Sleep and newborn babies don’t tend to go together, but it doesn’t need to be a battleground. Follow these tips to help give your baby a peaceful night’s sleep
It is without doubt the most common question you will ever hear as a new parent – “Is your little one sleeping through yet?” Sleeping troubles and sleep routines are subjects that everyone has a view on, but at the end of the day (quite literally!) every baby is different, and this is particularly true when it comes to sleep. Figuring out the sleep cycle of your newborn baby can take weeks, if not months, and requires plenty of patience, which is never easy when you may be surviving on very little sleep yourself!
There are lots of things you can do to improve your baby’s sleep; get to know your baby’s behaviour and sleep patterns, then try our top tips to help send your little one peacefully off to sleep.
What to expect in the very beginning
In the very early days, sleeping and feeding are closely linked for a newborn. Feeding can be every two to three hours, and babies tend to sleep 16-18 hours in every 24-hour period. They wake frequently because their small tummies need regular food, and at this stage they unfortunately have no concept of day or night.
But don’t worry – in the first few weeks, just go with whatever sleep patterns your baby decides and make sure you nap whenever they do. Pop the baby in a Moses basket, or even in a baby sling, and put your feet up. All those household chores can wait – after all, ironing isn’t essential, but a cup of tea and a snooze on the sofa for an hour definitely are! Or if this isn’t your first baby, why not use these baby nap times to spend some quality time with your toddler: a quiet story read together cuddled up on the sofa while the baby sleeps can really bring you closer together and helps to make sure the toddler doesn’t feel alienated by the new addition to the family.
But whatever you do at this early stage, don’t expect too much too soon. Try not to compare yourself to other new parents who claim that their newborn is sleeping through the night from two weeks of age. Every baby is different and establishing a sleep schedule that works for both you and the baby will take time. Give yourself a break!
Establishing a sleep pattern, schedule, or routine
It may take three to six months before identifiable sleep patterns really begin to emerge, as growing stomachs and a developing awareness mean that daytime naps get shorter and night-time sleeping get longer.
But even from six weeks, you can certainly start to put the building blocks in place for those invaluable good sleeping habits. You will quickly start to pick up those cute physical cues from your own baby to say they’re tired, such as eye rubbing or yawning, so try to put them down in their Moses basket or crib as soon as possible so you don’t run the risk of them becoming overtired.
And why not start one of the best sleep habits of all – the bedtime routine. At night, try to establish a routine that gives your baby the signal that it’s time to go to bed. A warm bath, changing into a sleep suit (or perhaps swaddling if it’s not too hot), a quiet feed in a dark room, and a lullaby should all start to hint to your baby that it’s time to go to sleep.
10 tips for a peaceful sleep routine for you and your baby
A baby’s sleeping environment is one of the most important things to consider when establishing a good routine. With these 10 tips you can create a better sleeping environment, meaning a happy baby and happy you!
1. The perfect room temperature
Make sure that the room in which the baby sleeps does not exceed 20°C, and that the baby has a well-fitted comfortable sleep bag or lightweight bedding. Try to air the room at least twice a day to make sure there is plenty of fresh air.
2. Make some noise
It’s tempting to creep around the house keeping everything quiet when you have finally got your baby to sleep, but you could be setting yourself up for problems later down the line. Babies sleep better with familiar noise in the background, as it can make them feel secure and safe. Play the same set of music or white noise and see how your baby reacts.
3. Use a baby bouncer chair during the day
Many babies react positively to movements and fall asleep more easily. A bonus is that you can put your baby in the bouncer chair (safely on the floor rather than on a table or sofa) and do something else.
4. Play with light and darkness
As with noise, you could be doing more harm than good if you let your baby get used to only sleeping in a pitch-black room. Most children sleep better with some element of light in their room, so try different options such as lamps, night lights, or semi-closed curtains and see what works best.
5. Where to sleep
The best place for your baby to sleep during the first six months is in a co-sleeper or crib next to you so you can keep a close eye on them and feeding is easy. However, some babies don’t like Moses baskets or cribs, so you might need to experiment to find out which bed, room, and environment works best for your baby.
6. Security object
At around six months or seven months, your baby begins to become aware of separation from you, so having a familiar object in their cot can be comforting at night. Before putting the toy in her cot, keep it near you for a while so it smells of you.
7. Dinner timing
Eating and sleeping are closely linked for babies so, depending on your baby, you may want to play around with different evening or night-time feed times to see what works best to get your baby through the night.
8. Bath time
A soothing warm bath can be helpful to calm your baby and get them in the mood for sleep. The water should be warm, not hot. Check it with a bath thermometer and test with your wrist or elbow and mix it well so there are no hot patches.
If you can, check the humidity levels in your baby’s room. About 40-60%* humidity is ideal for your baby as it can reduce the survival of flu viruses.
10. Bed is for sleeping, not playing
Make sure your baby’s bed is not full of toys and clutter. This space is meant for sleep and not as a play area with stuffed animals.
By creating the perfect sleeping environment and establishing a good bedtime routine, you can help your little one nod off for a peaceful (and long!) night sleep.
*A study by Environmental Health and Engineering (Environmental Health 2010, 9:55) shows that keeping air at relative humidity levels between 40-60% can reduce survival of flu viruses on surfaces and in the air.