This week we have discovered what not to do when trying to establish a healthy sleep routine, we then looked at safe sleep procedures to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome but finally it’s time to share some tips on how to nail the perfect sleep routine for your little one.
A healthy sleep routine is easier to implement in younger babies so the sooner you start the sooner you can rest. Newborns in the first few weeks will sleep a lot however, their sleep pattern will be difficult to mould due to their body clock still adjusting to life outside the womb. It’s best to start your sleep training when baby is around 6-8 weeks.
Don’t make the same mistake I did by allowing your head to be consumed with information overload to the point you have no idea what’s right, what’s wrong, what works and what doesn’t. I’m here to make it really simple for you. I tried numerous methods and finally at 5 and a half months, after just 2-3 nights of repetition, my little one has gone from 4-6 hours at night to 10-12. The first night this happened I honestly woke up singing, I danced around the house all day with my baby. Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! I had a new lease of life.
If you start your sleep training when your baby is a little older, persevere. It may take slightly longer but it will work. Or, give up and continue the struggle. What have you got to lose.
- Make sure your baby naps through the day. If your baby is not getting the recommended sleep through the day, you will struggle to settle them at night. Babies become very grumpy, restless and over tired when they are not well rested so you may find yourself with a fight on your hands if you keep your little one awake all day. When putting baby down for naps follow the same guidelines as you would for bedtime (stated below). The only difference is, daytime naps should be associated with day light and sound so do your best to keep noise levels normal. You can draw the curtains slightly but keep the room bright. Bedtime preparation should be very quiet and lights should be dimly lit with just a small lamp or night light. (Follow all SIDS sleep guidelines for naps as you would bed time)
- Set a time for naps and a time for bed. Stick to it. You do not have to be regimented or extremely strict but you should try your best to stay as close to nap times and bed time as you can (especially during sleep training) you will find after a few days / weeks of sleep training your little one will become tired around these newly set times which will make settling them easier.
- Always place your baby in the same place for naps. Cot, crib or Moses basket. That way your baby will associate this place with sleep (this is also recommended as a safety precaution of SIDS).
- While your baby is calm lay them down awake to self soothe where they will be sleeping. If they are upset, hold them until they calm down. As soon as they have settled lay them straight back down on their back.
- Always use key words when settling your little one, they will soon start to associate these words with sleeping. For my little one I quietly repeat ‘sshhh, sleepy time or time to rest’ and this is all I say. Nothing more. Be sure to speak slowly and quietly. When it’s time to sleep you should become boring to your child. This allows them to lose interest and dose off.
- Use a comforter. They will start to associate this with sleep and this will also help them self soothe. Use something small that they can hold. Make sure it is small enough and light enough not to impact on their body temp or breathing. My daughter has a small teddy that has a tiny small blanket attached. These are great. If you are using a comforter for sleep you should avoid giving this to your little one when awake because it will lose its sleep association so you will not be able to use that as a sleep que.
- Some sleep training advises against the use of TV’s, screens or sounds and to an extent I completely agree. Avoid sending your little one to sleep with music or screens playing as this can be distracting or they can become reliant on it in future which will make self soothing difficult. I do like to use sound though, I have a small toy ‘Ewan the Sheep’ who plays a very soothing heartbeat sound or white noise. This is great for really young babies. My baby now associates this quiet relaxing sound with sleep and her eyes start to roll and become heavy when listening to it. I personally find white noise a great sleeping que and it has also been suggested to help ease infants suffering colic.
- Before bedtime you should bath your little one. This produces melatonin (sleep hormone). Straight after their warm bath you can give them a massage to relax their little muscles or pop them straight into their pyjamas but make sure you have them settled in bed within 30-40 minutes of their bath as melatonin will start to wear off.
- Do not feed your baby while they fall asleep as they can start to rely on it to help them soothe. For naps, hold of and feed them when they wake and for bedtime, feed them before their bath.
- Don’t let your baby cry it out until they fall asleep (this can be extremely upsetting for both you and baby and can have long term affects on their health) You can use a controlled crying technique which really works. Put baby down, play their que sound (if you decide to use one) use your key words, and give them their comforter (dummy too if you have chosen to give your child one) then walk away. If they are cranky let them cry for a few minutes (crying is communicating, it does not always indicate stress or fear) Only go back if your child becomes really distressed or if crying lasts up to 5 minutes. If you must return simply repeat the process again. It’s best to settle them while they lay in their bed however; If the child is very upset you can pick them up until they stop crying and then straight back down again. Follow your process and walk away again. Repeat this until baby soothes their self to sleep. Remember repetition is key. Your baby will soon realise they have to stay there and they will fall asleep on their own. The important thing to remember is when baby is distressed or really upset, rerurn to let them know you are still there, just be firm that its sleep time and they must remain in their bed to rest.
I’m not promising this will be easy but persistence will pay off. You will only have to endure this for a short period and when you’ve nailed your sleep routine, it’s pretty much plane sailing for nap times and bedtime.
- Cot, crib or Moses basket
- Key words
- Que sound (white noise recommended)
- Comforter (dummy if req)
- Walk away
All of these things will start to trigger as sleep ques and times for rest in your babies head but you have to learn to repeat the sequence. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Only come back in if crying is distressed or lasts up to 5 minutes. Settle them where they lay if you can. If not, pick them up until they are calm and place them straight back down. Repeat your process and leave again.
Hovering around them only reminds them they want to be picked up so remember to walk away. You will experience many emotions during the training process but you must remain calm and consistent.
Like I have mentioned before, this may take 2-3 days and nights or 1 week to 2 weeks but when that sleep routine is in place both you and baby can sleep easy without stress meaning you are both well rested and happier in the day time together.
My journey to sleep freedom was difficult because I did not try the controlled crying technique. Every time she so much as whimpered I picked her up. This made my life very difficult as she would then only sleep in my arms. I was lucky to get 3-4 hours at night. My mood deteriorated and I had absolutely no energy. This was having a huge impact on my relationships as well as my mental health. I was feeling low and tired and didn’t understand where I was going wrong. Bed time was stressful for me and extremely upsetting for my baby. Not anymore. Previously I could spend upto 3 hours settling my daughter only to get 3-4 hours sleep. Now I spend 10 mins max and she can sleep for upto 10 hours. When she wakes through the night she doesn’t cry for me anymore, she simply has a little babble and soothes herself back to sleep.
I have so much more energy meaning day time is fun and positive for us both. We nailed it. We love bedtime now.
Give it a try. Be firm and keep in mind the long term goal is beneficial for both you and baby.
Good Luck Mummies.
Mummy Said So x