Getting into good newborn sleep habits is one of the most important things to do with bubs. It all sounds wonderful in theory but can be quite tough, especially if you have a child with colic and/or reflux issues. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security – the honeymoon when you bring them home from the hospital and they sleep all the time will fade very quickly. And you need to be prepared to get them into a settling routine. It is healthy for both of you. And if you don’t do it early, sleep habits during the day AND night will be affected and hard to break the older they get. Getting your infant into a sleep rhythm takes a bit of time, effort, and patience, but it is worth it.
There are different approaches to establishing baby sleep habits. I have tried most of them. I did slightly different things for my first than I did with my second. I think with my second baby, (after experiencing the effects of not listening to the right people) I was a lot more open to trying different techniques. All babies are different and will respond to different things. You have to find what works best for you and your family but I found the below made a difference for us.
A quick note before I start. I believe in a bedtime routine, i.e. the same things every night/day as they are going to bed. And I try to keep to a schedule as much as possible. It’s not as easy with two but I do what I can when I can. And for me, that worked. Even the little things, like keeping the same night time buddies in her cot with her; switching her shusher on as soon as she goes in the cot, and a sleep balm’s or oil has made a big difference in our household. I hope that some of this helps you find your happy sleep place!
1. Baby Sleep - Routine
Establish a routine as quickly as possible using either baby’s rhythm to identify key times of the day for sleeping and eating or a respected guide. Look out for sleep signs like running eyes, yawning, and grumpiness. The guides I turned to were Save Our Sleep and Baby Love.
2. Baby Sleep - Burp Well.
Make sure your baby is well burped. A lot of people don’t realise they are not spending enough time on burping but it is really important. If you see bubs is uncomfortable or struggling to get to sleep, curling their legs up, try burping them until you are confident, they have got it all out. It hurts their undeveloped little tummies when they have gas.
3. Baby Sleep - Bed Time Ritual
Have an established bedtime ritual – consistency is important. Try a warm, relaxing bath with lavender oil; baby massage; make sure tummy is well fed and burped; read a little book. If the baby needs some extra help try a minute or two of rubbing or tapping. Tapping or rubbing should be consistent, eg 20 taps/rubs and then go out. If bubs isn’t settling do another 20 then leave again (more on this in mo).
4. Baby Sleep - Buy the best mattress you can
Ensure you have a breathable, natural mattress so that the baby’s temperature is kept well-regulated and baby doesn’t over-heat.
5. Baby Sleep - Make sure bubs is getting enough milk
A well-fed baby is a happy and sleepy baby. I had a very low milk supply. With my first, we found out because my first started to lose weight and was not settling soon after birth. The nursing staff had me check my milk levels and they were so so low. She had to go on formula to top up and I keep feeding and expressing for as long as she would take it.
6. Baby Sleep - Serene Sleeping Area
Make sure the room environment, particularly the sleeping area, does not have distractions and is serene
7. Baby Sleep - Check the basics
Make sure to cover the basics - comfortable swaddle, clean nappy, quiet space, comfortable room temperature.
8. Baby Sleep - Daytime sleep is crucial
Daytime sleep is crucial for nighttime sleep so do your best to get a good daytime sleep routine happening. If your little one is not getting enough sleep during the day the nights will be tough. Bubs will be overtired, will be tough to get down and will also be waking at night
At about 2 or 3 months I started to be a bit more committed to establishing good sleep patterns for my youngest, Annabel. Again, like with my first, I was struggling with the day time sleep and what I was doing was not working. So I started to talk to others about what they were doing and getting advice from different places. The three points following are a summary of the things that made the final bit of difference for us with Annabel, particularly her day sleep.
9. Baby Sleep - Give it 2 minutes
The maternal health nurse booked a sleep consultant for a home visit for us. Most things I had been doing in line with what her approach was (as above). But there was 1 difference. I was running into Annabel as soon as she would start crying Just to be very clear about this, she was not crying hysterically, just grizzling. The sleep consultant recommended that I wait for 2 minutes (or around 2 minutes) to give her a chance to settle herself. If she didn’t stop or if the crying intensified, I was to go in, give her a tap, make sure she is comfy and walk out. For 2 or 3 days I did this during the day (we had no issues at night) never letting her crying get intense, and it did the trick.
At the same time as I had this advice, I also was given advice number 2 - be consistent - which I did in conjunction with the above. And it made a world of difference doing these two things together. She went to sleep quickly once in the cot.
10. Baby Sleep - Be consistent
A friend of mine went to Masada sleep school with her second, who are amazing. And for anyone struggling, a sleep program like this one can make a massive, positive change in your life. But the key piece of advice which she imparted to me, was to be consistent when going into the baby. When you are settling the baby, it is as important to be consistent when settling and re-settling. I was doing the same thing as I lay her down to bed, but when she cried and I would go in to re-settle, I was not being consistent with the initial settling routine. Sometimes I would shush, sometimes I would tap for a bit, rub a bit. So, I found a number of taps (80 slow taps) that seemed to work. I would be quiet, no shushing, I would walk in, check her (ie smell her bum), tap her, and then walk out. If she didn’t settle, I would wait for the 2 minutes or more (or less) and then go back in and do the same thing.
Worked!! I love consistency. But more important - babies love consistency!
11. Baby Sleep - Give her milk 30mins before lunchtime nap
So, getting to sleep was working well for the morning nap, lunchtime sleep, and night sleep. But, she wasn't sleeping long enough during the day. She would not sleep for two hours. She was getting to sleep ok because the sleep methods had worked well. But she was waking up after one sleep cycle. This concerned me because resettling is a really important tool for babies, and if they don’t get enough sleep because they can’t fall back to sleep – it’s not good for anyone! A friend of mine had tried the Little Ones sleep techniques which had worked well for her bubs and she suggested I try feeding Annabel 40minutes to 1 hour before I put her to bed - a top-up feed.
BINGO!! That did it. It was the final piece of the puzzle for me. Once I started to do that she started to have her full 2-2.5hr day sleep.
You have to find what works best for you. All I can do is share what worked for my family. And as you can see, it wasn’t just one method or one piece of advice from one person. Don’t be shy to talk to different people and find out what worked for them as you might just find a little hint that will make a world of difference.
My Favourite Baby Sleep Products
The cot mattress is the most important purchase for your baby as they will spend more time sleeping than awake in their first years; while their bones and spine are developing. Only the best baby cot mattress will be a comfortable and safe place to sleep. The best baby cot mattress is essential in helping your baby (and you) have the best sleep possible.
I bought the doggy – Dex – for my little one when we were going through a very unsettled period. My favourite part is that it switches on by itself when she starts to cry. I have loved this. I have other ‘shushers’ and this one was my favourite. I also liked that I could choose how loud it is. When she is away from home, rather than taking the whole animal, I just take out the sound module/machine and just have that with us. It's convenient.
This is an essential oil blend is perfect for helping to promote restful sleep and bring a sense of calm before bedtime for little ones (although I guarantee once you smell it you will want one too).