Sleep is a precious commodity when you’re a new parent. Babies invariably wake up repeatedly in the night for the first few months and disturbed nights are all part and parcel of the newborn experience. Not only is it exhausting, but sleep deprivation can affect your physical and mental wellbeing.
That's why it’s important to help guide your little one into a night-time sleep pattern as soon as possible. And while sadly there isn't a magic formula, baby sleep experts overwhelmingly recommend that one of the best ways this can be achieved is by establishing a regular bedtime routine.
You can get into the swing straight away by teaching your newborn that night-time is different from daytime. This means that during the day it’s best to keep curtains open, play games and not protect your baby from everyday noises when they do sleep. But at night, dim the lights, talk quietly, don’t play, and put baby down as soon as they’re been fed and changed. The general consensus is that three months old is a good time to consider introducing a more formal, soothing bedtime routine. Not only can it help prevent sleeping problems later on, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to enjoy quality one-to-one time with your baby. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the UK’s leading charity for parents through pregnancy, birth and beyond, advises finding a time - ideally between 6.30pm and 8.30pm - that suits your baby to drift off to the land of nod. And while it won’t always be possible, try to stick to it as often as you can. Putting your baby to sleep in the same place, at least most of the time, can also make a difference. The NCT points to research studies that show putting babies sleepy, but awake, in their cot with a favourite toy helps them go to sleep without a parent present - and increases the length of time they sleep at night. With frequent feeds still important for three month old babies, parents can use feeding as a way to try and help their baby sleep for longer stretches at night. Cluster feeding, offering additional feeds during the evening, is one method. Alternatively, semi-waking your baby for a feed between 10pm and midnight, known as 'dream feeding', is another. The NCT also highlights that babies' sleep can be affected by daylight, so time spent awake during the day, especially in the afternoon, seems to help babies to sleep longer at night. However, there's little evidence to suggest that trying to keep a tired baby awake during the day will mean they will sleep better after dark. In fact preventing a sleepy baby from napping can not only be stressful for them, but you too. What's important to remember is that all babies are different and some need more help than others to soothe themselves and fall asleep. Most will develop a regular sleep pattern over time, although these will continue to change and growth spurts, teething and illness will all have an effect on their slumber. If your baby is having problems sleeping, or you need advice, then your health visitor is always on-hand to help.
The NHS has a simple bedtime routine designed to help babies from three months old sleep better and for longer:
having a bath
changing into night clothes and fresh nappy
putting baby to bed
reading a story
dimming the lights to create a calm atmosphere
giving a goodnight kiss and cuddle
singing a lullaby or turning on a wind-up musical mobile
Helpful Information can be found: Visions Oakham: http://www.visionsccc.co.uk/ Stamford Children’s Centre: https://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/childcare-and-family-support/ NCT: https://www.nct.org.uk/