5 Tactics to Help Restful Night- Baby Sleeptime Plan

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Worried you’ll never get a proper night’s sleep again? Don’t despair.

Whether you’re dealing with a newborn and the idea of her ‘sleeping through’ is a distant dream, or you’re wondering why your child hasn’t yet reached this magical milestone, we’ve put together a five-step plan on how to get there.

1. START WITH THE COT

 – Why is it important?

Falling back to sleep if she’s disturbed is one of the most important breakthroughs for your baby.

Getting to sleep on her own is a learned skill and you may need to rock or soothe her when she’s tiny. We all sleep in ‘cycles’, moving between deep and light sleep – a newborn’s sleep cycle is about 40 minutes.

If your little one isn’t able to sink back into a restful slumber every time she reaches the end of a cycle, you’ll both have an interrupted night. 

 – When can I start?

Get your baby used to being in her cot from day one – this should help her feel secure enough to drift off on her own when she’s in there.

As she grows older (about three months) she will start to associate her cot with sleeping. 

 – How do I do it?

Put your baby in her cot as she’s dropping off after a feed, or if she is showing tired signs, so she can learn that this is the place where she sleeps – but don’t go away.

Marie Clifford, a centre manager for child and family health organisation Tresillian, advises you remain near your baby. “For the first three months, we say stay with your baby and be soft, gentle and repetitive as you settle her,” Marie says.

If you feel she’s not too upset you can try leaving bub to settle alone. “But at any time you feel your baby is distressed, go in and reassure her, again being soft, gentle and repetitive.”

2. INTRODUCE A BEDTIME ROUTINE

 – Why is it important?

A regular routine signals to your baby that it’s bedtime and helps her to wind down. 

 – When can I start?

By around eight to 10 weeks your baby should know the difference between day and night.

Research shows that it’s around this time your baby starts producing enough melatonin (the hormone that induces sleep) to influence her. 

From around three months babies become more aware of what is going on around them, and this is when sleep associations can be set. So set up a routine that leads to a 7pm bedtime – and seize back the evenings for you and your partner.

“If your baby feeds well during the day, is gaining weight and is healthy, you don’t need to wake her up for a night feed.”

 – How do I do it?

Allow enough time before 7pm for a gentle massage then warm bath.

Dress her in pyjamas and read or sing to her, then darken the room and breastfeed before putting her in the cot.

3. REDUCE NIGHT FEEDS

 – Why is it important?

It will get your baby used to taking enough milk to keep her satisfied and encourage her to sleep for long stretches.

 – When can I start?

Small babies have small tummies which need refilling overnight, but by three to four months some babies need only one night feed.

Your baby will need to be capable of taking on enough milk during the day to help her last several hours at night.

– How do I do it?

If your baby feeds well during the day, is gaining weight and is healthy, you don’t need to wake her up for a night feed. Or you can offer a ‘dream feed’ before you go to bed, say around 10.30pm, which may help her make it through to morning. 

The idea of this is not to fully wake your baby, so avoid turning on lights and be quiet and gentle when you pick her up.

Her natural reflexes should allow her to feed while she’s still half-asleep and to settle quickly afterwards.

4. REDUCE DAY SLEEPS 

– Why is it important?

As your baby gets older, she’ll need fewer daytime naps.

Reducing these should ensure she’s fulfilling her sleep quota by sleeping through the night.

Once she’s old enough to only need a couple of hours sleep during the day, aim for one long daytime nap. Day sleeps encourage better night sleeping and are necessary until the age of about three.

– When can I start?

You’ll notice her staying awake for longer periods between feeds – signs she’s moving towards a single lunchtime nap, which she’ll be capable of when she’s 12 months.

If she won’t settle for her morning nap or is resisting having a second sleep in the afternoon, it could be time to change.

 – How do I do it?

Have an active morning, an early lunch at about 11.30am and put her in bed by 12pm.

5. ENCOURAGE SELF-SETTLING

– Why is it important?

Sleeping through the night will hold your baby in good stead now – and in the future – as it’s restorative and allows her to rest fully after her busy, adventure-filled days.

– When can I start?

The magical milestone of a solid night’s sleep can come and go – but you may start to see it before she reaches her first birthday. From about the age of six months, a healthy developing baby no longer needs a night feed.

– How do I do it?

If your baby’s this age but is still waking for a small feed, it could be habit.

If she’s at the right weight and is taking on enough solids, steer her in the right direction and encourage her to self-settle.

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