Your baby’s not sleeping? Try these helpful tips
Don’t despair if your baby’s not sleeping well: we have lots of tips to improve day-time napping as well as night-time sleeping
Don’t despair if your baby’s not sleeping well: There’s lots you can do to improve day-time napping and sort out their night-time sleeping.
Once babies have the whole daytime-vs-night-time idea sorted out in their heads - sometimes from around 2-3 months, they will (hopefully) sleep more at night and a habit of daytime napping will emerge. Not happening for you? Here are some tips you can try to encourage better day-time napping.
Know your baby
They’re all different: some seem to get by on very few naps, others seem to have read the same baby book as you and fall into regular naps as if by magic. If your baby is happy without much daytime sleep, and is sleeping well at night then don’t fret about napping. They might be one of those babies who discovers the art of napping at around 6-8 months old then sleeps happily for 2 hours at a time…
Look for the signs
A baby of 3-6 months can stay awake for around 2 hours at a time, so watch carefully for signs of tiredness: red eyes, yawning, a glazed expression. Don’t miss that window to take them out of a stimulating environment and put them down for a sleep. If they get over-tired they find it much harder to fall sleep.
Keep a consistent place
Where they nap is up to you and your lifestyle. Some mums love the freedom of putting them in the buggy and going for a walk; others prefer to stay at home to get a break. If you’re keen on getting a daytime routine going, then their cot/bedroom is the best place. Don’t creep around while they’re sleeping, though: it’s better they get used to sleeping through a bit of noise.
Have a pre-nap ritual
They’ll soon learn the sleep cues if you do the same thing every day. It could be something like: tuck them up, close the curtains, give them a kiss, turn on their cot mobile and leave the room.
Are they tired enough?
A tiny baby gets tired just being alive, but older babies need a bit more stimulation and play during their wake times in order to be tired enough to sleep. That doesn’t mean spending their every waking hour frantically dangling toys in front of them and singing The Wheels on the Bus, but find a nice balance: plenty of face-to-face interaction and talking is good. Avoid TV and screens at this age.
Waking up after 45 minutes?
Some babies can be settled back to sleep with a bit of quiet patting/shushing if they wake up crying after around 45 minutes – which is the average length of a baby’s sleep cycle. But it won’t work for others. Try taking them out for a walk in the buggy, and if that doesn’t work, you may have to gracefully accept defeat this time…. It’ll be nap time again before you know it.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having a baby who isn’t sleeping, especially if your friends are bragging about their blissful, uninterrupted nights. Here are some tips to try.
Get in a regular bedtime habit
This is the key to good sleep. You can start getting into familiar habits at bedtime from about 2 months, or later if you prefer. Everyone’s will look a bit different: perhaps bath, pjs, feed, story, then tucking up time. The keys are: keep whatever you choose to do calm and shortish - 30-45 minutes is perfect – and do it in the bathroom/bedroom, not in the living/playing areas.
Are they feeding enough in the day?
If your baby is constantly waking up hungry during the night after 6 months, or waking very early in the morning ready for food, it’s a good idea to look at your daytime feeding patterns: are they getting enough? Perhaps introduce more solid food if they are 6-12 months old.
Look at the daytime naps
A baby of 6 months will generally have about 3 hours of daytime napping, falling to 2-2 and a half hours by a year old. But some need less. Perhaps try cutting down on daytime sleeping – particularly any time after 4pm – if your baby isn’t sleeping well at night.
Try bringing bedtime earlier
If your baby isn’t sleeping well, it’s tempting to delay bedtime until later to try to maximise the chances of a good night. But babies who get over-tired and over-stimulated by being around adults in the evening find it harder not easier to get to sleep. Try gradually bringing forward bedtime by a few minutes each day until it’s somewhere between 7pm and 8.30pm, depending on your family circumstances.
Help your baby to settle themselves
Your baby needs to be able to fall asleep without you there, so try to avoid rocking/feeding to sleep/holding your hand a habit (although obviously don’t worry about doing it sometimes if your baby is upset or ill). Tuck your baby up, say goodnight, and leave. If they don't settle, wait a bit (in case they do!) then go in and pat them/shush them/stroke their face, to reassure them and see if that helps them to settle to sleep. Keep doing it as long as they need you: be boring and quiet, don’t engage. Try to extend the gap between visits. It can take a few – very long! – nights but sleep experts say you’ll see results in 3-4 days maximum.
Accept the bad nights
Sometimes our expectations of how well our babies sleep can be a bit too high for their age – especially when we hear our mums or friends talk about how their babies ‘slept through at 10 weeks’. But they’re probably conveniently forgetting all the times when their baby didn’t! You can only do your best to create an environment for your baby to sleep: there will always be those nights where nothing seems to work. Tomorrow is another day…