So, you’re a new Mum or perhaps your child is a little older but you’ve not managed to established a healthy bedtime routine yet. This is likely to be stressful and upsetting for both and your little one but not to worry, I am here to help.
If you’re anything like me you’ll have researched method after method and still feel completely lost because they all contradict one and other. Again, not to worry, I have done all the hard work for you. Doing my own research, using some logic and trial and error I’ve discovered the most simple way to help you both settle into a comfortable bedtime routine. This will be harder for some depending on the age of your little one but please know, it will work. Be patient. It may take 1 night, 2 nights or maybe a week but when the routine is implemented you will be so glad you did it.
Before we talk about the sleep routine I think it is important we go over what not to do when you can’t get your baby to sleep. Minor errors can feel harmless enough and ease your sleep problems temporarily but they are very difficult to reverse, trust me, I speak from experience.
- Do not listen to anyone who tells you – ‘Babies cannot settle into a routine because they are too young’. I can’t count the number of times I was told this. They were wrong. Babies are very clever and learn from repetition so routine is important for their learning and development. The first few weeks baby will sleep a lot but after about 6-8 weeks it is in both you and your baby’s best interest to form a healthy bedtime routine.
- Do not change / alternate the time you put your little one down. It is difficult when you have visitors over or you find yourself out and about with baby, coming home at different times each night. Maybe work schedules fluctuate so you or Dad only get to see baby later in the evening. Life can be hectic, I get that but baby comes first. Make sure you have a set time for bed and stick to it. Changing this every night will only confuse your baby’s body clock.
- Do not rely on motion settling. Using items like baby swings, push chairs, car rides or even rocking and bouncing baby in your arms will make it difficult when they need to self soothe. They become reliant on movement and long term this can cause stress when they are expected to sleep without it. You will also find if a baby is reliant on motion, they become unsettled when the movement stops or if baby wakes up through the night, they need the same movement to soothe themselves back to sleep.
- Do not pass baby between parents when trying to settle them. It can be hard when your little one won’t sleep, it is understandable that parents pass baby back and forth taking turns when they are tired but this is not only confusing for baby, it’s unsettling and only prolongs the process of getting them to sleep.
- Do not pick your little one up every time you hear them gurning. It’s hard to hear your baby agitated or upset but sometimes you need to give them space. Crying or babbling does not always indicate fear or hurt or sadness. They have no other method of communicating and this is their way of expressing themselves. Let them talk it out or have a little cry (short crying intervals only, do not let them ‘cry it out’) as long as they know you are there, not overly distressed and the crying is not prolonged, they are ok.
- Do not allow them to feed while falling asleep. They can become dependant on the milk for every nap or bedtime. Forming a feed/sleep association can also result in the child developing undesired eating habits later in life.
- Do not allow them to sleep in your bed. This was very hard for me because I wanted a cuddle just as much as my baby did. Co-sleeping can be safe if it is done properly however; it is not recommended as the safest option is for the child to have their own space. Co-sleeping can make it difficult when the time comes to move baby into their own bed/room. It can be confusing and stressful when suddenly they cannot sleep with the comfort of their parents. You are saving your child from heartache further down the line.
- Do not rely on a TV, iPad or any form of screen. The lights produced by these reduce melatonin (sleep hormone) which is more likely to waken the baby up rather than soothe them to sleep.
- Do not miss out on nap times. You’ll be told time and time again that keeping the baby awake through the day will tire them out enough to make them sleep all night. This could not be further from the truth. Babies need their sleep, this includes daytime naps or your little one could become unhappy, cranky and overtired which will result in a bad night sleep for you both.
- Last but not least, DO NOT give up. You and your baby deserve to have a healthy sleep routine. It is important for your relationship so you are both happy and rested in the day and baby needs sleep to help their little mind and body learn, grow and develop. Stick to your routine, no matter how tired or hard it might feel in the beginning, it will all be worth it.
These are all common mistakes made with newborn babies that can prolong developing a healthy sleep routine. Falling into just one of these habits can form a vicious cycle and only give you more work in the long run.
Do your best to avoid the above and I promise you will be one step closer to a blissful bedtime routine. Stay strong Mama!
Mummy Said So x