It can be very frustrating and difficult when a baby won’t sleep. And getting a baby to sleep through the night isn’t easy. If your baby isn’t sleeping well and you feel like you are the only one, you aren’t. It also doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with your baby.
A few things to remember are:
- All babies are different.
- It’s ok for your baby to take longer to sleep through.
- It’s ok for your baby to wake more frequently than your friend’s baby.
- It’s ok for your baby to require more help to learn how to self-settle.
TIP 1: ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
One really important thing is to establish a night time routine with your baby. It’s never too early. This might include a story, a bath and a feed. You might want to incorporate your own rituals to share with your baby – maybe it’s a massage. Maybe it’s your favourite childhood book (even if baby doesn’t understand it yet). It’s all part of the predictable rhythm to winding down.
TIP 2: SET A BED TIME
Related to routine is timing. It’s important to have a set bed-time. I know these days, we all live a fairly unstructured life. We value spontaneity but when it comes to babies, structure and predictability can really make a real difference. When a baby feels like they know what is coming next, they feel secure and this feeling helps them to relax. You don’t have to make bedtime really rigid but roughly between 6pm and 7pm you should start a wind down process. If a baby goes down too late in the evening, they just don’t sleep well and then they can be unsettled during the day. The best hours for baby to sleep are in the evening as this is when they have their deepest, most refreshing sleep. Waiting until later robs them of the best part of their sleep.
TIP 3: LISTEN TO YOUR BABY
Listen to your baby when they are settling. I do not advocate controlled crying but I do think you need to listen to your baby carefully to ascertain whether they are crying or just making winding down noises. Most babies have a wind down process, just like adults, so try to take note of what noises your baby makes when they are going off to sleep so you can confidently leave them to it. Prior to 12 weeks, it’s unlikely they can settle on their own but once you have put them down, step back or out of the room first and give them a moment to try. Once they get past 12 weeks, and self-settling starts to become a possibility, you may find you can leave them for longer as they are learning to put themselves to sleep. Listen to your baby and trust your intuition. If you feel like they are getting distressed, don’t leave them, but if you feel like they are winding down, give them a moment.
TIP 4: CHECK THE BABY’S ROOM
Babies’ rooms can be incredibly distracting. Mobiles over the bed, the flashing light of the modem on the desk, cracks through the blinds and lots of prints on the walls. All these things can be fascinating to a baby. Making the area around the cot dark and boring can really help. Using white noise in the room when the baby is sleeping can also be a big help. Something relaxing like a rain noise, not too softly, can distract a baby and soothe them off to sleep.
TIP 5: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
You are ok and your baby’s ok. Unless you feel something is wrong. And If you do, don’t wait outside the nursery door. It’s fine to check your baby if you’re worried. It’s fine to comfort your baby if they’re distressed. I really believe that parents know what’s best for their baby.