How to Get Your Baby to Sleep
Knowing how to get your baby to sleep can mean the difference between a good and a bad night’s sleep for you as well. A sleeping baby can mean you wake with the energy to best care for your child whilst still have a little spare for day to day chores and activities. The following ‘how to’ breaks down the different areas of typical parental concerns.
1- Establish a proper place to sleep. For the first six months your baby should be in the same room as you when they’re asleep, both day and night. Particularly in the early weeks, you may find that your baby only falls asleep in your or your partner’s arms, or when you’re standing by the cot. You can start getting your baby used to going to sleep without you comforting them by putting them down before they fall asleep or when they’ve just finished a feed. It may be easier to do this once your baby starts to stay alert more frequently or for longer.
2- Have your baby appreciate that night is different to day. It’s a good idea to teach your baby that night time is different to daytime from the start. During the day, open curtains, play games and don’t worry too much about everyday noises when they sleep. At night, you might find it helpful to: keep the lights down low, not talk much and keep your voice quiet, put your baby down as soon as they’ve been fed and changed, not change your baby unless they need it, not play with your baby. Soon, your baby will learn that night time is for sleeping.
3- Leave a little time between your baby’s feed and bedtime. If you feed your baby to sleep, feeding and going to sleep will become linked in your baby’s mind. When they wake in the night, they’ll want a feed to help them go back to sleep.
4- Introduce a bedtime routine when your baby is around three months old. Getting them into a simple, soothing bedtime routine can be helpful for everyone and can help prevent sleeping problems later on. It’s also great one-to-one with your baby. The routine could consist of: having a bath, changing into night clothes and a fresh nappy, brushing their teeth (if they have any!), putting to bed, reading a bedtime story, dimming the lights in the room to create a calm atmosphere, giving a goodnight kiss and cuddle, singing a lullaby or having a wind-up musical mobile that you can turn on when you’ve put your baby to bed. Leave the room while your baby is still awake, happy and relaxed and they will learn how to fall asleep on their own in their cot. Try to avoid getting them to sleep by rocking or cuddling them in your arms. If they get used to falling asleep in your arms, they may need nursing back to sleep if they wake up again. As your child gets older, it can be helpful to keep to a similar bedtime routine. Too much excitement and stimulation just before bedtime can wake your child up again. Spend some time winding down and doing some calmer activities, like reading.
5- Learn how much sleep is enough. Just as with adults, babies’ and children’s sleep patterns vary. From birth, some babies need more sleep or less sleep than others. This list shows the average amount of sleep that babies and children need during a 24-hour period, including daytime naps. Birth to three months: most newborn babies are asleep more than they are awake. Their total daily sleep varies, but can be from eight hours, up to 16-18 hours. Babies will wake during the night because they need to be fed. Being too hot or too cold can also disturb their sleep. Three to six months: as your baby grows, they’ll need fewer night feeds and be able to sleep for longer. Some babies will sleep for eight hours or longer at night. By four months, they could be spending around twice as long sleeping at night as they do during the day. Six to 12 months: at this age, night feeds should no longer be necessary, and some babies will sleep for up to 12 hours at night. Teething discomfort or hunger may wake some babies during the night. 12 months: babies will sleep for around 12-15 hours in total. Two years: most two-year-olds will sleep for 11-12 hours at night, with one or two naps in the daytime. Three to four years: most will need about 12 hours sleep, but this can range from 8 hours up to 14. Some young children will still need a nap during the day.
6- Resist the urge to rush in if your baby murmurs in the night. Leave them for a few minutes and see if they settle on their own. Having said that, newborn babies invariably wake up repeatedly in the night for the first few months and disturbed nights can be very hard to cope with.
7- Be prepared to change it up if they’re experiencing sleep problems. All new babies change their patterns. Just when you think you have it sorted and you’ve all had a good night’s sleep, the next night you might be up every two hours. Be prepared to change routines as your baby grows and enters different stages. And remember, growth spurts, teething and illnesses can all affect how your baby sleeps. If your baby is having problems sleeping or you need more advice about getting into a routine, speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor.
Cot death (sudden infant death syndrome). Theory on cot death changes regularly. Consult your governmental health are websites for most up to date information on best sleeping practice.