How to get a baby to sleep through the night
Establish a baby sleep routine that will keep your little one from fighting tired eyes with these five easy tips
Understandably sleep, or more specifically the lack of it, is a major preoccupation for new parents. Whether you're struggling to get your newborn to nod off or tending to a teething tot, it can seem as though they ricochet from one sleep-sabotaging stage to the next.
So how can we get the best out of bedtime? Rebecca Howard Dennis talks through a few tried-and-tested techniques that you can employ to help maximise both yours and your little one's chances of getting a rest-full night.
Get a routine
Setting a regular bedtime and doing the same things, in the same order, before bed helps your baby to know when it is time to sleep.
Whether you choose to give them a give bath followed by a lullaby, massage, story or simply snuggle, be sure that the process whole bedtime routine ends in their bedroom. This sends them the message that this part of their daily routine is designed to help them relax and unwind before going to sleep.
Experts agree that it is important to start a routine early, ideally by your baby is four months old. According to more than 10,000 mothers questioned, babies whose bedtimes involved consistent routines fell asleep quicker.
Nail the nap times
If your baby isn’t napping enough during the day, they may have trouble falling asleep at night. 'A baby who misses a nap, or only takes a short one, will have a harder tme falling asleep later and will wake more often in the night,' explains child psychologist Dr Jodi Mindell. 'It's likely to be timing issue,' adds Dr Cathryn. 'You have to hit that exact moment - the beginning of the ywan, the heavy eyes - or you can often lose the opportunity for a nap.'
It's important to be as consistent with nap time routine as with night time sleep. Remember that most babies need two or three naps a day, and even toddlers need at least one If they are irritable or sleepy, always let them snooze, but just be careful that this isn't too close to bedtime.
Sleep pressure is the physiological urge to sleep which builds up the longer we are awake. So a baby who has a long nap only a couple of hours before their schduled bedtime will have trouble falling asleep again soon after. A 2005 study revealed that when parents managed to lenghten their babies' waking time before bed, the babies actually required less help settling down at night and experienced few infant sleep problems.
It may be hard to accept, but there's a chance that you could be derailing your baby's sleep. Whether it's through rocking or patting them on the back, physically inserting yourself into your little ones nodding-off process means you’re actually denying them the chance to self-soothe at bedtime.
In France new mums practice what is know as 'Le Pause' - they deliberately don't respond to their baby's first cries, allowing them the space and time to self-settle instead. It's a practice that plays dividends in the middle of the night when babies then manage to fall back to sleep without any help from their parents.
However, it's important to remember your baby sleeps in the same room as you for the first six months as recommended by all major healthcare bodies. This initial period of proximity has been proven to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Set the scene
Creating the right conditions for your baby's naps and bedtime is important. Start calming things down and hour or so beforehand, swap tickles and quiet play and cuddles, or a bath before bed can stimulate your baby's sleep routine.
Keep the room dark and quiet, shutting the door if necessary to block out household noise. 'Some babies are very sensitive to their internal environment', explains Harvey. They can ignore sensations such as a phone ringing or during the day when distracted by other sights and sounds, but can find it much harder at night.
'Babies were constantly held, rocked and touched in the womb and there was always white noise,' he adds. 'And many can't relax after birth as they miss that rhythmic calmness.'
If you suspect that this is the problem check out the award-winning Whisbear which has an audio device hidden within his plush tummy, and the selection of white noise toys and the specialist site myhummy.co.uk.
Coping with clock changes
Just when you're beginning to think you've finally cracked the whole sleeping situation, you can can bet your bottom dollar that the clocks will change and disrupt your hard work. Don't despair though - the brains behing the best selling Groclock (gro.co.uk) are here to help!
“Tweak the start of your child’s bedtime routine for a few weeks before the clocks change, setting them 15 minutes earlier or later each week until their bedtime has effectively moved. Then by the time the hour actually moves your child will be ready and hopefully stay in bed until the correct wake-up time the following morning.
Don’t forget to do this for nap, meal and nursing times too, to keep their whole schedule in synch.” Sound advice.
To get more tips on baby sleeping patterns from Rebecca Howard Dennis, download a copy of the January issue of Gurgle magazine, or purchase from supermarket stores across the UK.
Struggling to know how to get your little ones to sleep over the festive period? Try out our 7 ways to manage your baby's bedtime routine over the Christmas period.