How and when to set up a routine, so you all get a good night’s sleep.
It’s never too early to get a bedtime-routine going. All this means is that you teach your baby to settle herself to sleep at night, and settle herself back to sleep if she wakes during the night. To get started, you need to teach your baby that nighttime is different from daytime.
A bedtime routine lets your baby know it’s the end of the day. Wind down her day with a bath or a wash, pop her into her sleepsuit, feed her and clean her teeth (when she has them!), read a story or sing a lullaby then dim the lights and say goodnight.
Stick to the same things in the same order, at the same time every evening, as much as you can when you first start your routine. This helps your baby know what to expect and will make it easier for her to fall asleep on her own.
Once you have put your baby to bed, leave the room. She may protest, especially if she has got used to drifting off to sleep during a feed, for example, but stay calm and stick to your strategy. You want your baby to learn that she can fall asleep by herself. Go back in every few minutes until she does fall asleep.
You can help your baby associate her bed with being asleep by putting her in a cot or pram to sleep, and moving her into another room, with company, when awake.
Too much light can wake your baby. Try using a blackout blind or curtain lining for the bedroom window if your baby is waking early when the sun rises or is finding it difficult to fall asleep if it’s still light outside. And invest in a plug-in night-light to give you enough light to see by, but not enough to wake your baby when you go to her in the night.
On the other hand, too little daylight during the day may mean babies don’t sleep well at night. Exposure to light, while you’re taking your baby for a walk, may make her biological clock develop more quickly, research shows babies who were exposed to twice as much light between 12pm and 4pm were poor sleepers.
Once she’s dropping off to sleep on her own, you can move onto helping her learn to settle if she wakes during the night. Babies under 6 months may still need to be fed during the night, and helping her to drop back off to sleep herself will mean everyone gets a better nights sleep.
Babies, like grown-ups, are creatures of habit; the difference is you can’t reason with them if the habit needs breaking. So whatever you do to get your baby to sleep in the evening, she will need the same thing when she wakes at night: if she feeds to drift off to sleep, she will need a feed at night, if you rock her to sleep, she will need rocking again in the night. But if your baby has fallen asleep by herself, she will be able to do the same in the night.
If your baby is waking in the night because she has kicked off her bed covers, try a baby sleeping bag – great for wrigglers.
It is important to settle baby on her back to help prevent SUDI (cot death) and keep her face clear more.