It’s the most exciting, challenging, love-filled time in your life. Before you welcome a new baby, you may think you know what to expect, but that rarely proves to be the case. The one thing we think we know about having a baby is that sleep will be in short supply, but when you’re in the midst of it, it can be hard to know where to start.
You have a vague notion that setting a sleep routine is a good idea. You have at least one mum friend who smugly boasts that their little darling has ‘slept through’ since four weeks old (inevitably, it will turn out that their definition of a ‘whole night’ is only midnight-4am, don’t worry)and you’re bound to feel a bit lost.
Don’t panic – small babies are designed by evolution to wake up during the night. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are things you can work towards. Here’s where to start with introducing a sleep routine and working towards a more peaceful night:
The Difference Between Day and Night
One of the most valuable things you can start to instil from early days is reinforcing the idea of daytime and night-time. Having come from an environment where time wasn’t measured or marked, it’s a taught process – especially as many babies will have been lulled by their mother’s movements during the day and become more active themselves at night when mummy was still! So during the day, keep the house bright and do the reverse in the evening. Don’t talk too much or overstimulate the baby during any night feedings to help them learn.
Build A Bond Based On Their Cues
Understanding what your baby needs before they get to the point of being frantic and inconsolable is hard but very worthwhile – and it all comes from learning what ‘cues ‘they show you. Key tells may be them developing a fixed stare, jerky limb movements or pulling up their knees. By the time they get to the point of yawning or fussing, it may be too late, and they are ‘over-tired’ – then you’ll find it harder to get them to sleep. These cues can only be learned with close attention and patience, but being able to anticipate needs is the key to avoiding as many meltdowns as possible.
The Right Sleep Environment
Giving your child the right surrounds to get to sleep at bedtime is crucial. Minimal or no lighting, an attempt at swaddling or a baby Grobag or similar, a supportive specialist cot mattress from WeDoBeds and you have a good set up. Some mums find that white noise machines and lining the cot with an old t-shirt that smells of them also helps baby to settle.
It may seem hard when you have eager visitors and are wanting to be out and about showing your baby off, but put in the hard work of establishing a routine by prioritising it for a few weeks, and it will pay dividends. This may mean a few skipped meals out and saying no to visitors at inconvenient times, but for a few weeks, you need to avoid deviating from the norm to get it established. After that the occasional departure from it won’t be such a bad thing, but give it a chance to get bedded in first.
Expect The Unexpected
If there’s one thing babies are good at, it’s giving you a curveball when you least expect it! Growth spurts, teething and many other milestones can set things spinning off course again – so learn to expect setbacks. In those times return firmly to your routine and stay consistent. You’ll get there!