You can buy your baby an expensive cot mattress and the softest merino wool bedding but they still might not settle to sleep. Creature comforts are of little significance to a baby; what matters most to them is that they feel safe and secure, which means the atmosphere around them must be as happy, calm, confident and positive as possible.
Here is my 7 step guide to settling your baby to sleep:
1 Establish (some kind of) a routine
There’s no point being too prescriptive about this as baby won’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time during the first couple of weeks but you can still begin to establish a bath and bedtime routine to show them the difference between night and day.
Babies are creatures of habit and what happens on a daily basis quickly becomes the norm to them. Bath time need only take a few minutes and once it is over go into baby’s room, dry and dress them and then feed in a quiet, calm, lowly lit room.
2. A room of one’s own
Where your baby sleeps is a controversial issue these days. NHS Guidelines state that baby must sleep in your room for the first six months. However, in my experience, babies sleep better once they’re in their own room – and so will you as you won’t be disturbing each other! Many of the babies I’ve looked after snuffle, snort, grunt and groans throughout the night – and I’m sure their parents do too. My advice is to sleep baby in your room for the early weeks and as soon as you feel comfortable to do so, move him into his own room.
3. Make sure your baby is comfortable
Babies are supposed to sleep on their backs these days but the reality is that many are so uncomfortable they find it impossible to sleep. This can be due to a number of reasons: a newborn’s accentuated startle reflex, the fact that they’ve been curled up in your womb and now feel insecure and vulnerable while being flat on their back, and digestive issues such as reflux.
If decide to position your baby in a different position other than on his back I suggest the use of an under mattress breathing sensor which will monitor his breathing and movement, giving you peace of mind.
4. Swaddling or sleeping bag?
Swaddling in the early weeks can be helpful to create a feeling of security which emulates being in the womb but be careful not swaddle with their arms and legs totally straight as that can restrict natural movement and cause problems with hips and shoulders. Fold baby’s arms across his chest and allow his legs to bend & flex within the swaddle. I find that using a swaddle made of jersey cotton is best as it allows for movement.
I usually introduce sleeping bags at around six to eight weeks – they’re a really good way to signal to a baby that its time for bed. Do make sure all bedding, sleeping bags, clothing etc is made from 100% pure cotton. A sheepskin under the sheet can make a firm mattress more cosy.
5. Calm it down
Wherever your baby is sleeping, it needs to be relaxing and cosy, not a stimulating environment filled with toys, lights and music. Cot mobiles are fine during the day to entertain your baby while you take a shower but always turn them off at night time.
6. The difficult part…
Whatever you do, make sure your baby is awake when you place them in their cots. Its really important they learn to settle themselves to sleep. In the early weeks this can be a tedious and challenging process. When they cry, leave them a few minutes to see if they settle. If they don’t check there’s nothing bothering them (dirty nappy, burp, still hungry etc) and if not, pick them up, reassure them and then put them back down, patting and shushing for a few minutes. Then try to leave. If they still don’t settle, repeat the whole process until they’re asleep.
7. If all else fails
In the early weeks you may find a dummy useful to help settle baby; try to break the habit by three months if you can, though. Feeding your baby to sleep can also be effective although this can also easily become a habit that will eventually need to be broken.
Teaching your baby to settle themselves to sleep will stand them in good stead for the whole of their childhood, ensuring they grow and thrive as babies but also when they start school.
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