When a baby is born so is a mother and a new relationship. In the months after birth the new baby will have the task of making sense of her new world. Likewise, mom has months and years ahead of her in which she has to learn how to soothe her little one and settle her into good sleep habits. Teaching your baby to sleep well is a learning curve for you and your baby.
Here are 5 steps to a peaceful bedtime.
Give your baby the opportunity to settle herself. From 3 – 4 months onwards you can expect your baby to start to access self soothing strategies such as sucking her hands or using a ‘doodoo’ blanky to fall asleep. It is tempting to respond the second you hear your baby whimper after you have put her down. The reality is that many babies noisy when settling themselves, grunting and moaning. It is worth listening to her fussing for 3-5 minutes before responding to see if she settles herself.
Day sleep begets night sleep. Having a regular day sleep routine will mean your baby is not over tired and resists falling sleep. Do not be tempted to follow the flawed logic that keeping your baby awake will ‘tire her out’ so she will sleep well at night. Babies who do not sleep well during the day frequently do not sleep well at night.
Watch your baby’s ‘awake time’. How long your baby has been awake will determine when she should go back to sleep. To set up a healthy day sleep routine, remember to stick to the awake times as per Baby Sense and Sleep Sense.
Follow a calming bedtime routine. Each night, enact the same calming routine to help your baby prepare for sleep.
- Bedtime must be between 6 and 7pm, no later for babies.
- An hour before bed, bath your baby in warm water.
- Give your baby a soothing massage before dressing her,
- Do not leave your baby’s bedroom between bath and bed time.
- Read your baby a story.
- Give the last feed of the day in your arms, never feed your baby in the cot.
- Rock and sing to your baby until she is drowsy and has long tired blinks – but is not fully asleep.
- Put your baby down to sleep awake but drowsy
Set up a ‘soothing sleepy space’. Make sure that on every sensory level, your baby’s sleep space is calming. Some ideas for a calming sleep space are lavender scents, dimmed lights, gentle lullabies or white noise playing in her room, soft sheets and a sleeping bag to keep your baby warm.
On the journey to help your baby sleep well, you are in good company. There is not a time in our lives when we are as fatigued as the first few years. By implementing gentle sleep strategies you will help your baby to develop good sleep habits from day 1.