Sleep can be an elusive word for new and experienced parents alike. You may think that you had experienced tiredness before becoming a parent, but nothing will compare to the tiredness of parenting.
Let me first say that there is no one way to get your baby to sleep through the night. Your family will need to decide on the best tactics for your situation. You may choose to self-settle, you may choose to parent settle, you may even choose to co-sleep. Whatever you choose, make sure your baby is happy, healthy and safe. Do not feel guilty about how you choose to help your baby sleep better. Do what suits your family and don’t be swayed by anyone else’s opinion.
Here are some ideas for getting your children to be good sleepers.
It is never too early to establish a bedtime routine. In the beginning your newborn will not distinguish between day and night. They will wake through the night needing a feed or a cuddle. But you can still begin with a relaxed routine to prepare yourself and your baby for later years.
When your baby gets slightly older, it’s great to have a calming bedtime routine that helps prepare them for a restful sleep. Establish a suitable dinner time (not too early and not too late), after dinner it might be nice to have a bath or other quiet time. Reading a story before bed is a fantastic opportunity for a snuggle and bonding. Then you are ready for your night time feed and off to sleep.
Every family will have their own routine, that may differ from the one described above. The important thing is to find out what works for your family and stick to it. A regular routine gives children security and confidence.
To begin with, your baby will not know the difference between day and night. They will not see why you spend all day awake and playing with them, and then not at night time. Help your baby set their internal clock by making daytime lively and full of fun. With your actions, let them know that during the day is playtime. When it comes to night time, make sure things are quieter and less exciting. This will show your baby when it is time to calm down for sleep.
Give your baby the opportunity to fall asleep alone. Put your baby into their bed on their back when they are sleepy, but still awake. If you rock or cuddle your baby to sleep, then they may become dependent on this to go to sleep. If they wake in the night, give them a few seconds before getting up to them. They may be able to settle themselves back to sleep. If not, then go to their bed and comfort them by patting them. Try not to pick them up unless they are really distressed.
Around the age of 6 months old, your baby will start to register being separated from you. Putting a comforter item in their cot with them may help them settle if they wake. Make sure that you do not let a child younger than 6 months old sleep with a comforter.
Before you give the toy to them, keep it near your skin for a period of time. This will help it to smell like you. Babies have a strong sense of smell and if the object smells like you, it will be familiar and can be comforting for your baby.
Co-Sleeping is a controversial topic as it can be the cause of death in children. It is always recommended that children under the age of 6 months sleep beside your bed in their own bassinet or cot. If you choose to co-sleep, ensure that you do it safely.
Co-sleeping can provide the reassurance and security that some children need to be able to sleep through the night. Make sure that your child understands when it is time to wind down and go to sleep so that it does not disrupt your own sleeping patterns.
If possible, share the bedtime duties and night time settling with your partner. Your baby will not be reliant on one specific parent to settle down at night then. It also gives you both a chance for a full night’s sleep if you take turns.
Playing white noise can help your baby settle. Daytime is full of noises, but night time is so quiet. Any sudden noise can wake your baby at night time. Playing white noise can help disguise those unexpected noises and help your baby sleep though. Turning on the white noise can also be a signifier that it is time for bed. Your baby will begin to associate that noise with going to sleep.
Make sure that your baby feels secure and loved during the day with lots of cuddles and interaction. You may even want to try baby-wearing during the day. By having this security during the day, they may feel comfortable enough to sleep by themselves at night.
If your baby is unwell, be prepared that they may wake more in the night. Throw any sleep routines out the window until your baby is well again. They may also wake more in the night if you are going through some major changes. Moving house, a parent starting back at work, or starting childcare are all things that could disrupt your baby’s sleep. Be in tune with this and don’t be too hard on them when they wake at night. They will need the reassurance that you are still there for them.