YOUR HAPPY BEDTIME PLAN
Try our five key tactics to help your little one – and yourself – have a restful night
Five key tactics for a restful slumber
Worried that you’ll never get a proper night’s sleep again? Don’t despair. Whether the idea of your newborn ‘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.
Teach him TO SLEEP IN HIS COT
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Getting to sleep on his own is a learned skill for a baby, and an important breakthrough. You may need to rock or soothe him when he’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 he reaches the end of a cycle, you’ll both have an interrupted night.
WHEN CAN I START? Get your baby used to being in his cot from day one, to help him feel secure enough to drift off on his own when he’s in there. As he grows older (about three months) he will start to associate his cot with sleeping.
HOW DO I DO IT? Put bub in his cot as he’s dropping off after a feed or if he is showing signs of tiredness, so he can learn this is where he sleeps – but don’t go away. Marie Clifford, former nurse manager at Tresillian, advises you remain near your baby.
“For the first three months, stay with your baby and be soft, gentle and repetitive as you settle him,” Marie says. If you feel he’s not too upset, you can try leaving bub to settle alone. “But if, at any time, you feel your baby is distressed, go in and reassure him, again being soft, gentle and repetitive,” she says.
Start a BEDTIME ROUTINE
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? A regular routine signals to your baby that it’s bedtime and helps him wind down.
WHEN CAN I START? By about eight to 10 weeks, bub should know the difference between day and night. Research shows it’s around this time that a baby starts producing enough melatonin (the hormone that induces sleep) to influence him. From around three months, babies are more aware of what is going on around them, and this is when sleep associations can be established. So set up a routine that leads to a 7pm bedtime, and seize back the evenings for you and your partner.
HOW DO I DO IT? Allow enough time before 7pm for a gentle massage and a warm bath. Dress him in pyjamas and read or sing to him, then darken the room, give him a feed and put him in the cot.
Get nap SAVVY
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? As your baby gets older, he’ll need fewer daytime naps. Reducing these should ensure he’s fulfilling his sleep quota by sleeping through the night. Once he’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? He’ll start staying awake for longer periods between feeds – signs he’s moving to one lunchtime nap, at around 12 months old. If he won’t settle for his morning nap or is resisting a second sleep in the afternoon, he could be ready.
HOW DO I DO IT? Have an active morning, an early lunch at about 11.30am and put him to bed by midday.
Reduce NIGHT FEEDS
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? It will get your baby used to taking enough milk to keep him satisfied and encourage him to sleep for longer stretches.
WHEN CAN I START? Small babies have small tummies that need refilling overnight, but by three to four months some bubs need only one night feed. Your baby will need to be capable of taking on enough milk during the day to help him 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 him for a night feed. Or offer a ‘dream feed’ at about 10.30pm, which may help him make it through to the morning. The idea is not to fully wake your baby, so keep the lights off and be quiet and gentle. His natural reflexes should allow him to feed while he’s still half-asleep and to settle quickly afterwards.
Break the NIGHT HABIT
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Sleeping through the night is restorative and allows your baby to rest fully after his busy, adventure-filled days.
WHEN CAN I START? The magical milestone of a solid night’s sleep can come and go, but you may see it before his first birthday. From around six months of age, a healthy developing baby no longer needs a night feed.
HOW DO I DO IT? A six-month-old bub could be waking for a small feed from habit. If he’s at the right weight and is taking enough solids, encourage him to self-settle. Visit Tresillian for techniques at www.tresillian.org.au.