If you follow some simple rules, getting baby to sleep through the night can be achieved painlessly and quicker than if you just put her to bed and hope for the best. New born babies sleep a lot and feed a lot! Any mother can tell you that! If you have a new born baby he or she will sleep, eat, have a quiet period while awake, occasionally cry and frequently poop.
First of all, let’s assume you have a daughter or a son. I getting fed up with writing he or she’ and in any case, most babies are daughters or sons. There should be a word to apply to either sex it’ sounds too inhuman so sometimes I will refer to she’ and at others to he’. OK?
As a parent, you can help to encourage your child to enter into a consistent sleep pattern if you follow certain steps to encourage her to sleep alone. The first is to observe when and for how long she sleeps, feeds and rests. You might think you know this, but make out a chart and write it all down. This lets you do two things: you will be able to detect a pattern of how long she spends on each of the above activities, and at what times she does it. You will also be able to detect changes to the pattern as you train her to change her sleeping habits.
You won’t be able to change anything during this period: as any mother knows, when they are very young, babies rule! That’s what you call baby power and I have experienced it many times and I’m just a dad, nothing as exalted as a mom! So this comes from experience, although I must admit that my wife is mostly responsible for this advice: her and her mother and mine!
You should start to encourage your baby to sleep alone, but with you close by. The warmth of your body is comforting to your baby, and if you give her a cuddle first she will sleep easier if you put her into her bed.
Initially, your baby will not take too well to sleeping alone. Babies like their mothers to be close by, but with a bit of training and practice will learn to sleep by themselves. To achieve this have him in a darkened room during the evening and do not stimulate him in any way. No tickles or visits from relatives at this time. When the baby wakes and cries for feeding or nappy changing do it quietly and without fuss. The objective is to get him into the habit of being at rest in the evening.
Don’t wake him mid-evening for a bath. Bathing should be carried out in early evening before he is put to into his bed. No play at night! This will simply stimulate him and keep him awake. Getting baby to sleep through the night requires him to be settled and peaceful, not excited and stimulated.
Babies wake at night mainly to be fed. Sometimes they are unwell or too hot but it is usually to be fed. A baby’s stomach is the size of your fist and if you are breastfeeding, which is best for your baby, your milk will absorbed much quicker than formula milk. About 90 minutes is normal for digestion, and then your baby may need fed again! If you feed her during the day on demand, and try feeding before settling her down for the night, the feed will last as long as possible.
Many mothers have the maternal instinct to have their baby sleep with them in their own bed. This is natural instinct, originating from times when babies were fair game for nocturnal predators, but these are uncommon in normal urban environments. In some areas of the world it is still valid, but modern mothers should restrict this to having the child sleep in the same room at first.
This is fine: it allows you to tend to your baby during the night without too much disruption and your baby will find a sleep pattern much quicker knowing his mother is close by.
I do not recommend parents sleeping with their babies. It may work for some, but there have been tragic cases. Young babies are too weak to struggle if a parent rolls over onto them, and there have been cases of suffocation occurring in this way.
There is also the question of whether a baby should sleep on his stomach or his back. The normal advice given is that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is more prevalent with children put to bed on their stomach than on their back. I am making no inference here, but these are the facts. I personally would choose to place my child on his back at bedtime. After a few months he will be strong enough to roll about and choose his own most comfortable sleeping position.
A bassinet, pram or Moses basket by your bed is a suitable bed for your baby in the early days. You will be less disturbed while feeding, and your child will feel more secure. Children know when their mothers are close by. They can sense you and smell you. If you are breast feeding you will be able to feed your child without leaving your bed: this will help to prevent you from being grumpy during the day. Good for your baby and good for your partner!
Once your baby is around three months old she can be put in a crib to sleep in her own room. It should be achieved gradually, with the light on and with a feed and a cuddle first and you will have to return to the room several times a night for the first few weeks. Some children manage this younger and some take a bit longer, but it will be achieved quicker if you take the above advice. There is no real ‘right way’ of getting your baby to sleep, but this advice is based on what is known to succeed.
Eventually your child will get used to it and will settle down, and though a night light normally keeps them more at ease, you have achieved your objective of getting baby to sleep through the night.