Sleep is a universal need and it's not just you who ends up frustrated and grumpy through no sleep. Babies that sleep well during the night are more likely to feel happy through out the day, however those who sleep poorly are more likely to feel irritable and I'm not just talking about your baby...
If you have more than one child you may have noticed that there is no such thing as “typical” baby. Your first born child may have been happy being put down in the cot, sucking on a dummy happily for half an hour before drifting off to sleep. While your second child may scream and cry themselves tired before falling asleep. As I mentioned there is no such thing as a 'typical” baby.
Forming a Routine
Babies love routine. It helps them to make sense of the world and gives definition and shape to their day. This can also be said about bedtime as any other part of the day. A stable routine will help your baby to understand that in the daily sequence of events, the next stage is bed and sleep. As your baby begins to understand this, it will help in setting up for a good night sleep.
Implementing a Routine
It doesn't really matter what you do whether you tidy away toys or read a story. It is vital that you do the same thing in the same order every night, consistently at the same time. Your bedtime routine should be predictable and should also aim at calming your child down and not get them too excited. Once your routine is established you can be more flexible on some nights. Maybe you feel as if your baby is too tired for a bath so you can put them straight to bed. However aim to be consistent in the first few months.
Where Will Your Baby Sleep?
Figuring out where your baby will sleep is a common dilemma that all new parents face. There is no right answer and each family works out the best solution for them. You may already have an idea on where you would like your baby to sleep or you may want to try a trial and error approach to see what best suits you.
Below are a list of solutions with both advantages and disadvantages on where your baby should sleep. However none of them will affect your baby's ability to sleep.
In their own bed in your bedroom
- Easy to respond to your baby's needs.
- Easy to check on your baby during the night.
- May be disruptive if your baby is a light sleeper.
- Still have to get your baby used to their own room when they are older.
In their own room
- You don't need to tip toe around your baby during the night.
- Your baby will already be used to their own room (which makes it easier later).
- Have to constantly walk to their room to check on them throughout the night.
- You have to stumble out of bed, walk to their room for night time feed and changes.
In your bed
- It is very cosy.
- Makes night time feeds easier, especially when you are breast feeding.
- A natural solution for parents and babies.
- Not appropriate if you or your partner smoke.
- You have to be careful while sleeping as not to roll over onto your baby.
Whichever option you choose please ensure that you follow the necessary safety guidelines to help keep your baby safe during the night.
How to prepare your baby for a good night's sleep
Below are some hints and tips you can use to prepare your baby for a good night sleep.
- Keep night feeds and nappy changes functional. It's best to use low lighting and its best not to talk to your baby. If you do have to talk keep your voice flat and low and try not to make eye contact with your baby.
- Do not begin any “fun activities” with your baby once you have fed and changed them. Put your baby straight back into their bed.
- If your baby wants you to play with them, resettle your baby immediately.
- During the day stimulate and play with your baby as much as possible. This will give an understanding to your baby that day times are for fun and games and it will also encourage your baby to be more awake during the day. By the evening your baby will be tired which will make it easier for them to sleep.
You need to try and make your baby understand the difference between night sleep and daytime naps. During the day put your baby to sleep in their carry cot, rather than in their cot. Close the curtains at night time only.
By doing these simple strategies, it ensures that your baby will have a good night's rest. It can also help by creating the right atmosphere. There are many factors that could make it difficult for your baby to get to sleep. For example street noise, barking dogs, early sunlight or flashing headlights from cars can all contribute in disturbing your baby's sleep. In this instance it will be beneficial for both you and your baby to move your baby's bed or putting your baby to sleep in a quieter room. This will ensure that your baby will sleep soundly.
To help your baby sleep during the night you could offer them a dummy. Now this option is completely up to you and your baby. Some babies need a dummy to suck for comfort while others don't and sometimes a dummy is the only option that helps to calm your baby down. If you do use a dummy it's vital that you limit it to only sleep times and you should think about weaning your baby off the dummy as earliest as possible. The longer your baby has a dummy, the more attached to it they become and during the night you'll be getting up several times trying to find it every time it falls out of your baby's mouth. You can try and introduce an alternative such as safe toy or perhaps an item of clothing which has your familiar smell on it. It's important to make sure that there is no danger of your baby ending up getting covered by their comforter.
How to settle your baby
There are definitely going to be times throughout some nights where your baby will drive you insane and will not go to sleep. During these times it's important for you to try and settle your baby so you both can get a good night's sleep.
Below are some strategies you can use to try and settle your baby on those nights when they just won't sleep.
- When you have put your baby to bed and said goodnight, try not to go back to them unless you think that they are in pain or their safety is in jeopardy. You need to be very strong if you are using this technique and it is effective for babies. However this may not work well for a toddler who may find it too traumatic. If your baby becomes too distraught while you use this method, try a different approach (see below).
- Try and leave your baby to cry for increasing periods of time. Eventually your baby will give up and go to sleep. This is effective within a few nights. However it can be time consuming during the beginning.
- Repeatedly reassure your baby that you are there and insist that it's time to go to sleep. This is usually successful within a week but can be time consuming initially.
- Put your child to bed with a kiss and then promise to return in a minute with another kiss. Return at increasingly bigger intervals until your child is asleep.
At the beginning this can be demanding but it usually works within a week.
- When your baby goes to bed, sit quietly by them until they fall asleep. Gradually over the next few days move further from the bed, until you are no longer in the room when your baby falls asleep. This is a gentle technique however this can take the longest time.
My baby will not stop screaming and will not go to sleep
Most of us can put up with a few terrible nights of our baby not sleeping but when it is constantly happening each and every night this is when problems occur. You become exhausted and you feel as if you are about to lose your temper.
No matter how desperate or frustrated you feel never ever shake your baby. Even one shake to try and get your baby to stop screaming and crying could cause permanent brain damage.
Below are a few solutions to help you try and deal with your baby when you are at a breaking point:
- Put your baby into their bed, leave the room and close the door. It won't hurt your baby to cry for a few minutes.
- Make yourself a drink (no alcohol, it's vital you stay in control), sit quietly, calm down and take a few deep breaths.
- Do not return to your baby until you feel you are able to cope. Get your partner to take over or call a friend or relative to help deal with your baby while you calm down.
- If at all your baby's crying and screaming causes you to lose sleep during the night here are a few tips to help you get some much needed sleep.
- Catch up on lost sleep when your baby naps during the day.
- Let your partner take over during the evening while you go to bed. During the night when your baby is crying you will be able to cope.
- Share night feeds with your partner (keep breast milk in a bottle for your partner to feed your baby).
- Ask relatives and friends to come and look after the baby while you catch up on some much needed sleep.
If you cannot take control of your baby's crying and screaming during the night, it is important you get help by waking your partner, calling a friend or relative or even telephoning a helpline. You might think that you shouldn't be bothering someone else in the middle of the night but they would rather lose one night's sleep than know that you are faced with a situation that you can't manage.