Our top tips on helping your baby to sleep better.
Baby sleep is a hot topic; it even has its own hashtag on Twitter. Have a search and you'll see that you're not the only parent who is more than mildly obsessed with getting more sleep. It’s little wonder that parents are so enthusiastic when it comes to new and inventive ways to help get their baby to sleep.
Sleep deprivation can be cruel. It lowers your defences, plays havoc with your health and makes you want to curl up and cry at times. So, finding new ways to get more baby sleep can only be a good thing, right? Here are five ways to get more baby sleep.
Establish a Sleep Routine as Soon as Possible
Babies do not come equipped with a knowledge of what time you like to eat dinner or how long you like to sleep for. They do come with a disregard for night and day and a curious habit of waking at least every four hours for food.
You'll find your newborn a lot easier to predict if you try to establish some kind of a routine. Of course, the first six weeks or so are pretty crazy in most new families’ households but after that you might start to notice that your baby has some patterns – and you can work around those. To help make the initial craziness a little easier, try setting a regular bath and bedtime routine first. Babies adapt quite quickly and come to realise that they are required to wind down and sleep when certain sleep cues are initiated.
So, make bath time the same time each night and always follow the same routine before you put your baby down to sleep – that might be bath, massage, dressing your baby in their night clothes, then a story. Establish a shorter routine (without the bath) for naps during the day too. Eventually your baby will start to notice and understand their sleep cues and they will settle into their routine.
Swaddling Your Baby
Babies are born with a startle reflex, the Moro reflex, which some believe goes back to ancient times when mothers carried their babies around with them everywhere. If the baby lost their grip on mom, the startle reflex kicked in and forced the baby to regain their grip and stay close.
These days, the startle reflex is not quite so essential and can actually disturb baby sleep. Some babies are so unsettled each time they startle that they can be woken from sleep quite easily. One of the best ways to soothe and calm your baby so that the startle reflex doesn't cause a problem is to swaddle your baby. Basically, swaddling means wrapping a baby tightly in a thin sheet or blanket so that the arms and legs are unable to move freely, thus dampening the startle reflex. Done properly, swaddling can mimic the conditions inside the womb, which helps your baby to feel relaxed and safe. It's worth looking into if your baby seems to become easily distressed and is waking frequently but is not hungry or wet.
Another simple trick to calm your baby that stems from their days in the womb, is white noise. When your baby is inside you, they hear many loud noises: blood whooshing around the body, your heartbeat, voices, music and the general sounds of life on the outside. It’s no wonder that babies dislike the silence we assume they need, hence why white noise is so comforting to some babies. There are machines and toys that are designed specially to make this noise, or you can download apps for your phone or tablet. Failing that, a whirring fan or even the washing machine on full spin ought to do the trick.
Babies mainly wake because they're hungry. It’s true that as they get older, there are many other reasons why your baby’s sleep could be disrupted but lots of parents will assume hunger is the most likely reason. This is why many swear by a ‘dream feed’ to stretch out your baby’s sleep a little longer and to help you get a good block of sleep.The concept is simple; lift your baby from their sleep when you go to bed and rouse them just enough to give them a feed. Then return them to slumber and hope for a good four-hour stretch. Whether it works for you or not is up to your baby. Some will happily feed and return to sleep, others will be disturbed enough to wake fully and let you know about it. Only you know how your baby will react!
Get Lots of Fresh Air
Whatever the weather, fresh air is good for the mind and the body and for babies, it helps them to sleep better. We swear by this. I know we have a vested interest, seeing as SnoozeShade was invented so that babies could sleep outside more - but it really is true! Studies have found that being outside helps your baby to regulate their body clock (remember that they aren't born knowing the difference between day and night). Being exposed to healthy amounts of daylight and fresh air helps the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that helps to balance sleeping patterns.
So, get out there and walk with your baby!
Don't forget that SnoozeShade is also a wonderful windshield, so don’t mind the weather and think of the end result: lots of lovely baby sleep!