It can be hard to know what to do or not do when you have a new baby, so here’s some top baby sleep tips to help guide you in those early weeks and months. And one of the most common questions I get asked is, how to stop my baby falling asleep on me or the moment I lay them in the cot, asleep or awake, they scream! It’s tough and if there was one magic simple solution, I’d be a very rich lady! The truth is, it’s tough for little ones and they have so much to learn. For a moment, think about your baby in terms of their feeding and sleep needs in the early weeks and months; their digestive system is not mature like ours and they cannot wind themselves up until about 12 weeks. Ensuring they are well fed and well winded is so important. This can really help their sleep. Secondly, offering them a little stimulating playtime after a feed is really important. Then read through all the tips below see what might work for you and your baby and you’ll be on your way to better sleep!
If you’re finding things hard, I want to tell you that it’s ok to not feel ok too. Please don’t suffer alone. Reach out for support to help you and your baby. Whether that’s talking to your partner, family, friends, GP, midwife, health visitor, calling a helpline such as Pandas Foundation. And remember, I offer a complimentary 10 minute chat to talk through sleep struggles too so please do reach out for a discovery call if you think it’d be helpful. Whatever you’re going through, you are not alone. Here’s my top baby sleep tips for you. And remember, there are a lot of tips here, some will work for you and your baby, some may not. So be kind, gentle and patient on yourself and to your baby as you both figure out what works to help their sleep.
Create a nest
Do not their cover head to avoid overheating. You can buy a nest or make one with rolled up towels. Always be sure you put the towels under a sheet in their cot, away from their head and begin the nest at the bottom of the cot, so their feet are at the bottom too. Imagine a rolled up sausage shape that curls around your baby but stops before their head.
This can be a helpful way to minimise the Moro reflex (the startle reflex that can cause your baby arms to jerk up and often disturb them and scratch themselves). If you decide to swaddle, ensure it’s a light stretchy material and not too tight to minimise overheating risk.
Research has shown that sheepskin can help regulate body temperature so keeping baby warm in winter and cool in summer. Strange but true! Here’s gorgeous one for the car seat or buggy.
Good for up to six months. This can help minimise background noises that might disturb your baby. Don’t forget just how loud it was in your womb! Here’s a good option for a white noise machine. Remember that’s it’s most helpful to have it consistently on all night but do be guided by what seems to be working for your baby!
Stroking down baby’s nose, patting, rocking, shushing can all help settle your baby, just remember to mix them up. By offering these multi-sensory reassurances, your baby is much less likely to become dependent on one.
Dress baby in cotton clothing
Always think layers rather than one or two thick layers.
Putting socks on your baby is a great way to regulate their body temperature.
Ensure their room is not too warm. Ideally about 18 degrees. We all sleep better in a cooler environment and babies are no different! Try this great thermometer to ensure your baby’s room is at its optimal temperature.
Leave essence of mum – I sometimes suggest mum wears her babies night-time clothes under her own clothes for a while to get her smell onto them for her baby. It can be really reassuring for your baby. I don’t advise offering a comforter before the age of six months and even then make sure it’s something soft and breathable like a muslin cloth.
Warm their cot
Laying your baby into a lightly warmed cot can help them settle better in their own cot. If you have the struggle of getting them to settle in their cot or waking once you settle them there (both SO common!) trying to mimic all the things they need can help them settle better.
Have skin on skin naps
I recommend having a cuddly cosy skin on skin nap once a day for the first 8 weeks. This is great for bonding but also helps stimulate your milk supply.
Elevate head end of the cot
This can especially help with digestion issues. Popping a towel for example, under the mattress can be all it needs.
Safe sleeping space
Always settle baby where they are going to sleep. It’s really important to create a calm sleeping space for your baby and help them feel safe within it. It’s also really important to have an understanding of The Lullaby Trust’s Safe Sleep Guidelines too.
Don’t be silent
Don’t minimise household noise. Have a little radio, chatter, washing machine on. It’s ok!
Think about offering a dream feed. This is usually about 11 pm.
Ensure baby’s feeds are effective
This means draining each breast if possible. This will help your baby feel full, sleep better and encourage more milk production for you. If possible, try to express after a feed if the breast isn’t fully emptied. This can be helpful in the night when your supply will be at its lowest. Also, if breastfeeding, look out for a wide open mouth and visible swallowing in your baby. It’s really useful to learn when they are simply sucking for comfort or not feeding well.
Let them sleep at night
I don’t suggest waking your baby for night feeds. Of course, feed them when they wake but allow them to sleep as they wish in the night.
Put them down once asleep
If rocked or fed to sleep (it’s ok sometimes!) put your baby down when asleep. Often this can feel like holding loaded dynamite that will go off the moment you lay them down! They may wake and cry. Just be aware of your responses and potential anxiety if this happens. Usually, if your baby does this once, you are less inclined to try it again then it becomes something you don’t try and you end up holding your baby for the whole nap. It’s ok for sometimes and when they are small but not something you might want to establish as a habit!
Sleep cue words
Creating some keywords that you say for all periods of sleep to help your baby learn it’s sleep time. Something like ‘sleepytime, time to sleep’. I used to sing it to all the babies I‘ve looked after and it always helps!
Put baby down at first sign of tiredness. This could be looking away, yawning, grizzling. Don’t wait!
Overlay sleep associations when trying to wean off one
To try to avoid your baby becoming attached to one way of falling asleep, add in other ways to help them and mix them up so it minimises their dependence on always being fed or rocked or cuddled to sleep.
Wean them off you
Place objects between yourself and your baby to wean them off you. Also, press under baby’s chin when removing breast/bottle/dummy. And putting gentle pressure on their tummy to wean off tummy sleeping or falling asleep on you can be helpful.
Start a bedtime routine
This can be simply a feed, bath, massage, nappy, dressed, top-up feed if needed, story, cuddle, bed. The same rituals in the same order is the important part.
Night and day
Day clothes in the day and pyjamas at night. They might not know but it helps establish the difference between day and night.
Allow them space
Do not rush in at the first sound baby makes. Allowing your baby a few minutes to gurgle and make noises can really help them learn to settle themselves. It might be that going in too soon actually rouses them from their sleep.
Frequent day feeding
Wake baby for frequent daytime feeds.
Don’t snooze feeding
Try not to let your baby fall asleep feeding – try a burp or a change.
The difference between day and night
Help baby to learn day is bright and noisy, the night is dark & quiet.
Preparation is the key
For night time, get all the things you’ll need for feeding and changing close by. Nappies, muslins, bottles, etc. Going into a brightly lit room with your baby to prepare a night bottle can have a huge impact on them being able to get back to sleep.
Expose to broad-spectrum daylight, get out and about for fresh air & walks. I know it can be a huge challenge in those early weeks to even leave the house so I’m not talking about a stressful social event where you have to be somewhere at a certain time, more a walk to the park, shops, friends for a cuppa. Good for you. Good for your baby.
Creating a routine
Think timings over technique as you establish a routine for them. If they have a snooze in the buggy, sling or car, that’s fine of course; it’s more about getting them to settle at the same times each day. This helps develop their circadian rhythm and become sleepy and ready for naps. Also, start and end their day at the same time every day.
Winding your baby
Ensure your baby is winded really well during a feed. Before 12 weeks old, ensure you burp your baby every 10 minutes of being on the breast or every half oz of formula. Good digestion really aids good sleep.
Winding your sleepy baby
If your baby is getting sleepy and falling asleep with feeding, it’s important to still wind them as it can affect their sleep. Sit them on your lap, support their chest and head as you cup and gently pat or rub their back with your other hand, avoiding their spine. This position tends to keep them awake more than over the shoulder which can send them to sleep!
Encourage a little playtime after a feed and before sleep. This not only helps gives them a structure to their day and create the beginnings of a routine, but it also minimises the feed to sleep association which, for a super sleeper, we don’t want to create! Offering some tummy time, laying under their playmat, or sitting with them and enjoying a few toys for a little while can be all is needed.
So there you have it, 34 top baby sleep tips for you to consider. Remember that your baby is constantly developing and growing (usually, the first major growth is around 4 weeks) so just go with the flow in those early weeks. It’s never too early to use some of these tips I’ve outlined and see what works for you both. Good luck mamas and believe me when I say, you’re doing great!
Together, let’s get sleep sorted
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