One of the most common guidelines foisted upon new parents is the old adage “Sleep when baby sleeps.” Which is fine, if baby sleeps. If baby doesn’t sleep, then a cranky baby and cranky parents is a recipe for frustration. The next time you’d rather trade in your bundle of joy for a bundle of pillows, remember a few of these sleep solvers!
Establish a Routine
Establishing a sleep routine for your baby may be easier said than done, but don’t give up when the going gets tough. Allowing your baby to fall asleep while on the bottle or at the breast may be easy, but it may also mean that (s)he never falls into a deep sleep. Removing the bottle or breast may be all it takes to set your baby off when (s)he realises (s)he is alone. Instead, when your baby is six or eight weeks old, attempt to establish a routine that not only makes him/her feel loved, but teaches him/her that night time and sleeping go hand in hand.
- A nice warm bath before bed will help your baby relax and wind down from the day.
- Dressing your baby in comfortable pyjamas will help him/her settle in.
- A short, softly read book will allow you to snuggle with your baby during quiet time.
- Put your baby into his/her crib or cot when it is time to sleep, so that (s)he will come to associate it with sleeping.
- Place your baby on his/her back to fall asleep to reduce the risk of cot death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Cover your baby gently with a soft blanket, but do not allow pillows or duvets in with a baby until (s)he is at least one year old.
- Talk quietly or sing softly throughout the routine to soothe your baby.
- Make sure that your baby’s nursery is dark enough, warm enough, and quiet enough for your baby to sleep properly.
Sleeping In the Big Bed
Many professionals advocate that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for the first six months. If this is something that you or your partner feels strongly about, then by all means go ahead! Just remember a few simple rules for allowing your baby to join you in the big bed.
- Babies should only be allowed in bed with parents if neither parent has been smoking, drinking or taking drugs.
- Take care to ensure that your baby is safely snuggled in the middle of the bed, away from any danger of falling out.
- Make sure that there are no dangers near the bed, such as the hard corner of a bedside locker.
- Avoid allowing your baby to become completely covered by blankets or pillows. Never allow anything to cover your baby’s face.
- If you are bringing your baby into bed because (s)he seems ill, consider calling your doctor immediately instead.
Many parents have been advised of the “controlled crying” method of getting their babies back to sleep. Also called the Ferber Method, controlled crying advocates allowing your baby to cry for a set time before you go to comfort him/her. While this method does not advocate never comforting your child, nor does it advocate allowing your baby to cry until (s)he throws up, it has become an incredibly controversial method among new parents. As a general rule of thumb, only following the controlled crying method if you feel comfortable with it. As with any part of raising a child, if you feel uncomfortable then it is okay to admit that this is not the technique for you!
Common Sleep Problems
If you have tried everything to get your baby to sleep but nothing is working, consider if any of the following could be the culprit.
- Stuffy nose.
- Ear infection.
- Head banging.
- Body rocking.
- Wet or soiled nappy.
- Lost sleep aid (stuffed toy, pacifier, etc.)
- Noisy environment.
- Quiet environment (needs ambient noise).
If lack of sleep becomes a danger to your health or the health of your baby, by all means consult a medical professional. In the mean time, practice your patience, take a good look at your baby’s sleeping environment and sleep habits, and hopefully you’ll be able to pinpoint the problem before it becomes a disaster. Good luck!