It doesn’t take long for those dreaded little words “How is your baby sleeping?” to come up in any given parent-to-parent conversation.
Some parents dodge the question by saying everything is fine and some dive into a long story of their child’s sleep habits and their ultimate frustration.
For some families, the nights of disrupted sleep can go on for months on end, even years, and it really needn’t be that way. Every child is different, but assuming that your baby is healthy, you can expect 12 hours of solid nighttime sleep between the ages of 3 and 6 months.
If your child is 6 months of age or older and still not sleeping through the night, there are some simple steps you can take to quickly improve the length of your child’s sleep.
Here are 7 tips to getting your baby to sleep well.
- Babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own without any external props. Props come in MANY forms, from feeding to dummies to patting, rocking, music, cuddles and many more. If your baby is reliant on one or more to fall asleep then they will need it each and every time they wake in the night (which we all do at least several times a night briefly!)
- Be consistent. Whatever is happening at one sleep situation needs to be happening at all sleep situations to send a clear message about what is expected, and that includes every time your baby or toddler wakes in the night.
- Early bedtime. This is vital to ensure that children do not become overtired. When a person is overtired, it becomes more difficult to settle down and fall asleep. When sleep does come, a person is a lot more restless with more tossing and turning and more night-time waking. Try to pick a bedtime somewhere between 6 and 8pm based on the last nap of the day and your baby's age. Bedtimes do not have to be set in stone, you can always move bedtime a bit earlier if your child seems tired or cranky – just try not to make it later.
- Routine. A bedtime routine is something you can start at a very early age and is an excellent cue to the body and mind that it is time to settle down and get ready for sleep. Routines should last from 20 – 30 minutes and at least some of it should take place in the child’s room. Your routine might include a bath, pyjamas, feed and maybe a song or book.
- Naptime routines. A short nap routine will help cue your baby’s body and brain that it is time for a nap. It need only take 5 minutes or so and might involve pulling the curtains in the baby’s room together or saying goodnight to some toys in the room, then a short cuddle and a song. If naps have to be on the run then this is ok, as motion assisted sleep doesn’t have a negative impact on sleep skills. I would highly recommend using a blackout shade over your pushchair to block out light as it’s far easier for your child to fall asleep, and also to resettle if they wake at the end of a sleep cycle, in a nice dark space.
- Exhausting your child will not make them sleep any better! Skipping naps or late bedtime will affect the next 24 hour cycle. Do not let anyone tell you that naps are not important, or that skipping them will help your baby sleep longer at night.
- Keep baby awake whilst feeding If you are feeding your infant in the night try not to let him/her fall asleep at the breast or bottle. Keep feedings low key and quiet.
Research shows that 84% of children who are experiencing sleep problems will continue to have them for up to 5 years. This is a very long time for a family to function on a reduction of sleep and a long time to fight bedtime battles. It is never too late to start changing your child’s sleep situation. It can be hard but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel and in the long run making changes will make everyone feel better and well-rested and, in my experience, a whole lot happier!
Implementing any kind of change can be hard work so if you would like some support on your journey to great sleep then there is help available.
Infant and Child Sleep Consultant Karen Bramall from Baby Sleep The Night has a decade of experience and has worked with thousands of families to solve their children’s sleep difficulties with her gentle caring methods. Karen now trains others in her line of work and on her website you will find a whole team of Baby Sleep