap?
Swaddling is the art of wrapping your baby in a light cloth to sleep. Research has shown that it helps babies to sleep longer, mostly because it cuts down on startle movements and helps them to self-settle during the night. Most babies feel more secure if they’re wrapped but it’s important to allow some movement, especially of their legs.
Day is different to night
It’s never too early to teach baby about day and night, and they can start getting the hang of it around the age
of 3 to 6 months. To help the process:
- Play with your baby after each day feed. This can include time on the rug without a nappy, talks or just being carried around the house to have a look at things.
- The house doesn’t need to be completely quiet for day naps as they are meant to be shorter.
- Don’t ignore signs of tiredness, because if she misses day sleeps she may become overtired and not sleep well at night.
- Keep things quieter at night so your baby learns that this is not the time to party. Using this time to sleep and not catch up on work will also help your sleep patterns.
- During night feeds use minimal lighting, don’t play with or stimulate baby and keep equipment handy so nappy changes aren’t a big event.
- Don’t let bub cry for too long or a quick feed may be difficult to achieve.
Read the signs
A surprising number of parents struggle with grizzly babies who really just need to go to sleep. An overtired baby may strenuously resist a bit of shut-eye.
Signs your lovely one is tired include:
- Clenching fists
- Not doing anything
A relaxation bath and patting him off to sleep in a firm manner will help him realise that he really is awfully tired.
Bedtime is for sleeping
If your baby goes to sleep during his pre-bedtime feed, jostle him a little, just enough so that he opens his eyes and is aware when he’s being put to bed. This encourages independent sleeping, and when he wakes during the night he’ll be able to get himself back off to sleep.
Everyone else’s baby sleeps at night
Babies cry – it’s what they do – and around one-third of babies develop some form of excessively disturbed sleep. Remember that some parents may also develop memory lapses about their baby’s behaviour.
I need to do this on my own
No you don’t. If you find you have a little night owl you need to get some sleep for your and baby’s wellbeing.
The first rule of parenting is not to be a martyr. If someone trustworthy offers help, grab it with both hands. There are many books and websites about sleepless babies, and helplines to call if it’s all getting too much.
He’s a bad sleeper like his sister
How we sleep is largely a learned behaviour and this can be ‘unlearned’ with time, effort and perhaps some professional help.
It’s one of those days. We’re both just overtired.
Ignore the chores, order takeaway and enjoy some relaxed quiet time with your little one.
Play some soothing music and have a relaxing bath together. Get your partner to help your baby to relax so you can have a breather.
For a comprehensive list of helplines visit http://www.raisingchildren.net.au and click on the ‘services and support’ link.
If you’re ever distressed or concerned about your baby’s wellbeing, contact your local hospital or GP.
What are your baby's sleep problems? or what are your tricks to get your baby to sleep through the night? Discuss this topic with other mums in our forum...