10 tips for baby sleep
You see all these mums posting pics of sleeping babies on Instagram or strolling through the neighbourhood with a latte in hand and a sleeping baby in the stroller, and you wonder how they do it. Sleep is one of the hardest things many parents have to deal with in the early years of parenting. Quality sleep is influenced by many factors, and is obviously dependent on the baby, however there are a few things you can do to set your baby up for success.
- Keep things quiet and calm before sleep
In the beginning babies often sleep more than they are awake, and when they are awake, our instinct is to stimulate them with talk or toys during that time. What we often forget though is babies get easily overstimulated. If we constantly shake toys in front of their face, play them videos, or put them in a noisy activity centre it may take them longer to wind down when it’s time to sleep. Therefore, when it is time to sleep, take 15-30 minutes to keep play calm and quiet before putting your baby to bed. They’ll be able to drift off more easily.
- Darkness is your baby’s friend
Try darkening your baby’s bedroom or stroller while on the go with dark curtains or blanket to help let them know it is time to sleep. As your baby starts to sleep more consistently you can differentiate day naps from night by allowing some light into their sleep space during the day.
- Try to keep the room a consistent temperature
Contrary to popular belief, babies sleep better when their sleep environment is a slightly cooler (16-20C / 60-68F) consistent temperature. You may need to get creative with the use of heaters or fans. Also use a breathable sleeping bag (like one of our merino ones!) made of natural fabrics with appropriate layers of clothing underneath to ensure they’re safely covered for the duration of their sleep.
- Give your baby a comforter
From birth your babies know your smell and notice when you’re not around. A common parenting trick is to place a breathable soft toy or blanket in bed with your baby that has your smell. Over time your baby may develop an attachment to the ‘comforter’ and associate it with sleep time… we think it’s definitely worth a try.
- Develop a bedtime routine
Routines are a controversial topic for new mums. Some swear by rigid routines, while others are happy to go with the flow. Regardless of your position, one important aspect for healthy consistent sleep is a pre-bedtime routine. One study of more than 10,000 children across Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S., found that a bedtime routine was consistently associated with better sleep outcomes. These babies, toddlers, and kids tended to go to bed earlier, spend a shorter amount of time falling asleep, wake up fewer times through the night and sleep longer overall.
A pre-bedtime routine does not need to be complicated. It may involve a combination of quiet play time, a bath, some books, or a milk feed. Once your baby is in their room, you can also follow a short bedtime routine of putting on your baby’s sleeping bag, turning out the lights, singing a song, and saying goodnight. Babies are creatures of habit, and before you know it, they will be reminding you of the next step in the routine! We'll have another blog post soon with some sample baby routines.
- Try using white noise
As brought to fame by US paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp (“The Happiest Baby on the Block”), studies have shown that a constant sound such as a fan can help babies sleep deeper for longer as it mimics the sound of their time in utero. White noise can also help drown out any other noises from the house or outside.
- Minimise disruptions in the middle of the night
If your baby wakes in the middle of the night, try to hone your feeding and diaper changing skills so you can finish your tasks quietly and quickly in the dark. Similarly minimise talking and eye contact and try to let your baby to fall asleep on their own rather than rocking or patting them to sleep (easier said than done, we know!).
- Use a sleeping bag
By using a sleeping bag your baby won’t be able to kick off their blankets during their sleep. This is important not only for keeping your baby warm all night long but also for safe sleep as loose blankets can pose a suffocation risk for babies.
- Use easy to use sleepwear
Dress your baby in easy to use natural sleepwear such as a zip up onesie, or a legless onesie with pants. Easy sleepwear will make your midnight diaper changes easier, minimising disruptions to their sleep.
- Make healthy food choices (for when your baby is on solids)
Food affects sleep. Once your baby is on solids, it is important to try and fill them up on healthy calories during the day so they won’t need to eat at night. Try to give them a good balance of grains, healthy fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables. Foods that are higher in tryptophan (e.g. turkey, chicken, legumes, dairy, nuts and seeds) help encourage sleep and keep your baby fuller for longer.