How to establish a good baby sleep routine
Getting your baby to sleep through the night may take some time, but with our advice on introducing a good sleep routine you will get there.
You may think your baby never sleeps, but in reality, most newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day1, they just do it in two-to-four-hour bursts.
After the first few weeks, you will probably find that your baby is awake for longer periods and will sleep for longer too2. By around two months they will begin to transition into a more regular sleep pattern and may sleep more at night than they do during the day2. However, all babies are different. Some babies sleep through the night early on, while others take much, much, longer. The good news is that most will be able to sleep through the night by around six months.
Your baby goes through different states of consciousness throughout the day.
Being aware of these states can help you to learn about and respond to your baby’s individual sleep pattern2. For example, there is no point in putting them down to sleep when they are in ‘active alert’ – wait for them to show signs of drowsiness first.
The right environment will help your baby sleep. They need to feel safe and comfortable. Studies show that your interaction with your baby, where they sleep and their feeds all affect their sleep pattern2.
In the early weeks and months, babies often wake up because they are hungry. Their tummies are only tiny, so they need topping up little and often. That’s why you are advised to breastfeed your baby ‘on demand’, day and night.
While your baby is still learning to regulate their body temperature, it’s important that they don’t get too hot or too cold. A rule of thumb is to dress your baby with one more layer than you would normally wear yourself for bed and then wrap them securely in a blanket, or place them in a baby sleeping bag with the correct tog rating for the room temperature.
Did you know your stress levels can affect your baby’s sleep? Try to stay calm and relaxed – it will relax them too1.
Consistency can help your baby sleep, so aim to put them in the same place for both daytime and nighttime sleeps, where practical2. Keeping them in the same room as you while they sleep is advised for the first six months. Read more about where your baby should sleep.
For safety, babies should always be placed to sleep on their back with their feet at the bottom of the cot, until they are old enough to turn themselves over. They should not have a pillow until they are at least a year old, and cot bumpers are not recommended. You may also want to consider the pros and cons of swaddling, as some babies find it soothing.
Pressure-sensitive cot mats that detect movement; baby monitors that allow you to see your baby on your mobile phone for constant reassurance; cuddly sheep that emit pink light and play white noise: baby sleep tech is big business, but is it worth it?
The answer is personal preference. For some parents, high-tech baby monitors offer peace of mind, while they’re an added stress for others. The same goes for baby soothers: some babies will love a cutting-edge approach, while others will be comforted by the sound of a vacuum cleaner and a familiar-smelling muslin cloth. Whatever gets you through the night is alright!
You may feel like you’ll never get a good night’s sleep again, but be patient, there are simple steps you can take to encourage a good baby sleep routine and even the most persistent night owls will get there in the end.
1. Tarullo AR et al. Sleep and infant learning. Infant Child Dev 2011;20(1):35-46.
2. Rosen L. Infant sleep and eating. JOGNN 2008;37:706-14.
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