Six tips from a sleep expert that can help improve your baby’s sleep at night
When developing baby sleep routines, many elements allow you to establish healthy, practical and adequate sleep habits that encourage your baby to sleep through the night.
In this blog post, we’ll share with you some easy tips to helping your baby sleep through the night.
1. Establish your baby’s awake times
An awake time is when your baby is awake and active before they have a nap or sleep. Each baby has a different awake time, so it’s important to pair this with observation and your general understanding. By supporting their day structure and following the right awake times, your baby has a greater chance of a better night’s sleep.
It’s good to note that babies need less awake time before their first nap of the day. Before their first nap, they often have sleepy hormones left over from the night before. As the day builds, their stress hormones and awake hormones start to rise, requiring a slightly longer awake time. When a baby is fighting their later naps, despite showing tiredness, it indicates that they need longer awake times in their day.
As the evening nears, your baby’s circadian cycle kicks and melatonin, our sleepy hormone, is released.
2. Observe your baby’s sleep pressure
Sleep pressure is the building up over time of the need for sleep. It is vital to watch for how much downtime your little one has had during their awake times. For example, downtime includes lengthy or multiple feeds, drowsiness on feeds, car trips, screen time and pram walks. Too much downtime reduces your baby’s appetite for sleep.
Keeping your baby awake, expending energy and engaged during their awake time is also important. Engaged play before their bedtime, without the need for wind-down, is vital. Teaming engaged play with your baby’s appropriate awake time means maintaining sleep pressure while ensuring they don’t become too overtired. When a baby is overtired their stress hormones are released, which play havoc on night sleeps. Having sleep pressure without being overtired works in your favour.
3. Keep everything the same when your baby sleeps
Above: The ARBOUR Bassinet
From around four months onwards, babies drift between sleep cycles that allow them to awaken to a very light degree to check everything is as it was when they fell asleep. Rocking, using dummies and feeding your baby to sleep can help your baby fall into a deep sleep and drift comfortably between sleep cycles.
If you find your little one is awakening and crying several times a night, having a hard time settling and/or short naps, it could be because they are falling asleep with one scenario (for example, falling asleep while being fed in your bedroom) and waking up in a completely different one (for example, waking up in their cot in the nursery). Working on your baby’s ability to fall asleep in the same scenario where they will wake will dramatically improve their sleep quality and overall sleep length.
If your baby wakes up, give them a moment to see if they will fall back to sleep on their own. Little ones often stir and make grumbles and noises but can very much still be in light sleep. Offer them a moment to resettle first.
4. Create a feed, play and sleep cycle to improve your baby’s sleep
I recommend moving your baby away from set feed times and more towards a feed, play, and sleep cycle from when they are around three or four months old. As your baby’s awake times change and their requirements grow with age, this can clash with their set feed times.
It is helpful to wait about 20 minutes after your baby wakes to feed them. Your baby’s last feed of the day should fall around 40 minutes before their bedtime for the evening. The reason I move this feed a little bit away from bedtime is so your baby can have a complete feed while fully awake without zoning out and recognise where they’re going off to sleep without ultimately feeding to sleep.
5. Develop a realistic and straightforward bedtime routine for your baby
Above: METRO³ Bassinet on the Bassinet Stand
Bedtime routines. I know it can be very tempting to create an extremely ritualistic lead up to bedtime, but please don’t get too caught up on this, particularly if it’s stressing you out or you don’t have the time. If you can’t give your baby a bath every night or your baby is already overtired, and books aren’t enjoyable at that time, don’t get too caught up in this. If books before bed are your thing, keep them interactive even in their nursery! A bedtime routine is great, but it doesn’t have to be lengthy. Simply changing your baby’s nappy, giving them a bath if you have time, popping your little one in a sleeping bag/swaddle, having a comfort toy (following SIDS recommendations), and giving them a cuddle is often enough.
6. Create a calming and safe sleeping environment for your baby
Above: ARBOUR Collection
Create a beautiful and calming space for your little one to sleep soundly. Redsbaby have recently launched a new ARBOUR Collection of Nursery Furniture. Each product complies with strict safety requirements to help provide your baby with a safe sleeping environment. My favourite product in the range is the ARBOUR Bassinet, as it allows you to position your baby next to your bed at night for safe sleeping and keeps your baby close during day naps.