One of the most common queries I receive on a regular basis is how to help baby to stay asleep once they drift off. Believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds! As human beings, we all wake up at various points throughs the night, so staying asleep isn’t really the issue here- it’s more a case of helping your baby to go back into another sleep cycle without any disruption to the night’s sleep as a whole. So how can we do it? Read on to find out my top three tips to get baby to sleep and stay asleep…
Before we begin
Before we begin, I want to point out that how you get your baby to sleep is not of issue here. In many cases, how you get your baby to sleep will be how you get them back to sleep when they wake up, but for the sake of this post it really doesn’t matter. You might rock your baby, you might feed your baby, you might sing to your baby. If it works, it works. And if you’re happy with your chosen method, then stick with it. Babies like consistency so don’t go changing it if it’s working right now. And it’s worth noting that whatever your chosen method, you can still get your baby to stay asleep through the night.
Allow your baby to sleep where they sleep best
So this is a really gentle sleep training tip, and one that I truly believe works for most babies that are struggling to stay asleep. Think of it like this. If your baby will only fall asleep with you beside them in your bed, imagine how they must feel when they wake to find you’re not there? They may be in their own bed, having been transferred once asleep. Depending on their temperament, this can be hugely stressful for some babies.
If you don’t want your baby to share your bed, then it makes sense in this case to teach your baby to fall asleep in their own bed. If you’re ok with them being in your bed to fall asleep, then it may be that they spend the whole night there too, in an effort to get a better night’s sleep. Some babies have an acute sense of separation anxiety and need to sleep close to parents to feel safe and relaxed. And it’s this feeling of safety and being relaxed that is going to help them to sleep better.
Be mindful of how you respond when your baby wakes up
I get it, I really do. You’re exhausted by now. Your baby is waking frequently and all you want is to get a couple more hours sleep before you have to get up and face the day. So the thought of bringing baby in with you, or giving them a quick feed to settle back to sleep again is obviously very attractive. Why spend ages settling baby in another way, when you know one of the above will do the trick much more quickly?
The problem is that some babies can quickly form habits when it comes to night wakings, and they can come to rely on your standard response to get them back to sleep. Some babies may even wake for this very reason, adjusting their body clocks to wake at a certain time because they’re certain of the same response from you. It can be really hard to break habits like these.
I always recommend parents are mindful of how they respond to their babies when they wake. Spend some time assessing exactly why they have woken, and try not to ‘reward’ them for waking up. This might mean holding back on that feed, or finding other ways to settle that don’t involve bringing them into your bed. Always respond to your baby when they wake, but don’t automatically adopt the tried and tested method of re-settling. Have a little patience, practise your gentle sleep training techniques and over time your baby will develop the self confidence needed to stay asleep for longer and longer stretches.
This might seem obvious, but sometimes there can be subtle changes you can make that will help your baby to sleep for longer stretches at night time. There can be changes made to the nursery environment- temperature, black out blinds, finding that small electronic toy that beeps every now and then… and there are other changes you can make too. Make sure you check your baby’s nappy when they wake, and make sure you can rule out a stuffy nose or a dry throat etc. Some babies find certain fabrics on their right clothes irritating, some babies might have dietary issues or allergies that are keeping them awake. Work with your baby and allow them to lead you on this. Remind other family members not to stomp around at bedtime, or slam doors etc. Some babies are hyper sensitive to noises and can wake easily as a result. Similarly, some babies like to have a little hustle and bustle to help them get to sleep… only you know best!