The early months with your newborn can be very tiring but it’s important that you also try to get enough shut-eye. It is estimated that new parents can lose between 400 and 750 hours sleep in their baby’s first year! The good news however, is that there are a few things you can do to help make life a bit more restful, for everyone by helping your baby sleep.
Most new parents like to keep their baby close by in the early weeks. A Moses basket or small crib is ideal as it can be moved around the house so that your baby can be where you are. It is also recommended that your baby sleep in your room for the first six months, in a separate crib.
However, after the first few weeks you might begin to feel a bit more relaxed about letting your baby sleep in another room. Staying connected with your baby when you’re not together is very important though and that’s where a good baby monitor can help.
Baby monitors allow you to keep an eye on your baby even when you’re not in the room – giving you extra peace of mind. Not only do they let you know when your baby is crying, but you can talk back and reassure them with your voice depending on the model of monitor of course.
If your baby is older (and a noisy sleeper), look for a monitor with adjustable sensitivity. You won’t hear every sound, but you’ll know if your baby needs you.
Some monitors can also remotely notify you of the temperature and humidity of your baby’s room. Your baby’s sleep and relaxation can be easily affected by even the slightest variations in climate, as babies aren’t capable of efficiently regulating their own body temperatures. The latest monitors mean you can keep an eye on temperature and humidity levels from anywhere in your home and check your baby’s room is comfortable and healthy.
Introduce a Routine
Some babies find it easier than others to settle. If your baby is a good sleeper, you’re lucky. But, there may still be times when your little one needs a bit of extra help at bedtime with baby sleep training. Introducing a sleep-time routine such as a darkened room, a certain song or lullaby, and a baby sleeping bag instead of sheets and blankets can really help. A soother may also help to settle them. Babies have a strong instinct to suck and that simple sucking action is naturally relaxing.
Try and get your baby in the mood for sleep, but encourage them to do the ‘going to sleep’ bit alone, by saying good night and leaving the room quietly. Return to soothe if needed it but leave before your baby is completely asleep. Gradually, they’ll find it easier to settle themselves on their own. A baby who knows how to go to sleep alone nearly always sleeps through the night earlier, as it’s easier to get back to sleep. Some babies are able to sleep the whole 10 to 12 hour night at around 6 to 7 months.
Here are some top tips for helping your baby sleep
- Newborn babies who are more unsettled may benefit from skin to skin contact and lots of cuddles.
- Newborns also find movement very soothing. For unsettled babies, try gentle rocking in your arms, in the pram, or in a sling or baby carrier. Suckling is also very soothing, so try a breastfeed or soother.
- Lullabies can help soothe your baby back to sleep, and you can sing or play them through a parent unit, if your monitor has one. The talkback function enables you to reassure your baby without going into the room. This is really useful for baby sleep training and also lets your baby know you are on your way.
- A night light is comforting for many babies, and is useful when checking on your baby when it’s dark. You could use the night light on your monitor, for example, as it won’t disturb your baby.
- A special baby sleeping bag is a great alternative to sheets and blankets, as your baby can’t wriggle out of it. They are tog rated for the different seasons and keep your baby at an even temperature when sleeping.
- Babies and parents really benefit from a bedtime routine from about two to three months onwards. In the early evening, try a bath, a quick massage, a milk feed and maybe a special soothing bedtime song. From about six months, introduce a story and maybe a sleep time teddy or bunny.
- Encourage your baby to sleep more at night by feeding well and regularly during the day. At night, keep lights low, avoid too much stimulation and only change your baby’s nappy if necessary.
It can take a bit of time to learn good sleeping habits, but persevere and you will soon see the results.
*This article is an exclusive column from Dr Diana Du Plessis, spokesperson for Philips Mother and Child Division.