Top tips for baby sleep
We asked the Baby Whisperer, Katie from The Baby Sleep Company, to share some of her top tips for helping babies sleep better…
Darken that room
The presence of light tells our babies that it’s time to be awake whereas a dark room prompts your little one’s brain to secrete melatonin which is the magic sleepy hormone. Well-meaning friends may warn you of the importance of ‘teaching baby the difference between night and day’, and that’s true, but not at naptime. Your baby will have a deeper, more restorative nap if the room is as dark as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to rush out and buy expensive black out blinds (that can be particularly tricky for renters). Some cheaper alternatives are covering the inside of the window with alfoil, cardboard or black plastic sheeting from a hardware store. It might not look too pretty from the outside but hey! Worth it for baby sleeping.
You don’t want your baby sleeping in silence – imagine how noisy it would have been in your womb with all the arteries pumping, digestion happening nearby, your heart beating, your breathing and, of course, your booming voice! To go from that to near silence can be upsetting and alarming for little ones. There are white noise apps available, but make sure you choose one with nature sounds (ocean waves and rain etc) and one that has no set end time because you want that white noise running for the entire sleep – not just to get them to sleep. If you switch it off once they’ve drifted off they’re actually more likely to wake after one sleep cycle because they’ll notice that it’s gone when they reach the lighter sleep stage. Don’t forget to put your device on aeroplane mode to stop any wi-fi seeking signals! Alternatively, a CD set to repeat track does the same trick. Don’t have your white noise too quiet either; you’re looking for about 60 decibels, which is almost as loud as a vacuum cleaner.
Humans sleep better in cooler temperatures and babies are no exception, so don’t go crazy heating up the nursery! The ideal temperature you’re aiming for is between about 20-22 degrees, which can be hard to achieve in a Brisbane summer! If air-conditioning is not an option then perhaps you could use pedestal fan in your baby’s room, but direct it away from your little one so you don’t give them a chill. Not only are blankets not a SIDS recommendation, but once your baby is on the move you can’t rely on them to keep baby warm anyway! Sleeping bags are a much better option because they will stay on and keep your sleeping baby warm through the coldest part of the night (around 3-4am).
When a baby drifts off on their own, it’s much more likely that they’ll link their sleep cycles and actually stay asleep longer. Most parents have heard of the concept of ‘drowsy but awake’, but it can be very difficult to actually catch your baby at the elusive point. Self-settling isn’t all or nothing yet a lot of people try putting their little one into the cot cold turkey, then give up when baby (unsurprisingly!) doesn’t drift off to sleep. Once your baby is about two to three months old it can be much more helpful to create a mental sleepiness scale where 1 is fully awake and 10 is fully asleep. Continue doing whatever you currently do to get your little one to sleep, but instead of transferring her to her sleep space at level 10, aim for level 9. If she wakes and cries it’s fine to pick her up and resettle her – this is all new and she’s just learning. Once level 9 settling in the cot is happening consistently you can move to level 8, then level 7 and so on until you get to the point where you can put your little one down at nap time and she is happy to go to sleep without you.
If you’ve tried all of these techniques and still do not feel like you and bub are getting the hang of this sleep thing, then get in contact with Katie at The Baby Sleep Company. She offers a range of services to suit every family. www.thebabysleepcompany.com.au