The first few weeks with a new baby are a daze of eat, sleep, feed repeat. Unfortunately most of the sleeping part is at the will of your newborn, who’ll have their own ideas of where and when to sleep! Walking around in a zombie state is par for course of being a new mum. How do we do it? We just need the tiniest bit of encouragement…a smile, gurgle or finger tug and all is forgiven.
Sleep is essential for your baby to thrive and for mums and dads to survive these early years of parenthood! There are things you can do to help establish good sleeping habits. There will be bumps along the way for sure but these tips and techniques will set you on your way to a good night’s sleep for you and your family.
1. Learn your baby’s sleep signs
Your baby will have their own way of telling you when they are sleepy. Learning to recognise these signs will save a lot of stress when trying to put them down for a nap. Look out for things like rubbing eyes, yawning, flicking their ear with their hand, crying and whining, staring blankly, faint dark circles under their eyes and losing interest in what they are doing. It is much easier to put a tired baby down than one that is just bored!
2. Establish the difference between day and night
Even as early as two weeks you can start showing your baby the difference between day and night. When they wake in the morning, get them dressed so they know it’s the start of a new day. Play, sing and talk to them. Keep the house light and bright with plenty of background noises. At night time get them into their pyjamas, talk and sing softly and keep noise and lighting low.
3. Let them fall asleep on their own
Give baby a chance to fall asleep on their own. If you put them down when they are tired they are much more likely to fall asleep without a fuss. A baby who is cuddled or rocked to sleep will expect the same treatment every time.
4. Set bedtimes and nap times
At around 3-6 months you can start establishing bedtimes and nap times to help regulate sleep patterns. A good bedtime can be between 7pm and 8:30pm but choose what works for you and your baby. Don’t be fooled by lively and animated babies in the evening, this is pretty common and is usually a sign that they should be in bed already!
5. Establish a routine
Having a regular bedtime and routine that baby will recognise will be comforting and familiar. Create your own routine that works for you and your family but incorporating bath time, bedtime stories, singing a lullaby, getting into pyjamas, giving baby a calming massage and kissing them goodnight are all great ways to let baby know it is time to settle down and sleep.
6. Have a daytime routine
It is also a good idea to have a daytime routine with set meal times, nap times and playtimes. You don’t have to carry this out with military precision but a regular pattern of feeds and naps in the day will mean your baby will be more likely to fall asleep at bedtime without a fuss.
Every baby is different and even when you think you have nailed it things can change as they grow. Establish routines that work for you as you will be more likely to stick to them. A happy and content baby will sleep much better than an anxious and over stimulated one.
New infants need regular nourishment which might mean feeds every few hours in the night, after around 12 weeks most babies will be able to sleep for longer stretches between feeds. It is important to listen to your baby in these early months and feed them as they demand. This can often feel like a constant cycle, but it does get better and eventually you will start to get more sleep.