How to help your baby sleep at night
Techniques to help your baby sleep through the night
Does your baby sleep all day and stay awake all night? Sleepless nights are one of the toughest parts of being a parent but don’t despair. Here are some practical tips and simple techniques to help you through those bleary-eyed early weeks...
Newborn babies are not born with the ability to tell the difference between day and night. This is often the reason some seem to sleep all day and are awake most of the night.
According to parenting expert and author of the Baby Bedtime Book Fi Star-Stone, it can take several weeks, even months before your baby is sleeping through the night and being more awake during the day.
In the meantime, there are a number of strategies you can employ to help your baby get into the habit of sleeping at night and being awake during the day.
Make night and day different
“You can help your baby along by gently teaching them the difference between night and day.” says Fi. “To do this - make things a little louder and lighter during the day. Make activities a little more stimulating such as surrounding them with nice bright shapes or blankets to look at and getting out and about for nice walks in the fresh air. In the evenings make everything a little darker, calmer and more gentle.”
“A regular bedtime and regular daily naps around the same time each day, will certainly help your little one get into good sleep habits. Combine this with regular mealtimes, playtimes and activities and you’ll help your little one to understand what happens at different times of the day.”
Put baby down for daytime naps in the cot
Try and ensure that your baby takes their day naps in their cot too rather than in prams or car seats which are not ideal, regular nap zones. The more naps they have in their cot, the better bedtimes will be.
Don’t let baby get overtired in the evening
Avoid putting your baby to bed when overtired. You’ll soon become a pro at spotting when your baby is becoming tired. Some rub their eyes while others start fussing. When you see your baby starting to show signs of tiredness in the evening get them ready for bed straight away. Overtired babies find it harder to fall asleep naturally but if you can put baby down while drowsy she’s more likely to sleep for longer stretches during the night.
Try baby massage
Regular massage before bedtime can help some babies relax and drift off to sleep at night. Recent research showed that babies who are regularly massaged have higher levels of melatonin - the sleep-inducing hormone. Some babies love massage while others don’t, so follow your own baby’s lead.
Sleep when your baby sleeps
During the first few weeks of their lives, newborns have no set sleep times. It’s tempting to run around the house doing chores and catching up on admin while your baby is asleep during the day, but resist the temptation to tackle housework and instead combat sleep deprivation by taking the opportunity to catch up on sleep while your baby naps.
Put your baby in their cot awake
“To help your baby to settle in their cot at night, try to avoid rocking or snuggling them to sleep on you or in your bed before transferring them to their cot, and instead have a cuddle with a story and then put them into their bed while they are awake,” suggests Fi. “That way - they fall asleep in their bed without the need for cuddles or rocking. This is especially important as during the light REM sleep phase they will wake needing the thing that settled them to sleep, rather than gently stirring and falling back to sleep unaided.”
All parents go through sleepless nights with little ones. More often than not it is just a phase that’s over almost as quickly as it started. Sleepless nights really won’t last forever, and there is always a gentle solution to help you. If one solution doesn’t work - try another. Let your baby be your guide.
If sleep issues seem out of control, and you have any on-going concerns or worries about your little one, talk to your Health Visitor or GP who can help.