They light up our lives and once they’re in our world, we can’t imagine it without them, but sometimes we just wish they would settle down and sleep a little bit better. When you have a new baby, sleep is a super common problem and, although there are no definite solutions, we’ve put together some sleep tips that might be able to help
As well as these tips, being aware of trends in your baby’s sleep can help you to understand and establish healthy sleep routines. Bluebell's Smart baby monitor can help you to get this information, as well as providing a gentle night light, white noise and lullabies to help with sleep. It can also help you to relax while they sleep, as you're only alerted when you're needed, which can lead to you getting a better night’s sleep (better baby sleep = better parent sleep) – and what new parent doesn’t need more of that?
1. Understand how they sleep
You've probably heard the phrase “sleep like a baby” and if you’re a parent you’ll know that this doesn't mean what people think it does. Yes, newborns sleep for around 17 hours a day, going down to around 14 hours at six months and around 13 hours at one year, so it may seem like they’ll be sleeping all the time (especially when comparing that to our 8 hours), but babies have different sleep cycles, routines and needs, so all of this sleep doesn’t necessarily mean it will be an easy ride.
Babies sleep in shorter periods to us (50 minutes instead of 90). After 50 minutes, they will normally stir and go back to sleep, unless they need feeding, changing or attention. So, in the first few weeks they’ll wake every two to four hours, which will go up to every four to five hours as they grow and they can take more milk in at each feed.
For the first two months, they don't know the difference between night and day, but as they grow, their routine will become more in sync with yours. By around six months they may start sleeping through the night which can be a relief! Check out our blog post on baby's sleep for more information.
2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine
You’ve probably heard this one before, and you’re sure to hear it again – and that’s because it’s such an important part of getting your baby to sleep well. There’s no need to complicate things: bath, feed, cuddle, story time, bed will do, just make sure to follow these rules:
- Keep it in the same order every night.
- Keep it at the same time every night.
- Keep it simple – make it easy to remember so it can be followed by family members, babysitters, when you’re on holiday, etc.
- Don’t overstimulate them - focus on calm activities, keep noise levels and lighting low.
It may seem strict, but allowing your baby to create a link between routine and falling asleep will both help them to fall asleep faster, and help them to develop healthy sleep habits in the future. The Bluebell Smart baby monitor can be really handy when it comes to this, as it helps you plan and track baby's routine, getting reminders and what they should be doing at what time, to create this consistent bedtime routine.
3. Create a comfortable sleep environment
Just like adults, babies need somewhere that’s comfortable for them to fall and stay asleep, both at night and during the day. All babies are unique, so they will have different preferences, but some things you can try to help baby sleep include:
- Keep noise levels low, or use lullabies or white noise to soothe them.
- Use a dim night light before bed and during night wakings, making sure it’s free from any fluorescent light.
- Use blackout blinds to help baby sleep during the day.
4. Create a safe baby sleep environment
Making sure your little one's safe when they sleep is extremely important. As for location, The Lullaby Trust, The NHS and the American Academy of Paediatrics advise that your baby should sleep in a cot in the same room as you for at least the first six months. Other important guidelines are:
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back.
- Keep the room temperature at 16-20°C (a Bluebell baby monitor can keep track of this)
- Use a firm, flat mattress with a waterproof cover.
- Use lightweight bedding – firmly tucked in sheets or blankets.
- Keep their cot clear – avoid using bulky bedding, pillows, toys, etc.
- Try putting them in the feet to foot position.
And if you decide to put your baby in your bed to sleep:
- Keep them away from adult bedding.
- Don’t leave them alone in the bed.
- Be aware of accidents (falling, getting trapped).
- Do not bed share if you are your partner smoke, have drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medication that might make you drowsy).
- Do not bed share if you or your partner are overtired.
- Do not bed share if your baby was born premature or had a low birth weight.
It’s also very important that you don’t fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. Peace of mind about your baby’s safety can help lead to a peaceful night’s sleep for you both. Check out our blog post on safer sleep tips for more.
5. Don’t overdo parental presence
Our babies are our universe, and it may be difficult to avoid responding to every little sound they make, especially when you start the transition to them being in their own room. Being there for your baby when they need you and making them feel safe and secure is an essential part of parenting, but allowing them to self soothe as they grow will help you both in the long run.
- Respond sensitively to their cues.
- Use soothing bedtime routines.
- When responding, don’t initiate play or talk too much.
- Don’t respond straight away when they stir – if they don’t need anything they will fall back to sleep by themselves.
It may be difficult not to run to your little one every time they wake, but by letting them learn to fall back to sleep at a young a young age will help them to sleep through the night as they grow.
6. Keep pre-bed and night time activity to a minimum
Getting your baby to settle can be difficult, and it may be tempting to give up, switch the light on and play with them, but this type of activity can over-stimulate them, and make it even more difficult for them to sleep. To keep from stimulating them too much:
- Use a dim nightlight that’s free from blue light for night wakings.
- Don’t talk too much.
- Try stroking them in their cot instead of picking them up and holding them.
- Sing or play soft lullabies or white noise to soothe them – nothing too loud and exciting.
- Avoid playing with them when they should be sleeping.
7. Look at your baby’s diet
When your baby's around six months, you’ll start to introduce solids into their diet, along with their breast milk or formula. You should start with things such as strained fruit and vegetables, then go on to soft nutritious foods such as cheese, meat, fish, eggs, pasta, rice, fruit, cooked vegetables, etc. What they eat can have an effect on their sleep, and there are certain things that should be avoided a few hours before bed:
- Spicy foods
- Foods with high fat content and high-fibre foods such as broccoli and cauliflower which are difficult to digest
- Babies under 12 months shouldn't be eating sugary foods (like chocolate, which also contains caffeine), and after 12 months they should be limited as they can interfere with sleep.
Carbohydrates can have a calming effect and foods with lots of calcium can help them to feel satisfied, so some porridge, scrambled eggs, a banana etc. would make a great pre-bed snack if they’re feeling peckish.
8. Be mindful of screen time
There's been a lot of debate about babies using smartphones and tablets. If they’re used in a positive, healthy way, they can be very helpful to their development. Check out our blog post on babies using smart devices for more.
One healthy way to use smart devices with children is to switch them off at least an hour before bed, as recommended by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. This will help baby sleep as it allows their brains to wind down from both the light and content of what they’ve been viewing. Although it's been argued that children should avoid screens completely, it's also been argued that there isn't enough evidence to back this up. Looking at this realistically, they're probably going to use screens at some point, so it's just important to make sure they're not used excessively or getting in the way of physical activity or other learning exercises.
9. Put them to bed before they’re fully asleep
A common tip when it comes to getting your baby to sleep better is to put them in their cot when they’re sleepy but still awake. This will allow them to learn how to fall asleep without you. This may be difficult at first as they’ll want to be with you and you’ll want to hold them, but getting into this habit early will mean they will be able to fall asleep without you as they grow. This also helps with night wakings as, if they fall asleep with you there and wake up without you, this may cause them to get upset, which will both disturb you and interrupt their sleep even further.
10. Make sure they’re getting enough activity time
It’s important to stimulate your baby during the day. Not only can this help with their development, but it’s been found that it may help them to sleep at night.
When your baby is very young, a lot of their time will be spent sleeping, being fed, changed, bathed, etc. but you can start by introducing a little bit of tummy time each day. As they grow, activities can include playing with toys, sensory play, crawling, cruising, walking, etc. Once they can walk, they should be getting at least 3 hours of physical activity a day.
All babies are unique. Some can start sleeping through the night from six months, others will require more time and techniques. Comparing your little one’s sleep to how the babies of your friends and family members sleep can add to frustrations. It’s important to be patient and to find what works for you and your little one, and not compare them to other babies.
We hope this has helped you to understand some of the techniques that can be used to help your baby sleep better. They are learning how to do everything from scratch, and forming a consistent sleep pattern is one of them, so it can take time.
Let us know if you have any further tips or questions on baby sleep or on getting a calm and silent night.