Bringing home a new baby is a wonderful experience. However, trying to settle a screeching bub who wakes constantly through the night is an experience reserved for the deepest pits of hell.
Sleep consultants Maryanne Sayers and Steph Gouin were so concerned by the amount of mums they were seeing at their wits’ end they created an online program aimed specifically for expectant parents and parents of newborns. www.dreamstartbaby.com.au
“You don’t need to wait till your baby’s five or six months old to get them sleeping well and into a routine,” says Maryanne. “The sooner you start good habits the better. Many parents stumble along introducing incorrect, exhausting habits out of desperation, hoping to get their baby to sleep. That’s usually when they contact a sleep consultant – when they’re in tears.”
It’s is a scenario that Maryanne knows all too well herself. “When my eldest daughter was born 13 years ago I became trapped in a horrendous sleep deprivation cycle,” she says.
“Exhausted doesn't come close to how I was feeling. I was struggling to do anything on just a couple of hours sleep every 24 hours.
“It got to the stage where I couldn't go on, I had to ask for help. I soon realised I didn't have things set up correctly for her. She was just as sleep deprived as I was! I really wish I’d been educated from day one what to do.”
If you can relate, Maryanne and Steph’s tips below will hopefully have both you and your bundle of joy snoozing peacefully.
Firstly, if your baby’s 24-hour clock isn’t set up correctly, it’ll be impossible to get them into a consistent routine or sleeping well. Their circadian rhythms are regulated by light (daytime) and dark (night time). A baby’s day time is awake time interspersed with naps through the day when they’re tired. Night time is one long continuous stretch of sleep for 12 to 13 hours with feeds through the night, before the baby goes straight back to sleep.
This is the first aspect of setting up a baby’s routine that we always discuss with parents – whether they have a newborn, a 6-month-old or an 18-month-old. The ideal bedtime for babies is 6pm, and 6.30pm for older toddlers.
When you’re at home, don’t put your baby down to sleep in different places throughout the house such as on a lounge, bed, or pram. At home your baby should always sleep in their bassinette or cot – day and night. By doing this from the word go, your baby will quickly form a strong sleep association with their own cot. This is impossible to achieve if different rooms or locations throughout the house are introduced. In fact, the only thing that habit guarantees is that your baby will not be able to settle in his or her own room! It’s all about consistency.
Your baby’s cot area should be free of musical toys, hanging mobiles, play mirrors etc as these all equate to noise, colour and movement. These are strong stimuli and distractions and not conducive to restful sleeping at all. Imagine if you had flashing lights, noise and music around your bed when you were trying to sleep. Would that work for you? Of course not! It’s no different for your baby, so don’t be lured by the promise on a product’s packaging that such items will help soothe your baby to sleep. They won’t!
Weather-wise ensure your baby’s warm enough in cool weather. Babies get cold quickly and easily and if they’re not warm enough, they’ll always wake. Likewise, in warm or hot weather, it’s important to cover and dress your baby lightly.
Responding to your baby’s tired signs during the day time is essential. Learn to recognise these signs such as your baby becoming irritable, rubbing their eyes, yawning, or making jerky arm and leg movements.
Babies get worn out quickly, and if left up for too long they become overtired and overstimulated making it very difficult for them to fall asleep easily. It’s vitally important you put them down for a nap when you see their tired signs.
Sleep is a basic and primal human function. All babies can sleep, will sleep and love sleep. However, we need to facilitate this, the more you allow your baby to self-settle, the sooner they’ll acquire the skill. Falling asleep will become their natural response when they’re tired. This will mean some initial unsettlement. But know that you can go to your baby at any time and provide them brief comfort as needed, before leaving the room again to allow them time to put themselves back to sleep.