Baby sleep is a hot topic- it even has it's own hashtag on Twitter. Have a search and you'll see that you're not the only parent who is more than mildly obsessed with getting more. But there's little wonder why parents are so enthusiastic when it comes to new and inventive ways to get baby to sleep.
Sleep deprivation can be cruel- it lowers your defences, plays havoc with your health and makes you want to curl up and cry at times. So finding new ways to get more baby sleep can only be a good thing, right? And to celebrate, here are five ways to get more baby sleep.
Establish time as soon as possible
Yes, babies do not come equipped with prior knowledge of what time you like to eat dinner or how long you like to sleep for yourself. They do come with an inept disregard for night and day and a curious habit of waking at least every four hours for food. But you can work with that. You'll find your newborn a lot easier to predict if you try and establish some kind of a routine as soon as possible. Ok, so the first six weeks or so are pretty bonkers in most new family's households, but after that you might see some resemblance of order. To help make the initial craziness a little easier, try setting a regular bath and bedtime routine at first. Babies adapt quite quickly and come to realise that they are required to wind down and sleep when certain sleep cues are initiated.
So make bath time the same time each night, and always follow the same order of events before you put baby down to sleep. Do the same with naps during the day too. Eventually the routine will click.
Babies are born with a startle reflex that some believe goes back to ancient times when mothers carried babies around with them everywhere. If baby lost their grip on mum, the startle reflex kicked in and forced baby to regain their grip and stay close. These days, the startle reflex is not quite so essential to most babies, and can actually disturb baby sleep. Some babies are so unsettled each time they startle that they can be woken from sleep quite easily. One of the best ways to soothe and calm baby so that the startle reflex doesn't cause a problem where sleep in concerned is to swaddle. Basically, swaddling means wrapping baby tightly in a thin sheet or blanket so that the arms and legs are unable to move freely, thus dampening the startle reflex. Done properly, swaddling can mimic conditions of the womb, which help baby to feel relaxed and safe. It's worth looking into if your baby seems to become easily distressed.
Another simple trick that stems from the days in utero. When baby is in the womb, there are so many loud noises in there too: blood whooshing around the body, voices, music and general sounds of life on the outside. Many babies are born stunned with the silence that it is assumed they need. Hence why white noise is so comforting to some babies. There are machines that are designed specially to make this noise, or there are apps for your phone or tablet that you can download. Failing that, a whirring fan or washing machine on full spin ought to do the trick.
Babies wake because they're hungry, mainly. Yes, as they get older there are many other reasons why sleep could be disrupted, but lots of parents will assume hunger first. And this is why many swear on a dream feed to stretch out baby sleep a little longer. The concept is simple- lift your baby from their sleep when you go to bed and rouse them only enough to give them a feed. Then return them to slumber and hope for another four hour stretch. Whether it works for you or not is up to baby- some will happily feed and return to sleep, others will be disturbed enough to wake fully and let you know about it. Only you know how your baby will react!
Get lots of fresh air
Whatever the weather, fresh air is good for the mind and the body and for babies, it helps them to sleep better. I swear by this. And yes, I know we have a vested interest seeing as the SnoozeShade was invented so that babies could sleep outside more, but it really is true! Studies have found that being outside helps baby to regulate their body clock- remember that they aren't born knowing about day and night- and being exposed to healthy amounts of daylight and fresh air helps with the secretion of melatonin. It is this hormone that helps to balance sleeping patterns. So get out there and walk with baby! Don't forget that the SnoozeShade is also a wonderful wind shield so never mind the weather, and think of the end result: lots of lovely baby sleep!