Top 5 Tips for guiding baby into good sleep habits:
• 1: My first tip would be swaddling! Sometimes, we try swaddling and baby gets cross and we think “My baby hates to be swaddled!”- For a few, this will be true. Actually it’s what you do after you swaddle, that all add up to help baby feel comforted. I’m a fan of Dr. Harvey Karp’s Five S’s:
1. Swaddle (safely)
2. Side (Hold baby in you arms so they are on their sides)
3. Shush (Shushing Noises)
4. Swing (I kind of do this controlled jiggly motion, key here is motion!)
5. Suck (If baby has a dummy)
((Nb. Never put your baby down to sleep on his/her side. Baby always led on back to comply with safe sleep guidelines)
I find following these helps get that swaddle hater, loving it! It only takes a few minutes following these steps (you may need to play around with how you find your personal approach) before you can lay them down and the security of the swaddle stops that startle reflex from waking them up and getting themselves all upset!
• 2: I love white noise. Ewan can be great but has a timed limit of around 20 minutes which no doubt turns itself off at the crucial moment! You can get some fairly cheap little gadgets on Amazon, they are portable and great from encouraging a ‘positive sleep association’ helping baby nap on the go.
• 3: Schedules. I know this seems a CRAZY notion when you are in the thick of the early days- and that’s okay. We absolutely do not need to be instilling strict schedules and getting panicked when things inevitably veer off track. Practicing little bits of routine as early as possible will help you feel a little more in control of the craziness, and be great practise for when baby is getting a little older and you are ready to start following a more firm schedule. Keeping an eye on how naps and feeds are going will help you identify if there’s anything at play later down the line. When I talk about schedules, we must remember to be flexible and relaxed with the idea… we are talking babies after all!
• 4: Remember that your baby is NOT a bad sleeper. They are a baby- and they are sleeping like one! Don’t get caught up with the implications that your baby should be sleeping through the night by week 8 or some such nonsense- Some babes are just naturally awesome sleepers who will do, and that’s okay so long as its baby led. And that’s the true key here, being baby led. We can tweak and guide but getting good sleep is not about withholding feeds from a hungry baby, ignoring them when they are communicating with you, or comparing them to your friend’s children etc. Each baby is so different and will reach that milestone in their own time. They all end up in the same place- sleeping through eventually! They just all get there on slightly different paths… and sometimes that path is super wiggly and exhausting, but is temporary and it will pass! Surround yourself with a good support network so you aren’t facing this tough bit of parenting alone.
• 5: Dream feeds. I wanted to use no.5 to talk about the importance of enjoying your tiny baby and how you being relaxed and connected with them will be conducive to helping them feel safe and secure to sleep well, but I think you guys will know this and so I’ll quickly touch on dream feeds. It has long been ‘standard practise’ to introduce dream feeds in the earlier half of the night, but we know that babies sleep best during this time and whilst offering milk might seem like a logical way to have them sleeping longer overnight actually we are interrupting their natural sleep cycle by doing so and setting of their digestive system (same goes for the myth of ‘feeding them up’ before bed- sleeping on a stretched fully tummy won’t give you a good night’s sleep) You may also find it is hard getting any milk into them at this dream feed, that they keep falling asleep or they are then irritable afterwards and hard to put down. Letting them wake naturally- I stop waking newborns and allow them to self-regulate night feedings once they have regained their birth weight and maintained (or gained) for two weeks after.
These top tips were written my Mother, Fern who is also a Maternity Night Nanny at Smooth Start Nanny Services. She provides care and support to tired parents across Gloucestershire.