While rolling over, walking and talking are important developmental landmarks for all babies, getting them to sleep through the night is a critical step forward for parents. Haven’t we all experienced this – exhausted from the tasks of the day, the moment you snuggle under covers, ready to drop off, you hear a familiar sound – the baby crying for attention. Shuteye is often an elusive dream for a new parent. There is no magical solution to help you get more sleep at night but here are some tips to help your baby and you sleep.
Tips to put your baby to sleep
- When your baby is a few days old, your main problem will be his erratic sleep cycle. Most babies can adjust to a day and night schedule on their own in two or three weeks. To help shorten your baby’s adjustment period, first, minimise stimulation at night. Feed, burp, change, and hold your baby quietly, quickly, and in the dark.
- A good time to begin a ‘going-to-sleep’ routine is when your baby has ‘settled in’ which is at about three months of age. Between three and four months, it is very important to start putting your baby down in the crib when he goes to sleep. He needs to learn to fall asleep on her own.
- Don’t let him fall asleep in your arms. Instead, repeat the ‘pick up-soothe-put down’ routine over and over, for up to an hour on the first night. Then on it’ll be much easier on subsequent nights. If you start early enough (three months) and you first get your baby attached to a transitional object (like a stuffed toy), he’ll learn to fall asleep in the crib fairly easily. This will enable your baby to go back to sleep by himself. If the baby gets accustomed to falling asleep in your arms at bedtime, he’ll need you in the middle of the night, too.
- Avoid putting your baby to sleep with a bottle. It can cause tooth decay and dependence on feeds to sleep.
- Establish a simple, consistent ‘going-to-bed’ routine, such as bath, diapering, nursing or bottle, a kiss, a song and ‘into the crib.’ This establishes a predictable set of events, which will help your baby ‘unwind’ and get ready to sleep.
Keep a lookout for these changes, which can disrupt your child’s sleep:
- Changes in the family’s routine, such as a trip, someone’s absence, an illness, a move to a new house or a new room, or even rearranging the baby’s room and crib.
- Separation anxiety.
- Starting to crawl or walk or other major milestones.
- Visitors staying at your house.
- If you are weaning the child off the nighttime breast feed, let your partner (and not you) comfort him in the middle of the night for a few nights. This sleep routine is simple and effective,
but is often difficult for the first few nights. Your baby associates nursing with you, so nighttime comforting may be more acceptable from his father. Eventually your baby will learn to fall asleep.
- Evaluate your baby’s daytime feeding pattern. Fitting in more nursing sessions during the day may help reduce the frequency of his middle of the night feeds.
- Many babies feed better when they are away from noise and any other distraction. Also try nursing him in a dark, quiet room for a couple of his daytime feeds.
- Sometimes, it works best for the family to share sleep with the baby and get more sleep. This will help you to rest in the morning.
- The hormone, prolactin — often referred to as ‘the mothering hormone’ – increases with sleep, breastfeeding and touching. Sharing sleep with your baby satisfies all three. Increased
prolactin levels help you relax.
- If any of these changes have occurred, first address new situations. With an illness or teething, wait for it to pass. With changes involving separation or greater mobility, allow some time for adjustment and spend more time with your baby.
Here are some tips to help you sleep with your baby: