Ask any new parent what they crave more than anything else and they'll probably say 'a good night's sleep'. While newborn babies are programmed (and need) to wake up several times in the night, there are some really easy tricks that you can do to help them towards the land of nod. Whether it's setting the mood, getting your little one in the right mindset or receiving some assistance from a clever, little gadget, here are a few ways to help you and your baby get some more shut-eye.
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1. Set the mood
You need to make your baby realise that it's sleep time now so creating the right atmosphere is crucial. Keep the lights – and your voice – low and don't play with your baby or over-stimulate them. Ironically it's, therefore, best to save those bedtime stories for earlier in the evening. Make sure they've been recently changed and fed, and then put them into bed when they are drowsy BUT still awake. Counter-intuitive though it may seem, this will help your baby learn how to fall asleep on their own or 'self-settle'. Rocking, feeding or holding them till they are completely asleep might be tempting but, lovely as it is, it will make it harder for them to fall asleep without you if they wake up in the middle of the night and you are not there.
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2. Temperature control
Before they go to bed, you need to make sure that your baby is comfortable and a big part of that involves temperature. Babies (and younger children in general) are less able than adults to control their body temperature. Being too hot or too cold will disturb a baby's sleep, making them wake up prematurely. Get the room temperature just right by investing in a GroEgg. This nifty gadget turns blue if it's too cold, red if it's too hot and yellow when it's just right. It also acts as a very useful night light.
The Gro Company Groegg colour changing room thermometer, £16, Amazon
3. If they wake, just wait
It's tempting to rush in to check on a baby as soon as you hear them wake up but it's worth giving it a couple of minutes first to see if they can fall back to sleep on their own. If they continue to cry, go and check on them but don’t turn on the light, pick them up or talk loudly to them. If they seem unsettled, make sure they aren't unwell, have wind or a wet or soiled nappy. If they don't, pat their stomach or shush them for a few minutes to see if they can work out what's wrong and settle themselves. If that doesn't work, see if they are hungry but try and put them back down to bed again as soon as you've fed them.
4. Keep quiet
When your baby wakes in the night (and they will, however good they are), make sure you keep things calm and quiet. If you're feeding, keep lights low and do it with the minimum of fuss; if you're changing their nappy, stay silent with a gentle smile and pat every so often. Try not to wake them up any more than you need to.
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5. Consider swaddling
Many newborns sleep better when they are swaddled as they feel secure with their arms and legs kept snugly to their sides. You should refer to The Lullaby Trust's guidelines before trying swaddling as it's important that you do it right to reduce the risk of SIDS. There are some lovely designs available from Aden and Anais, or you may prefer the easy-peasy swaddles from Swaddle Me, which use Velcro fasteners.
SwaddleMe original swaddle bag, £9.99, Amazon
6. Be consistent
Many parents swear by a routine at bedtime but, even if you aren't going down the strict regime route, it's worth keeping some things the same in the run-up to their sleep time. The nightly association with certain events, for example, a bath, a quiet feed or some gentle sleepy music, will help your child know what to expect next and encourage them to establish a healthy sleep pattern.
7. Early to bed
The timing of when you put your baby to bed might be just as important as what you actually do. Scientists have found that, at around two months, babies have a rise in melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, at the same time as the sun sets. Sundown can be different in summer and winter so stick somewhere in the middle, at around 6.30 pm. If you leave it too late, your baby will become overstimulated, tired and harder to put down.
8. Sleepy music
Lullabies have been used for centuries to help babies relax and drop off to sleep and, while you can still serenade your little one, technology is here to give you a helping hand. This Baby Soother has six different sounds, including a 'shh' noise, the sound of the womb and gentle music. It automatically comes on when your baby wakes up and is on a timer so switches off when all is quiet and peaceful again.
Baby Sleep Soother, £19.99, Amazon
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9. Sleep begets sleep
It's a truth universally acknowledged that a well-rested child sleeps better than an overtired one. It seems to go against what you'd expect but when you keep a baby up late or they skip a nap, they actually sleep less. A baby's stress hormones increase when they are overtired, making it harder to get them to sleep. When you do finally get them down, it's likely that they will wake up soon after because these same hormones rouse them when they're in a lighter sleep stage.
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