Babies sleep a lot, just not always at the times you want them to — or for how long you’d prefer them to. If you have a house full of guests and cannot sneak off upstairs for a nap, then you can pretty much guarantee your baby will snooze for hours. At night, however, it’s a different story. Just as you feel ready to flop down into bed, your baby decides it’s party time and invites you to join him at an all-night rave.
For babies, ‘sleeping through’ isn’t quite the 12 hour mammoth lie in you used to enjoy on Sunday mornings. In fact, according to studies, ‘sleeping through’ may be just five hours in a row. Regular night waking is simply a biologically normal survival pattern for infants. This is because infants have shorter sleep cycles, smaller tummies and spend more time in active sleep than adults do. Night waking is also protective against SIDS.
So if the idea of five whole hours of uninterrupted sleep sounds good to you, then you might be interested in the following tips to help your baby (and you!) get a good night’s sleep:
Baby Sleep Tip #1: Look Out For The Signs
Your baby may not be a chatterbox just yet, but he spends a lot of time trying to communicate with you. Just as babies have feeding cues so you know when they’re hungry, they communicate tiredness through various behaviours. Losing interest in the things around him, going quiet and starting to fuss are all signs that your baby might be feeling sleepy. Try putting your baby to bed when you notice these tiredness cues. If you miss the cues, your baby will become over tired and grumpy and be much harder to settle.
Baby Sleep Tip #2: Have A Bedtime Ritual
A bedtime ritual (or routine if you prefer) helps babies and young children understand what is coming next. A bedtime ritual can help to calm your baby down and prepare him for sleep. Lots of bedtime rituals start with baths, but babies don’t really need bathing every day. So only do this step each night unless you want to, but of course, stick with what works for you and your baby. Some parents enjoy a nightly shower with their baby, so this could be a good alternative.
Dimming the lights, playing some calming music, and even a relaxing baby massage are great ways to relax your baby before bed. Researchers at Miami University found that babies and toddlers who were massaged for 15 minutes before bed each night, fell asleep more easily within just one month.
Baby Sleep Tip #3: Have A Soundtrack
Playing calming music can help your baby to settle at the end of the day. When in the womb, babies are surrounded by bodily noises such as your heartbeat. Once in the outside world, babies can be soothed by noises that remind them of this time. White noise or the rhythmic beat of a heart can help to soothe your baby. There are plenty of specialist recordings that incorporate both of these elements so that you can use music to relax your baby.
Baby Sleep Tip #4: Keep Things In Motion
Once upon a time, your baby lived snuggled up inside your womb, and was rocked to sleep as you went about your daily business. You may have noticed that motion still lulls your baby to sleep, especially when you’re in the car or on a train. To help your baby get to sleep, try cuddling him as you gently rock in a rocking chair. Slowly walking around the room might do the trick too. Swinging cribs help some babies to settle down at night as the rocking motion helps them drift off. You can even buy special baby hammocks that gently rock if your baby moves during the night, allowing him to be gently rocked back to sleep.
Baby Sleep Tip #5: Safe Swaddling
Up until around the age of three months, babies have a startling reflex. This looks likes spontaneous jerking movements, and happens even when your baby is asleep. The startling reflex is probably at least partly responsible for your sleep deprivation, but safely swaddling your baby could help your baby to stay asleep. It’s important to swaddle safely, you can read our article for advice on how to do that here.
Baby Sleep Tip #6: Teach Day & Night
When in the womb, babies are lulled to sleep by motion, and wide awake when you’re resting. You probably remember how hard it was to get to sleep in the third trimester thanks to the acrobat leaping around on your bladder. Now that your baby is here, it’s time to teach him about night and day. When it’s night-time, keep the lights low and voices hushed, even when your baby is wide awake.
Baby Sleep Tip #7: Watch Your Caffeine Intake
If you’re breastfeeding, the caffeine you consume could be affecting your baby’s sleep. It’s a vicious cycle – the baby wakes up so you make yourself a coffee to stay awake, and that keeps the baby awake too. In addition, babies take much longer to eliminate caffeine from their systems than adults. The best thing to do is cut out caffeine altogether, or at least drastically limit your intake. At the very least, be sure to avoid caffeine before bedtime.
Baby Sleep Tip #8: Try A Dream Feed
When you’re about to go to bed, offer your sleeping baby one last feed. There’s no need to wake him, babies can feed in their sleep. This top up feed might help him (and you!) a little bit of extra sleep.
Baby Sleep Tip #9: Master The Feed Change
Your baby is likely to need his nappy changing in the night. Many parents fall into the trap of changing the nappy after a night feed which risks waking the baby up properly. Instead, try to change the nappy while you’re feeding (if it’s not a messy one of course!). Keep changing supplies next to your bed and master the one-handed change. Just another impressive skill for your parenting toolbox.
Baby Sleep Tip #11: Co-Sleep
Co-sleeping doesn’t mean you have to lie with your baby in your arms, it simply means sleeping close to your baby. Research has found that mothers and babies share sleep cycles if they sleep together, and that this can help the mothers get more sleep. You could use a co-sleeper, place your baby’s cot or crib next to where you sleep, or share a bed with your baby. Just like safe cot sleeping guidelines, it’s important to follow the safe co-sleeping guidelines. For example, do not let your baby bed share with a smoker or anyone who has consumed alcohol, avoid overheating and use a firm mattress.
Check out our co-sleeping articles for more safe co-sleeping tips:
- Co-Sleeping: Is It Safe?
- Sleeping With Baby – Safe Co-Sleeping Tips
- Rolling Onto Baby While Co-Sleeping
Baby Sleep Tip #12: Don’t Watch The Clock
Night wake-ups aren’t fun, but they won’t last forever. Pretty soon you’ll be enjoying a decent night sleep. Knowing that you won’t be sleep deprived forever can make night wake-ups a little easier to cope with. If you are stressed during night wake-ups, your baby could pick up on this and feel too anxious to sleep, so try to take a positive approach to these light night disturbances. It might not be easy when you’re exhausted, but just enjoy this extra time with your loving baby.
Don’t forget to check out BellyBelly’s Top 5 Recommended Books For Baby Sleep article!