Every parent wants their baby to sleep through the night. But it’s normal to have months where you have to get up every few hours (or more often) to tend to your newborn baby. Although having a baby is a joyous event, newborns need almost constant attention, eating every hour or two and having their diapers changed about as often. It can be exhausting. In fact, researchers at the University of Warwick recently found that parents’ sleep patterns can be affected up to six years after having a baby.
So it’s understandable so many bleary-eyed parents search for ways to improve their baby’s sleep.
- Get the basics right
It’s always worth reflecting on your baby’s sleeping environment and routine to check if there’s any improvements you could make. Soft lighting, good temperatures (68-72F), and a calm, consistent bedtime routine are essentials. If you use lighting at night, make sure you use bulbs which block blue wavelengths – these are the most disruptive to sleep.
Every family might have a different bedtime routine, but you might like to try a bath, followed by a story, and then time for a bottle or to breastfeed. The routine should be calm and not too playful. Not only is this a great time to connect with your baby, but it’ll help them relax and prepare them for restful sleep. Unlike during the night, it’s a chance for you to create the ideal environment to drift off.
- Understand that sleep regression is normal
It can be particularly frustrating once you feel you’ve got into a good sleeping routine for things to regress. Sleep regression refers to any change in your child’s sleep pattern. Whether that’s shorter naps, waking up more frequently in the night or generally resisting bedtime, sleep regression can happen without warning.
According to one guide, sleep regression can be triggered at various stages during your child’s development. For example, when reaching developmental milestones, experiencing growth spurts, suffering with teething, pain, or illness, or if there have been disruptions in their routine. Just remember that the quantity and quality of your child’s sleep will continue to ebb and flow. You’re not doing anything wrong.
- Offer reassurance, but do start to build up your baby’s tolerance for separation
When babies keep waking up at night, of course, you should comfort them. Be calm and gentle, and try to avoid talking too much as babies are particularly attuned to their parents’ voices and it can wake them up further.
To start preparation for easier bedtimes, you also need your baby to be comfortable being away from you. Even tired babies and young children will try and stay up if they don’t feel comfortable. Games such as peek-a-boo are great for this. It’s a playful way of showing that even if you go away, you always come back.
- Tune into your baby’s natural biological rhythms
Although we’ve discussed how important a routine is, nothing is more important than your baby’s own rhythm. Look out for telltale signs of sleepiness, such as:
- Still and quiet
- Disinterested in their surroundings
You can then place your baby into their crib while she’s primed to drift off. These will be some of the most fuss-free bedtimes you’ll experience as a parent. But make sure you’re quick. When babies get overtired, their brains start to release wakefulness hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which can make it harder for them to fall – and stay – asleep.
- Have a nap yourself
You need to be well rested yourself in order to be a good parent. Don’t feel guilty about having a nap when they are sleeping during the day. It’s a great way to catch up on lost sleep. It’s reported that a parent loses about 350 hours of sleep at night over her baby’s first year. You can start to tackle this sleep debt by planning a nap around your baby’s sleep schedule. Even 20 minutes can feel refreshing for most people. It can then help you feel more prepared to tackle the rest of your day.
Caring for a baby can be very stressful and exhausting, especially when you’re sleep-deprived. Make sure you’re looking after yourself too.
How have you improved your baby’s sleep? Share your tips and recommendations with us.