Top Baby Sleep Tips
I know sleep is an issue that can drive parents totally insane and to help you, I want to share some of my top baby sleep tips.
Some of these top baby sleep tips may seem obvious, but in my experience, with all the newness of your baby and with ‘my whole world as I know it is now totally turned upside down’ effect, it can be hard to be clear-headed and focus on simple thoughts!
Your baby will cry. A lot. This is normal. It’s ok. It’s your babies way of talking; expressing their needs.So many parents get in a panic when their baby cries, feeling they are doing something wrong. Nope, probably not. Over time you will learn to differentiate their cries for food, sleep etc and understand their needs better. In these early months, listen and tune into them. They really do spend a lot of time sleeping and feeding and I guess a lot of these top baby sleep tips that follow are to help pave the way for the future of good sleeping not only for your baby as they grow into a toddler then a child, but for your whole family.
To start with, it’s pretty clear to say how hard the early weeks and months can be. There might be other reasons that make it even more challenging such as reflux, colic, issues with breastfeeding. What’s so important to remember and always keep in mind (it’s tricky but please try, a sleep-deprived person does not always think rationally!) is that things will not always be like this, I promise! Here are some key points:
They sleep a lot!
Though new babies do need a lot of sleep; up to 18 hours out of 24, this will never be for more than 2 – 3 hours at a time. Usually, this is because their natural sleep cycle is broken or they are hungry. Their brains are developing at a very fast rate and they need lots of sleep to support this! Their sleep cycle runs in bouts of approximately 50 minutes and can be made up of light and deep sleep (light sleep will mean you can see movements in the baby that may seem as if they are awake). They cannot differentiate between day and night so will wake during the night for feeds in the early months.
If the baby is rocked, comforted or fed to sleep they may come to associate sleeping with these things. Try to encourage a little independence to help them learn to fall asleep on their own (I know it may seem harsh but trust me, if you don’t want baby waking through the night for months on end and then as a toddler, climbing into your bed, start early with this!).
Don’t intervene too early!
If you jump up at the first murmur, you might be missing a chance to allow baby to learn how to resettle themselves and possibly go back to sleep, helping them (and the family!) get a better sleep. If they don’t go back to sleep, letting them become accustomed to being content by themselves is also helpful (yes please to a lie in past 5 am I hear you say!).
Swaddling is something I highly recommend. It really helps them feel safe and secure in the early months. Also, a newborn has a reflex which means they have zero control over their little limbs and it can cause their flailing arms to scratch themselves.
Try to let them sleep with some gentle noise from early on during the day. This helps them to become better sleepers in the long term. I’m not suggesting running the vacuum past them as they sleep! Just some family chatter or background radio can be helpful so they don’t become super light sleepers that wake at the slightest noise.
Establishing day and night
A newborn does not have melatonin (the hormone we produce that helps us feel sleepy at nighttime). Try to let them sleep with some light in the daytime and encourage walks outside so they get exposed to natural broad spectrum light to help them develop a sense of day and night.
Routine is your best friend!
Starting a gentle bedtime routine is essentially one of the best things you can do. for example, give them a bath, draw the curtains while talking to them gently, play some soft music, sing them a lullaby, read a story, change their nappy and into pyjamas before swaddling or tucking them up for night time. Every evening they come to learn that sleep follows this comforting routine and helps establish good sleep. Even from newborn!
Dummy or not dummy
I feel a dummy, though seemingly controversial, can be a godsend. No matter what your views on dummies, a baby does love to have something in their mouth. This can go on until early toddlerhood and even in the early months, be it a nipple, a bottle, their thumb, one of their fingers or a dummy, they are soothed by this. It really can help a baby and I personally allow a dummy if it helps settle them. I’d think about removing a dummy by about 12 months. Having said that, the sooner they use their fingers or thumb to self-soothe, the better, as it resolves the problem of the dreaded ‘fallen dummy’ which can cause more disturbance to their sleep!
I can’t stress the importance of safe sleep enough. I always follow up to date research and always encourage families to do the same. Check out this Lullaby Trust video who promote safe sleep using current guidelines.