Even if your baby is a good sleeper, there may be times when you need a bit of extra help at bedtime.
Settling and swaddling
Newborn babies who are more unsettled may benefit from skin-to-skin contact, lots of cuddles and possibly swaddling in a cotton sheet. If you’re unsure, ask your midwife to show you how to swaddle your baby.
Motion and noise
Newborns find movement very soothing. If your baby won’t settle, try rocking them in your arms, taking them out in the pram, or in a sling or baby carrier. Suckling is also very soothing, so try a breastfeed or soother. Some newborns also find ‘white noise’ calming (eg a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer).
Do not disturb
Make sure you don’t disturb your baby by constantly checking in on them – try using a baby monitor instead. Some monitors have a built-in room thermometer to alert you if the room gets too hot or cold, as it’s important not to let your baby overheat as they sleep. If your baby is older, or a noisy sleeper, look for a monitor with adjustable sensitivity. You won’t hear every sound, but you’ll know if they need you. A talkback function on your monitor means that you can reassure your baby without going into the room. This is really useful for sleep training, or you can use it to let your baby know you’re on your way.
When your baby is a few weeks old, it’s a good idea to try and encourage them to settle themselves to sleep. Put them into their cot in a drowsy, relaxed state, and leave them to fall asleep without you. Return to soothe them if they need it.
The sound of your voice can help soothe your baby back to sleep – try singing a lullaby, or putting on a CD.
Soft light is comforting for many babies, and useful when checking on your baby too. The nightlight on your monitor, for example, is not too bright to disturb your baby. Other babies prefer things to be completely dark, and in that case you should consider investing in black-out blinds.
A special baby sleep bag is a great alternative to sheets and blankets. Sleep bags are tog-rated for different seasons, and are a good way to make sure your baby is at the right temperature – not too hot and not too cold.
From about two to three months, babies and parents really benefit from a bedtime routine. In the early evening try a bath, a quick massage, a feed and maybe a special soothing bedtime song. From about six months, introduce a story and maybe a sleep time teddy or bunny.
At night, keep lights low, avoid too much stimulation and only change your baby’s nappy if necessary.