Having a baby that sleeps well will have a hugely positive impact on your life… and your baby’s. If your baby doesn’t sleep well, it might well affect you all for years to come.
Let’s face it, the whole sleeping thing is a bit brutal, especially if it doesn’t seem to come naturally. But it is a fundamental part of parenting that is worth persevering with.
Take a look at our other sections on routines, swaddles, white noise and all the tips and advice on how best to go about creating a good sleep pattern. There is a lot of advice on what to do…. So here is some more advice on what NOT to do and some reasons why your baby might not be sleeping as well as he should.
Don’t be inconsistent
This is a big one! Try to get into a routine that is the same every day – with the same sounds, the same people, the same place. Make sure that your baby sleeps in the same place each day/night.
Don’t put baby to sleep in different places, at different times
It is very common for a baby to fall asleep on a long walk. Or to take a nap in the buggy while you are at the shops. This might make life easier for you (and we KNOW how hard it can be) but it won’t be doing your baby any good. You need to allow him to get used to sleeping in the same environment – tucked up in bed.
Sleeping outside in the buggy one day, then in bed the next just adds to the confusion and mixed signals making it difficult for your baby to learn what to do. Have you ever woken up in a different place to where you fell asleep? It makes waking up a scary thing and is very disorientating for a few minutes. It will feel the same, if not worse, for your baby.
Don’t use a car ride as a sleep aid
We’ve all heard of people who’ve done this – popping the baby into the car for a quick whizz around the block because they just won’t go to sleep any other way. This method of sleep training isn’t going to be sustainable (do you want to be doing this when she is 7 or 8?) so best avoided.
A better strategy is to think about why driving makes your baby sleepy and see if you can replicate this at home. The engine noise is relaxing for a baby (link to white noise) so use some white noise in the bedroom instead. The car motion is like rocking your baby – see if you can rock her to sleep at home. And a tight car seat is like a surrogate cuddle for which you could use a swaddle.
Don’t put a hungry baby to bed
Food is integral to the sleeping process. If your baby is hungry, she won’t sleep. Equally, if she is being fed the wrong food, it might have a negative impact on her ability to sleep. Check that you are using the correct formula for your baby if you are bottle feeding, and if you are breastfeeding make sure that your baby is getting the excellent hind milk that comes towards the end of your feed.
It’s also important that you meet the required calorie intake throughout the whole of the day and don’t just do one massive feed at night. It’s the same principle as eating nothing all day and then raiding and eating the contents of the fridge just before you go to bed. Chances are you’ll have a full, jumbly tummy. Much better to spread your eating over the whole day.
Loads of things to mention here. Too much light, too much noise, being passed around friends and relations when your baby is sleeping, too many toys to play with in the bed. The list goes on. The best way to have quality sleep is to keep things dark, quiet, minimal and consistent.
Don’t co-sleep with your baby in your bed
While it is recommended to have your baby sleeping in your bedroom for the first 6 months (see SIDS advice), this doesn’t mean sleeping in your bed with you. In fact, this can be extremely dangerous and poses a genuine risk of suffocation. Keep your baby in your room initially at night but in a Moses basket or small cot.
Don’t keep your baby awake unnecessarily
What I mean here is when we try to make the baby’s routine fit our own. It is completely understandable why you might want to do this – a common example is keeping the baby awake to play with mum or dad when they come in late from work – but I urge you not to. Your partner doesn’t need to play with the baby late in the day more than your baby needs to go to sleep…and your baby’s needs should take priority. Keeping the baby up will make her wired and over stimulated which is a bit of a disaster when it comes to settling her down later.