Its true, there is light at the end of the tunnel and if you begin creating some sleep associations for your little one you will see it sooner! So I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the best baby sleep tips. Many of the sleeping tips I am about to list are rituals that you will need to frequently practice at each and every nap time in order of helping your baby make very important sleep associations. These are tips that I have trialled and tested myself, time after time, with all four of my babies. I can tell you that if you persevere you will definitely help your baby to sleep better by encouraging your baby’s body clock to adjust, help him to sleep for longer and in time develop a sleep schedule. You can begin bed time rituals as early as your baby’s first few days of life. So get to it!
So why are bed time rituals so important to your baby? Well, because babies like their world to be predictable. They like to know what is going to happen next in their day. So creating some rituals can help prepare your bub and make the wake/sleep transition easier.
When bub first comes into the world his night/day schedule is all over the place. He was lulled to sleep in the womb during the day by your steady rhythmic movements and often up at night practicing his karate kicks while you slept (or at least tried to sleep). Baby has no idea what is night and what is day. Bed time rituals are very helpful in setting your baby’s circadian rhythm or body clock. Having a ritual for every nap helps to create a foundation that he will in time begin to associate with ‘nap time’. And isn’t that what we all want? A baby who knows when its time to go to sleep AND actually fall asleep? Believe me, it is possible.
So here are what I consider to be the most important tips to follow for the first four to six months until your baby is physically and emotionally ready to be night weaned and fully sleep trained. At that point your baby’s circadian rhythm should be well and truly set and you can then implement a full nights sleep (11-12 hours) into your baby’s schedule.
Top 10 baby sleep tips
Swaddle – babies love to be swaddled! Well of course they do! They have just spent the past nine months or so tucked up in your womb with barely any space to scratch their heads. So it is only common sense that they would prefer to stay all scrunched up, for a little while longer. Wrapping your baby makes him feel safe, secure and warm and prevents him from self startling. All of my babies were swaddled, in fact they were wrapped longer than the current recommended age is for wrapping. I swaddled my babies until they were six months old. It was really obvious to me that when swaddled they slept for longer. Eventually I stopped wrapping, but only when I could see that it was routine for naps to be two hours long.
Ensure you know how to swaddle correctly, as using an incorrect technique, such as straightening legs while wrapping, may result in hip dysplasia. All babies in Australia are assessed for this by their GP and Child Health Nurse at their mandatory visits. Check out how to swaddle your baby.
Differentiate night and day
When I brought Miss C home, I spent a great deal of her waking moments outside with her. She experienced the sun on her face multiple times every day. Light helps to set our circadian rhythms. The night time sleeps were as dark as I could get her room and when feeding during the night I did it with just enough light to allow me to safely put her back to bed.
Don’t make eye contact or talk to your baby at night time feeds – the last thing you want to do is stimulate your baby by talking to him during the night. Keep the TV off and feed close to your baby’s cot, preferably in his room, for minimal disturbance. It may be so tempting to head to the living room and turn on the TV in the wee hours of the morning, but don’t! You must resist the urge to occupy your time with the TV. It will make a difference in the time it takes bub to get back to sleep.
Don’t change wet nappies overnight. If there is no reason to believe your baby has soiled his nappy then don’t change it! Changing nappies overnight is the quickest and easiest way to wake up your little tyk. Of course if your baby’s nappy is becoming heavy with liquid, then go ahead and change it, but beware, your baby will stay awake longer, which could in turn develop into a night time routine for him.
Avoid burping him at night time feeds (breastfeeding Mums) if your baby doesn’t suffer the uncomfortable consequences of taking in too much air while feeding, then give it a miss. Burping baby can definitely have a hand in making your baby wide eyed. Michael Cohen, M.D., author of The New Basics: A- to -Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent, explains “At night, she’ll probably be eating more slowly and therefore swallowing less air, so burping usually isn’t necessary”. I did this with all four of my children, with no ill effects. Overnight feeds are so much quicker without this step. And ultimately you want to become really efficient at the overnight feed. I managed to get my overnight feeds down to less than ten minutes just prior to weaning at six months old.
Keep the room temperature fairly even. Richard Ferber M.D., author of Solve your childs sleep problems, suggests that “the temperature in your baby’s room should be kept a level comfortable for a lightly clothed adult”.
Begin a bedtime singing routine
Ok, ok, I know I have said this many times before in other posts and its not just because I like the sound of my own voice (did I just say that?), but this step really works. It sets the mood that bedtime is soothing and also enjoyable. It is also a technique you can take with you wherever you and bub go, whether it be to Nanny’s house or on holiday. Your baby will know that it is time for bed, because you have taught him that sleep follows lullaby. Check out bedtime lullaby.
Evening bath time, In my opinion this is a very important step to do about forty five minutes prior to putting your baby down for the long night time sleep. Having a bath helps relax baby’s muscles, it is also very soothing for babies. It helps them to unwind and I always found that it bought a little more ‘awake time’ before baby’s actual sleeping time. Often I would notice my babies try to nod off before my very strict bed time. By having a bath I kept them awake until the scheduled nap. I prefer to use a soap free baby soap in the bath as baby learns to associate the smell of the bath and the talcum powder applied after the bath, with sleepy time.
Put a heat pack in baby’s cot, this is a brilliant idea as it prevents the shock of the cold sensation your little one feels as his head hit’s the cold cot sheet in winter. I used this trick several times until I found it was eating into my night ‘time efficiency’ schedule, it took me too long to heat the pack before picking up my screaming baby, the microwave also made too much noise in the middle of the night. If, however, you have a husband who is happy to get up during the night, heat and place the heat pack in the cot for you while you feed your bub, you may find this tip to be a winner. (If your husband gets up during the night with you then you are definitely onto a winner!) Try it during the day when you have time and there are other noises happening to drown out the beeping of the microwave.
Sleep baby in their own room. Now I realise this tip is not for everyone and is not recommended by sids and kids foundation. However, the longest time one of our newborns remained in our room was four weeks. Oh, the pussy cat noises my babies made, they kept me awake most of the night! Babies can smell their mothers milk, so of course they are going to wake for it. Also, John and I must be noisy sleepers or we toss and turn, I don’t know, but all four of our babies slept longer as soon as we moved them to their own room.
If you are unsure of this move, you should probably check out the sids and kids website here.
So now you have my hot tips to encourage baby’s body clock to adjust accordingly and sleep for longer periods of time.
But remember consistency is the key, you need to continue to follow these steps in order of getting the best results.