The first rule of visiting a new parent is: don’t ask about the baby’s sleep.
The second rule is: don’t ask about the parents’ sleep.
The likelihood is, parents are probably already thinking about their sleep (or lack of it), or they are trying to figure out their baby’s patterns (or lack of them).
Whatever the scenario, asking how a baby is sleeping is absolutely off-limits for the early days of parenting.
A baby’s sleep pattern can be a complete lottery, and it is most likely a mixture of long, indulgent baby cuddles, short naps between cluster feeds and broken sleep due to wind – or worse.
All in all, the caregivers are probably not getting much sleep.
Guiding babies into good sleep habits
Most newborn babies tend to spend more time asleep than awake – in fact, their total daily sleep can vary anywhere from 8 to 18 hours. It is totally normal for a baby to wake because they need to be fed.
Fast forward beyond the newborn days, parents will be pinning their hopes on sleep falling into place.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. It can take a long time to establish good sleep cycles in babies.
It’s entirely normal to have not yet figured out how to get a good night’s sleep months into parenting.
Sadly, there is no magic trick.
However, parents can use tried and tested habits to establish a consistent bedtime routine.
It is never too early to establish a bedtime routine. Setting up the order and timings that are done day in day out is one of the most important steps.
A bedtime routine doesn’t have to be overly complex – essentially, it’s about preparing the baby for bed. It’s like training the baby to know what is coming next so that, once they’re used to it, sleep just happens.
The next part is about being consistent.
Whether it’s bathtime, cuddles, stories or drinking some milk, it has to be the same thing at the same time, every night. Even small changes can break good habits that take a long time to reset!
Bathtime can be the perfect opportunity to help the baby wind down and relax.
It signals the end of the day, the start of the bedtime routine, and time to bond with the baby.
When babies are very young, keep it to a short splash, with a snuggly warm towel ready and waiting for them when they get out.
As babies get older and can sit up, adding some bath toys can be fun – but remember not to overstimulate.
Babies really do take everything in from the very start.
Putting aside quality time to share a story is not only a bonding experience, but it can spark creativity, encourage communication, and be used as a distraction method to calm a child.
Head to the library to choose new books so that storytime doesn’t become too repetitive for both baby and parent.
Separate night and day
If a baby does wake during the night, it is best to address the problem quickly and get them back to sleep as soon as possible.
Keeping the lights down low and trying not to be too interactive can limit stimulation to wake a baby.
A dream feed, where a baby is semi-woken for a feed, may also be a good idea. If done just before the caregiver plans to go to bed, it can remove the uncertainty of waking. Offering a dream feed suggests that a baby can be scheduled and soothed back to sleep before they naturally wake.
A baby usually has milk before bedtime, which can become as much about comfort as filling them up.
Some babies become attached to a teddy, muslin, dummy, or background music.
All babies are different, and what will work for one may not work for another. Whatever aids their self-soothing will help them get used to sleeping in their cot, and eventually a bed. Don’t forget you can also check out out ‘Guide to Wellbeing for Parents’ for some extra advice on self-care as a parent.
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