Sleep is a hot topic among new parents and it’s no wonder. Here’s what you need to know about settling your baby to keep your sanity intact.
As a first-time parent, one of the most confounding things to discover about your new arrival is that she probably has no idea how to fall asleep, even when she’s dog-tired. Until she learns to self-settle she’ll need your help. To make sure you both get plenty of shut-eye, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite baby sleep tips.
1. Burrito bundle. Learning to swaddle your bub is an essential skill when it comes to helping him nod off. After being tightly packed inside your belly for months, a firm wrap can give him a sense of security. Swaddling can also prevent that pesky Moro or ‘startle’ reflex from waking him up when he feels compelled to fling his arms out to the side.
2. Rock-a-bye baby. We’re all familiar with the idea of rocking a baby to sleep, but one of the most effective tricks is to mix the motions up a bit. Try swinging his crib or bassinet from side to side and then gently jiggling up and down – sometimes the change in movement will be enough of a distraction to help your bub drift off to sleep.
3. Bumpy ride. Pushing bub’s pram over uneven terrain is another way to bring on the zzzz’s. Your baby would have been jostled about a fair bit inside the womb so this can help to duplicate the experience. Uneven paving, or grass can produce the right amount of movement. I even lulled my daughter to sleep in the hairdressers by rolling the pram back and forth over a women’s glossy magazine!
4. Lend a hand. Once bub is wrapped up and lying down, simply placing your hand on her chest can be enough to soothe her to sleep. The pressure helps her to feel secure and she knows you’re literally close at hand. Another option is to gently pat her – the repetition works to lull babies to sleep.
5. Lights out. You can start to teach your little one when it’s time for shut-eye by keeping his room dark when you put him down. If it’s the middle of the day, black out blinds will create the illusion of night and when it’s time to wake up you can just open the blinds and let him wake naturally – he’ll soon learn the difference.
6. Dulcet tones. After nine months in the womb your bub is well acquainted with the sound of your voice and you can use this to your advantage at naptime. Talking in soothing tones, humming, singing softly or telling a story as you prep her for bed will remind her that you’re close by, which in turn can help her to relax and nod off.
7. Look away. It may sound harsh but if your bub is desperately trying to engage in eye contact at bedtime, ignoring her is often the best policy. If she’s strapped to your front in a baby carrier, popping a sunhat on her head will make it harder for her to look up at your face, or at anything else for that matter – this worked a treat with my sticky beak daughter.
8. Silence is not golden. Your baby was subject to all sorts of sounds in utero so you may find that tiptoeing around her does little to promote sleep. In fact, some parents discover that their bubs drop off to the noise of a lawn mower or vacuum cleaner. Try experimenting with a white noise machine and see which sounds she prefers.
9. Drive time. If bub is refusing to settle at home and you don’t fancy pounding the pavement, jumping in the car is a great fallback. If it’s daytime, grab a book and once he’s snoozing you can park up and relax. At night, you’ll need to master the tricky art of transferring your sleeping angel from the car to the crib without waking them.
10. Feeding to sleep. Some parenting ‘experts’ may not approve, but if your bub drifts off towards the end of a feed and you can gentle pop her down, that’s a win in my book. When my daughter was especially sleepy I’d just tickle the bottom of her feet to make sure she got a full feed in before bed.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to baby sleep. But with these tricks up your sleeve you’ll have a number of options to play with. Then it’s just a matter of working out which ones work for your and your bub – and when sleep comes, enjoy every minute of it!
About the author – Jo Sharp
Jo has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Based in Sydney, she covers both business and lifestyle topics and has written numerous articles about pregnancy and parenting. When she’s not glued to her laptop, she can be found out and about in Bondi with her two kids.