No matter whether you’re getting loads or none at all, chances are high that when you have a baby and you meet up with other people that also have a baby, the conversation will sooner or later turn to sleep. What time your baby goes to sleep at night, how long your baby sleeps for, how often your baby naps, how many times your baby wakes at night. Sleep and sleeping schedules can dominate new parents to the point where you feel you know nothing about the whole thing at all. But consider this. As an adult, you probably have this sleeping thing down to a fine art. You lie in bed, you close your eyes and you go to sleep. And in an ideal world, after you’ve had that sleep you then wake up refreshed and ready for the day. Right? So why don’t babies do this too? Before you ask that fateful question, here are three things you need to know about baby sleep…
What YOU do matters
You are your baby’s biggest advocate, and if you think that good sleep doesn’t really matter then think again. Sleep is essential for brain growth and development, and allows your baby to produce growth hormones that are essential for normal physical development too. Your baby’s healthy immune system relies on good sleep. Your baby’s intellectual development relies on good sleep. Your baby’s emotions, mood and physical health all rely on good sleep. And more so, your relationship with your baby relies on good sleep too. A rested and happy baby is essential for helping form and strengthen essential bonds between baby and parent, and of course a happy baby makes your life a lot easier too. While we’re at it, sleep deprivation is bad news for parents too-read this for more advice and information.
So now that you know how important sleep is for babies, why would you not want to do all that you can to make sure your baby gets it? You are in control of this situation now, and it is up to you to gently teach your baby how to sleep and how to sleep well. To start with:
- Establish a routine. When your baby learns the signs that tell her it’s time for a sleep, your life will become that much easier! Focus on making sleep a priority, and build your day around what your baby needs. And make sure that the bedtime routine is polished too. Read this post for more advice and information on why a good bedtime routine is so important.
- Drop the bad sleep habits. We’re not talking rocking to sleep, or using a pacifier (necessarily) because if these things work for you then so be it. We’re talking the unhealthy sleep habits that benefit nobody. Falling asleep in front of the television. Inconsistent bedtimes. Lack of routine. All of the above will not help your baby to sleep well. And speaking of pacifier, read this post for more advice on using one effectively.
- Trust your instincts. This is all about realising that YOU know your baby best. Of course, friends and family mean well, but if you are happy with your decisions when it comes to your baby’s sleep, then stick with it. Some families will co-sleep and some will not. Some families will rock their babies to sleep and some will not. Some mothers will breastfeed and some will not. Nobody is right or wrong; we are all acting on our instincts and that can only be right. That said…
- Accept that your instincts may need tweaking sometimes. Ok, so we believe that your instincts are usually right, but sometimes we all need a little help. If you feel that perhaps you’re not quite on the mark, talk it over. Some things might need a little tweaking, and it’s up to you to recognise that.
- Be consistent. Your baby will respond well to a good, solid routine that never changes. We’re not saying you have to be restrictive or rigid- flexibility is the key. And flexibility can work well with a consistent routine too.
Take control of your baby’s sleep.
Comparing your baby to another is bad news
No two babies are alike, not even if they are born into the same family! Your baby is not a robot. She is a person. An individual with individual wants, needs and desires. She has her own temperament and she has her own mind too. Just as you and your siblings (if you have them) are not alike, your baby is likely to be quite different from your other children, so don’t compare them. And while we’re at it, don’t compare them to your friends’ babies either. It’s also worth noting here that what you read on Facebook or overhear at baby group isn’t always the absolute truth either. So if Mrs X says her baby sleeps through the night at 6 weeks, it might be worth taking that with a pinch of salt.
Remember that what you class as sleeping through the night may not be the same as Mrs X’s definition, and remember that until the age of around 12 months or so babies are not supposed to sleep through the night either. So stop comparing, and focus on your own baby. For more information on ‘sleeping through the night’, read this post.
Sleep breeds sleep
So no matter how much it seems to make sense to wake your baby during the day, or limit naps when you think your baby has had enough- this won’t help her to sleep at night. Good day time sleep means good night time sleep. This means that if you need to work on your baby’s sleeping habits, start with day time naps first.
- Make sure you stick to the same routine during the day, every day, and be consistent with naps. Nap times can vary by up to 30 minutes or so, but generally as soon as you notice sleep cues, it’s time for sleep.
- Organise your day around your baby. Don’t listen to well-meaning friends that tell you your baby needs to fit in with you. While this is true to some extent, you also need to make her sleep a priority. So plan your days with her sleep in mind, and make sure there are plans for nap times.
- Don’t plan too many activities that are likely to tire her out, in the hope for a better night’s sleep. The most you will get is a baby that is overtired, and finding settling to sleep a lot harder than usual.