Babies, sleep a lot and unfortunately they don’t come with an inbuilt body clock. At first, day and night will blend together and they will use their tummies for sleep cues. You can help by immersing them in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Keeping curtains open at nap times and not minimising noise. At night, simply do the opposite. This contrast will eventually help your baby learn that night-time is for sleeping.
sleep in the first few weeks
If you can, try to sleep when your baby does. Most sleep best during the morning and be harder to settle towards evening, so try and schedule visits from friends and relations for the afternoon. Help your baby to learn the difference between night and day by taking the time to play in the day, talking to them and showing them brightly coloured toys. When they wake at night, try to be still and silent, unless their nappy needs changing. Trying to establish a routine at this early stage can be difficult, but it can help if you can teach your baby to fall asleep without you holding or feeding them.
routine, routine, routine
It is vital to establish a good bedtime routine as it is the foundation for healthy sleep habits for life. Every night, set aside 30 minutes for your routine. Start with a short warm bath, then take your baby straight into the room where they’ll sleep, keeping the lights dim. Dress your baby for bed, then give them a cuddle and a kiss before settling them in their cot.
During the early weeks your baby will probably need a feed right before bed, but in time, you can try feeding them before bath time, so they become less dependent on sucking to sleep. Aim to put your baby in their cot slightly awake so they get used to settling themselves.
struggling to sleep
Some babies sleep much more than others, some sleep for long periods and others in short bursts – there are no rules for how long a newborn should sleep for. If you’re having trouble getting your child to sleep, there are lots of things you can try:
- let your baby suckle, or if you're bottle feeding, try a dummy
- hold your baby or put them in a sling so that they're close to you
- rock your baby backwards and forwards in the pram, or go out for a walk or drive
- try a warm bath and massaging them gently, which can help calm them down
sleeping bags – the benefits
Lots of parents choose to use baby sleeping bags to stop their little ones kicking off their blankets at night. Suitable for babies from around 4kgs+, baby sleeping bags are designed to keep them at the perfect temperature. They usually wear a vest and cotton sleepsuit underneath (depending on the weather). Make sure the sleeping bag is well fitted.
swaddling your baby
Not everyone agrees with the practice of swaddling, but it's a well-known way of wrapping young babies to help comfort and settle them. If you do decide to swaddle your baby, it's important to only do it for the first three to four months and to wrap them in lightweight fabrics for good air circulation. Keep an eye out to make sure they stay in the correct sleeping position (on their back) and don't get too warm.
baby's bed – the dos and don'ts
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in their own cot or moses basket, in the same room as you for the first six months. For your baby’s safety, it’s advised that you purchase a new mattress for each child and it’s important that it fits snugly with minimal space around the edges. Babies under a year old shouldn't have a pillow, duvet, quilt or any other objects in the cot with them. Try making up your baby's bedding at the foot of the cot and put your baby on their back in the 'feet to foot' position so they can't wriggle under the blankets. Use a room thermometer to check that the room stays around 16-20 degrees.