Baby sleep, though stereotyped as a maddening enigma, needn’t always be a stressful dilemma. Here are four tried-and-tested methods, based on simple physiology, to help your little one drift off quicker, easier, and stay put in lalaland for longer.
“Sleep is essential for your baby’s cognitive development, immune system and general growth, and fortunately there are many ways you can help to ensure they get enough rest,” explains The Baby Show’s sleep expert, Chireal Shallow.
Know the signs
Anything goes in the first three months of your baby’s life; the period is not known as the fourth trimester for nothing, as an infant is still adjusting to an existence outside of casa Mum. But you can still use this time to get to know your bub’s distinctive sleepy signals—yawning, eye rubbing, ear pulling, and generally increased crabbiness or erratic, jerky movements. The moment you spot the cues, swoop in for naptime.
Get the routine down
While it’s virtually impossible to get an ever growing and changing baby to follow a time-specific schedule, a routine is nonetheless important to help them wind down for bedtime…whenever bedtime decides to roll around, of course. Around three months is a good time to start implementing an evening sleep routine; keep it basic, and not too lengthy: bath, baby massage, book and feed is usually a winning formula—plus plenty cuddles to release stress-reducing hormone oxytocin (for the both of you!). Keep the lights dimmed, the room at an optimal temp (approximately 20 C) and keep things calm—even if bubs decides bedtime is only gonna happen in three hours; remember that from three to nine months big developmental changes are happening, and sleep is the first to suffer collateral damage. “They will find their natural rhythm when they are ready,” assures Chireal.
Get some sun
Exposure to natural sunlight on a daily basis will reinforce your baby’s circadian rhythms—the internal body clock that tells baby daytime is for play, and nighttime is for sleep. Break out the pram, or pop your bundle into a carrier for extra cuddles, and use the time to get in some light exercise for yourself, too—which, incidentally, is great way to help you sleep better (for those brief, glorious windows of shuteye you’re permitted, of course!). Chireal also advises to “use a balanced combination of blackout blinds and low lighting to ensure your child drifts off happily.”
Keep things cosy
The best way to help your lil’ one feel secure enough to succumb to slumber is to mimic their favourite sleeping space: the womb. White noise machines replicate the gentle rumble of noise inside Mum’s belly, and a swaddle creates a snug pressure similar to the confines of the womb. Also remember to keep your baby in the same room as you for both day and night sleeps until at least six months of age; not only does this reduce the SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) risk, but your closeness will be comforting, too.