Top tips for settling your baby to sleep
In the very early days, encourage her to settle to sleep by:
- Following a flexible routine. Very young babies really only do three things - feed, play, sleep. And while it pays to take the flexible approach to routine in the early days, try to stick to this order because after a little quiet play, your baby will be tired and more inclined to sleep.
- Following her lead. Watch for signs of tiredness. Don't keep your baby up longer than she wants, with the idea that she will sleep better and longer once she does go to sleep. Sadly, it doesn't work this way. An overtired baby will struggle to fall asleep and then may sleep only fitfully.
- Trying a top-up feed. If your baby has stayed awake longer than usual then it may be wise to give her a top-up feed before bed. Babies sleep better with a full tummy and once you've gotten her to sleep, you don't want her waking because she's hungry.
- Wrapping. Try wrapping her in a light-weight muslin cloth. Wrapping often has the effect of calming a crying baby by keeping her stable on her back and stoping her from flapping her arms and startling herself. As an added bonus, if you consistently use a wrap, your baby will begin to recognise it as a cue for sleep time.
- Checking her sleeping conditions. Reduce stimulation by making sure she's sleeping in a quiet, darkened room with good ventilation. A gentle, regular sound of either soft music or the white noise of a fan or a radio between stations can also be soothing.
- Letting her cry. Remember that young babies can only verbalise by crying and most will cry - at least a little - before they go to sleep. Try to view it as a de-stressing session - it's her way of saying, 'I'm tired, the day was busy, and now I'm in bed." Let her grumble for a minute or two and you may find that she winds down slowly on her own.
- Giver her time. It takes everyone a little time to fall asleep - our bodies have to relax, and our brains have to switch off - so don't have unrealistic expectations about how and when your newborn will fall asleep. If you've put her to bed and her eyes are still open 15 minutes later but she's quiet and still, just tip-toe away and let her fall asleep in her own time.
- Try patting. If letting your baby cry a little is out of the question for you, or it just seems to fuel the fire then try using a patting technique.
Your baby will not harm herself by crying for a short time. If after a concerted effort, your baby does not settle, change the scenery and take her for a walk in the pram, or give her a massage and a bath.
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Last revised: Tuesday, 24 June 2008
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
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