Getting your little one into a regular sleeping routine can be one of the hardest parts of parenting and often requires lots of patience! But, t he good news is that by the end of the first year, most babies will sleep 10–12 hours a night.
Good sleep and good moods go hand in hand for little ones and their parents. It may feel like you’ve not got much chance of getting a good night’s sleep at first, but getting your baby in to good sleeping habits early on in their lives will make things much easier in the long run.
It’s a good idea to encourage good sleeping habits and develop a routine as soon as possible.
By 6 months your baby should be able to sleep through without a feed but there are things you can do sooner to help baby achieve this. Don’t worry just a few simple changes can lead to much more relaxing evenings and calmer nights.
To make sure your little one is as fresh as a daisy every morning it is essential to establish a regular routine and stick to it. Help your baby get used to a routine early on by setting nap times through the day, setting a bedtime at night and sticking to them. You may experience a little trial and error to begin with, as you learn just how much sleep your baby needs, but don’t be afraid to wake baby up if you think they are sleeping too long during the day.
Help your baby get in to the habit of napping during the day and sleeping for longer periods at night by distinguishing the two. Make daytime light, bright and exciting, when they are napping don’t worry too much about keeping everything quiet. Come bedtime make their room dark, quiet and calming. Close curtains, keep voices low and baby will soon learn there is a difference.
Night Time Routine
As baby gets a little older, a regular night-time routine, including bath time and story time, will help your little one relax and eventually, they will automatically associate this wind-down time with sleep and restfulness. The routine should be calm and gentle and could be something like this:
Relax baby with a warm calming bath, put on soft, fresh nightclothes so they’re warm and cosy ready for bed.
Offer your little one a warm drink and have a little supper if appropriate. Remember to avoid sugar-loaded cakes and biscuits which can make your child agitated and irritable.
Enjoy a comforting cuddle with your little one before taking them to brush their teeth and visit the toilet. Snuggle them up in their cosy bed with a favourite toy for a little chat, a soothing bedtime story or lullaby.
Babies adore the sound of their parents' voices, so reading or singing a lullaby can have a calming effect on your child. If your child is a little older take time to talk through the events of their day to help them reflect on their feelings. It can be wonderfully soothing for children, help them get things off their mind and help you understand their behaviour better.
Dim the lights and kiss your little one goodnight. Ambient lighting helps prepare your little one for sleep. Choose soft lighting, such as a warm-glow night-light, magical fairy lights or the main light on a dimmer switch to create a cosy feel. Goodnight kisses are your little ones last contact with you before they close their eyes, so make them warm and affectionate, to promote feelings of safety and security.
At this point make it clear that it’s time for sleep and not playtime, encourage them to stay in bed – you can either stay in the room until they drift off to sleep or leave, depending on what you and your child feel comfortable with.
Part of your bedtime routine could be a regular saying that lets your child know that it’s time to sleep. This could be something like ‘night night sleep tight’ or ‘sweet dreams, see you in the morning’, but whatever it is, it should be said in a calm and soothing voice to make your little one feel safe and secure and ready to settle down for the night.
If your little one struggles with sleeping on their own, some studies suggest that smells with strong positive associations can help to calm separation stress and anxiety.
Give your child something she associates with you, or spray some of your favourite perfume on a cloth and leave it by her bed.
Beds are for Sleeping
Always put your baby or child in their own bed when its time to go to sleep. This will help to make the connection in your little one’s mind between their bedroom, their bed and sleep!
When they are older don’t let them fall asleep watching the TV or a DVD and make sure they have water and easy access to a toilet – once they are in bed it is important that they stay there. Your own child may try calling out to you, deciding that they are hungry or regularly getting out of bed, but don’t give in! Don’t chat or cajole, if necessary put your child back to bed and say goodnight again making it clear that it’s bed time.
Finally, if you are rudely awakened from a peaceful sleep it’s important not to show your impatience. If your child wakes you during the night or has nightmares, allow them to describe any scary dreams and reassure them with comforting words. Settle them back in their own bed again and remind them they are safe and you are close by.
Remember every mum and baby is different, so try not to get too stressed if a particular routine isn’t working for you. It can often take you both a little time to get used to things and for baby to learn a new routine, so just try to be patient and go with what works best for you and your little one, then hopefully one day you’ll both wake up refreshed and ready to face another fun-filled day.