Sleep, isn’t that what we all crave as new parents!
Good news is there are a few tips that are proven to help settle your baby quicker or help your baby sleep a little longer.
GET IN A ROUTINE
Generally for the first couple of months you just need to go with the flow and it will be a feed, play, sleep routine but at about 3 months you will notice patterns will start to occur through the day.
Once these patterns become clearer you can then start to plan your day better and be consistent with your routine. It doesn’t have to be a down to the minute schedule, it should be flexible to fit in with your lifestyle.
A good place to start is a consistent bedtime routine so your baby starts to know what to expect at bedtime. Start with a bath, maybe a baby massage, a book and then bedtime feed. Be consistent with the routine as sudden changed may unsettle your baby.
If you aren’t consistent with your routine then there is a good chance your baby won’t be consistent with their sleep.
USE A BABY SLEEP AID
Sleep aids can be helpful in providing both babies and their parents some much needed sleep. Sleep aids help establish a night time/bedtime routine, help a child fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. A baby sleep aid improves the baby's sleep environment and some babies will use soft comforters and soothing sounds to self soothe back to sleep.
A study found that using sleep aids such as white noise or other similar soothing sounds do help most baby’s fall asleep faster. 80% of the babies tested fell asleep in under 5 minutes with the help of white noise. White noise for babies can come in the form as a baby sleep aid with sound box like Ewan the Dream Sheep or a doll such as the Lulla Doll to something more machine like, such as the Aroma snooze or a basic white noise or pink noise machine.
The logic behind the white noise baby sleep aid is that it produces similar sounds that the baby hears to when they are in the womb. Some use shushing, heartbeat, womb noises, rainfall or a mix of all help to soothe babies. It is recommended to introduce white noise as early as possible. The earlier white noise is introduced the higher the success rate, however results may still be achieved up to 12 to 24 months.
ENGAGE WITH YOUR BABY
Make sure you keep your baby stimulated in between feeds and sleep time. Reading books, singing songs, giving them a tickle, making them smile, putting them in front of a mirror so they can engage with their own reflection, sticking your tongue out, playing peek-a-boo, the list is endless.
It may seem all for nothing in the beginning, but children are absorbing their environment, taking in the sounds, the shapes, the movement, constantly learning and evolving. These activities are key for their long-term development. Your babies first few years are their prime for learning.
If they are sitting around for the 2 hours of their awake time, just letting the time pass, they are not going to be tired enough to sleep well. Make sure you put your phone down and engage with them. They are only little once so spend the time to do some quality bonding and not only will you see results in their sleep but also their learning and development.
BURP THEM PROPERLY
This is often overlooked as a sleep problem but when you are tired in the middle of the night and feeding, sometimes you just want to get your baby fed as quickly as possible and back to sleep. Spending that extra 5 minutes ensuring that you properly burping your baby can lead to improved sleep.
If you’re bottle-feeding and your baby suffers with colic or wind problems a good quality anti-colic bottle may be a worth a try. Usually with bottles you get what you pay for and although cheaper bottles will do the job intended, poor quality air valves can cause your baby to take in extra air when feeding. A good quality baby bottle designed for colicky babies can be worth the investment.
For breastfed babies it can be as simple as something that you ate may have transferred through the breast-milk to cause fussiness. Foods high in fibre and dairy can be the cause of gassiness and unfortunately chocolate and coffee are also on the list. Try and keep a diary of what you are eating and if it aligns with your baby being fussy it might be best to cut out that certain food.
SWADDLE YOUR BABY
This is similar reasoning to the white noise, with the idea behind swaddling is to make your baby feel snug and secure like they were in the womb. Swaddling can help calm the startle reflex, which can cause some babies to wake themselves up.
It can also prevent your baby from scratching themselves during their sleep. There are a number of ways and products available for swaddling, from your basic muslin wrap, where you wrap your baby manually, to a purpose made swaddle with super easy wrap function, such as the Miracle Baby Swaddle, which eliminates those cute but pesky arms escaping the wrap.
GET SOME SUNSHINE
Go for a walk or get some sunlight and fresh air outside. A study found that babies who were exposed to significantly more light in the early afternoon period slept better at night. The data suggested that exposure to light helped influence the development of the circadian system which helps them understand night and day better and when it is time to sleep.
DARKEN THE ROOM
When a nursery is all dressed up nicely with mobiles and fancy décor it can be a distraction for a baby who is trying to get off to sleep. Light can flicker off objects, creating shadows and shapes causing a diversion from sleep for a baby.
Eliminating these distractions by making the room dark can help you baby focus better on falling asleep. Portable black out blinds are an inexpensive way of darkening a room if you don’t want to change the window fittings or room décor. They simply suction to the window and can be easily removed between sleeps to let light in.
All of these suggestions may work or only some of them but it's a good starting point to help you improve your babies sleep which in turn will improve your sleep. Just remember that most of these will take time to adjust to and you need to be consistent when you try anything new. Trying things once and not working does not mean it won’t work, it may need a little practise or getting used to.
Unfortunately there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to getting a baby to sleep, and what works on some will not on others.
Just remember that around 20% of babies sleep through the night consistently at 6 months old and 20% of babies at 12 months still wake at least once a night. If you are expecting your baby to sleep through the night from a few weeks old you will be very disappointed!