Desperate for advice on how to help your baby sleep? There can certainly be nothing more exhausting than spending the wee small hours rocking and comforting a fractious baby that simply cannot doze off. So we have put together these six handy tips to help you both get a good night’s sleep with the minimum of upset and temper tantrums.
1. Make sure your baby naps in the day
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your baby will sleep better at night if you stop them from napping in the day.
If your baby isn’t getting enough proper naps in the daytime they will get over-tired and grumpy during the day and be more likely to wake up during the night. So, as soon as you see them getting tired, take them to their cot and let them get their baby sleep.
Also, try not to only let them nap when they are out an about in the car or a pram. If you do this, they will start to expect to be in motion when they wake up and will feel they need this to fall asleep again. Some babies even get accustomed to the sound of a motor running as they fall asleep and wake up, so try hard not to let this connection happen or there will be a lot of late night trips out to the car!
2. Use light to establish routine
Just as we adults tend to feel more alert at dawn and more tired at dusk, your child will start to be affected by daylight hours once they are a few weeks old. As such, make sure to get plenty of light for your baby during the day by opening curtains and getting out and about. Equally, if they need to have a daytime nap then make sure you don’t let them sleep in a darkened room.
Then when night does fall they will get used to feeling that it is time to go to bed. You can make it seem darker on long summer days by closing the blinds earlier in the evening and using a dimmer switch. If they do wake in the night, remember to keep the lights low. Otherwise, a bright light is likely to signify to your baby that it is time to be up and about; not something you want at two o’ clock in the morning!
3. Change their expectations
In the early days, it is quite normal to want to rock your baby to sleep before putting them to bed. However, as they get older try letting them lay down more often without you hugging them first. By doing this, you will stop their sense of needing to have a cuddle before they can sleep.
In a similar way, if they expect to be fed just before bedtime, try and keep them awake for a while after feeding. By doing this you will again change the expectation that they cannot sleep unless they have just been fed.
4. Wind down at bedtime
As well as dimming the lights as bedtime approaches, you can also establish a calming and relaxing bedtime routine that will help your baby sleep. For example, you could give your baby a bath or a massage or read to them in soft tones.
Try to start this a good hour before bedtime so they have plenty of time to unwind after a day of toys, noise and other stimulating activity.
5. Ensure they are wearing a clean, well-fitting nappy
Before putting your baby to bed make sure that their nappy is not soiled in any way and put them in a fresh nappy if needed. That way, they will go to bed dry and comfortable, which is more likely to help your baby sleep easily.
Another thing to make sure is that you put them in a nappy that fits properly. Too tight and your baby is likely to be uncomfortable; too loose and it is liable to leak, leaving a soggy bed that nobody would want to sleep in!
6. Don’t rush over when your baby wakes
Although it can be tempting to rush into your baby’s room whenever you hear a soft sleepy whine, quite often they will just slip back into a happy sleep if you let them.
Equally, if they do sound like they are becoming more distressed, just go into them quietly and reassure them. By preventing their stress from escalating, you can often ease them back to sleep quite quickly.
Of course, there will always be times when bad dreams, discomfort or a sense of being left alone will rouse your baby to a full-blown crying fit. However, by gauging the times when their stress can be easily soothed you will set the scene for calmer nights overall.
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