A-Z guide for a good night's sleep
For the practical to the emotional, Alex Pell tells us 26 ways to ensure a good night's sleep is had by all. Here's Gurgle's A-Z of a great night's sleep for mum and baby.
A. Absolute beginners
We know it's difficult when you're a new parent, but try to stay calm. 'Tone is everything, and all too easily your stress and anger can activate the alarm systems in your child's brain,' says
Dr Margot Sunderland, author of award-winning book What Every Parent Needs to Know (£15, dk.com).
Uncontrollable crying (colic) in a baby can easily transform even the calmest parent into a wreck. The exact causes of colic are unknown, but indigestion or wind can play a significant role. So get to grips with some gentle winding once baby has fed because trapped burps hurt! Infacol can help bring it up too.
Your new baby should sleep in your room for the first six months, typically in a crib or Moses basket. There can, however, be advantages to baby sleeping in the same bed as you – it's easier to give night feeds and some claim it boosts a child's psychological wellbeing and long-term health.
Using a dummy may well help to settle a baby, and can slightly reduce the risk of cot death according to the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. This benefit is only modest, though, and the overall background risk is pretty small.
E. Eye rubbing
It can pay to keep an eye out for the telltale signs of tiredness. The most obvious are rubbing eyes, making less eye contact or being clumsy. Spot any of these and it's time to scoop them up quietly and head off for a nap.
F. Fairy tales
Whether you opt for a classic like Hansel and Gretel or prefer a more modern book like Terry Pratchett's Where's My Cow?, bedtime stories are a great addition to any night-time routine. Not only are they fun to read, they also provide the chance for a bit of quiet time and cuddles with your little ones before you pop them into bed. And they have a soporific effect, which means it should make persuading them to go to sleep that little bit easier – win, win.
It's hard to believe we faffed with blankets now that we tend to pop our cherubs into baby sleep bags. And when they're old enough for a bed, how about a SnuggleSac (from £30, snugglesac.com) which offers a similar experience for older children and could
make the transition easier.
Babies don't need an especially warm room to sleep in. The ideal temperature is around 18°C, slightly lower than a typical UK home during winter. A simple room thermometer is useful, but shows how warm the air is rather than the child.
If you react differently each time your newborn wakes they'll get confused, so try to get baby into good habits early says Gurgle expert Eileen Hayes. 'After three months, try to put them down partially awake. If you rock them to sleep, you'll be performing that routine all night for years.' You've been warned!
J. Juggling advice
'Parenting advice is hard to filter once at your wits' end with tiredness,' says Mandy Gurney, Director of the Millpond Child Sleep Clinic. 'We ask parents to fill out a six-page questionnaire about their child and keep a sleep diary for a week. If you don't know about a child's body clock, it's impossible to help.' Cry-sis, the charity for parents with demanding babies, also offers a sleep checklist. For more info see cry-sis.org.uk.
K. Keeping safe
Sleep safety advice from the NHS is available at nhs.co.uk. For total reassurance while baby slumbers, look for a sleep monitor boasting multiple functions – both Summer Infant and Angelcare offer a wide range.
Once they're a few weeks old, babies are ready to tune into the difference between day and night. During the day, open curtains, play games and don't fret about noise while he's asleep. At night, speak more quietly and keep lights low. Many children find a night light soothing. Ewan the Dream Sheep is a cot-toy-cum-light that also plays comforting sounds.
'Make sure you buy a comfy mattress – babies do most of their physical development in their first two years and so benefit from decent support during this time,' says Mothercare's Elizabeth Day, who also suggests you choose one with a cover that can be whipped off and washed.