Sleep, precious sleep. How to get your baby to do it, how to get enough and how to keep it like that are things which we go over again and again as new parents.
Sleep experts HappySleepers’ Liz Jones is a child psychologist and sleep practitioner. She believes that teaching your baby healthy sleep habits is the best start you can give them. Good quality sleep allows us to thrive physically, mentally and emotionally – tired new mums will all agree that we need as much of the stuff as we can get.
Liz gives Petite Bonita the low down on achievable ways to get your baby into good sleep habits from the start.
Liz: In the first few months, sleep is a hot topic amongst new parents. They think about it, crave it and compare strategies and notes. They’re constantly asked by others ‘And how is she sleeping?’
Parents will be pleased to hear there are some straightforward techniques that you can employ in the first 6 months, to encourage good sleep habits as your baby grows.
Overall, being an attuned parent is key to helping your baby sleep well. The aim is to send the message to your baby that you are there but that you know they can do it. Attuned parents don’t ‘under’ help (by shutting the door and never going in) or ‘over’ help (by rocking / feeding to sleep when the baby has outgrown this need). Attuned parents are consistently responsive to their baby’s needs, whilst having clear expectations that allow their baby to develop a trusting and secure attachment.
ENCOURAGE YOUR BABY’S GRASP OF NIGHT AND DAY:
It takes months for your baby’s internal biological clock to mature and for them to understand the difference between night and day. In the first few months, gently encourage your baby to learn by:
- In the morning when he wakes, open the curtains to signal the start of the day
- Exposing them to indirect sunlight in the morning helps to regulate their internal body clocks, so go out for a walk in the morning to encourage this
- Gently wake your baby during the day at least every 3 hours to feed
- Keep him in the living area during the day and in a dark, quiet room at night
- Lower the lights at night even if your baby is awake
ESTABLISH A BEDTIME ROUTINE:
Around 8 – 12 weeks is a good time to start a bedtime routine, when you notice that your baby’s starting to have a longer stretch of sleep in the early evening (around 7pm). Establishing a calm and predictable bedtime routine enhances a baby’s ability to self soothe, fall asleep and stay asleep.
GENTLY ENCOURAGE YOUR BABY TO FALL ASLEEP INDEPENDENTLY:
The first few months are the time when soothing and responding to your baby’s cues are essential. As you do this, baby builds trust in you and in turn this helps to relax them. Being able to soothe themselves means feeling confident and relaxed enough to fall asleep independently. You can help this by:
- Putting your baby down while awake
- Loosen the feeding-sleep association
- Help to settle your baby with minimal intervention before jumping in and ‘over’ helping
- Encourage the use of a comforter; something like a special teddy or soft little blanket (which is suitable for young babies)
- Try one nap at a time if your baby finds it tricky to settle themselves
- When your baby wakes listen to her sounds and resist the urge to jump in immediately
During the first 4 months, allow ample opportunity for your baby to nap. Many parents make the mistake of thinking that less sleep in the day means more sleep at night. In fact, naps help to improve the quality of a baby’s sleep during the night. At around 2 months your baby will become tired after approximately 90 minutes from when she last woke, and this magic window is when your baby is likely to fall asleep more easily. If your baby stays awake for too long, they will become over tired and irritable. You can encourage a set nap routine from around 5 -7 months (total daily nap time 3 – 4 hours).
BE CALM AND CONSISTENT:
Consistency is key to all aspects of parenting, especially when it comes to sleep. Babies detect and learn patterns in their environment which makes them feel safe and secure. They are capable of associative learning whereby they link and remember objects and events in their environment. By responding to your baby in a calm and consistent way, they will build trust in the pattern allowing them to relax into a happy sleep.
Safe Sleeping: Please be aware of the Safer Sleeping Guidelines to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
HappySleepers are a team of child psychologists, who offer expert help and advice on sleep from newborns to teenagers. Their work is based on the latest research in attachment theory, behaviour management, co-sleeping and all facets of parenting and child development.