Let me start by saying that I am what people would call an ‘old’ mother giving birth to my son at 42 years old. I did not read any books before he was born, except baby name books as I naively believed that if my baby were fed and had lots of love, everything would be fine.
How hard could it be, it’s just a baby – right?
Nothing prepared me for the sleep deprivation.
People would say things like “You don’t know what tired is until you’ve had a baby.” Or “You think you’re tired now, wait until the baby is born.” I smiled, I nodded, but they were right. I didn’t know what tired was until I had my beautiful son.
I will not bore you with all the details. Let’s say that after only 8 weeks of a lack of sleep (I know many of you reading this will have been sleep deprived for months perhaps even years) I was already feeling the effects of sleep deprivation (possibly made worse by my old age). I was only taking 3 months of maternity leave (my husband became a Stay at Home Dad), so I knew I had to get some sleep.
I knew that babies only slept for 3-4 hours and that I had to feed my son. But the problem was how long it took him to go back to sleep after a feed. By the time he eventually went back to sleep, it was 2 hours later, and he was awake again for another feed. So, neither of us was getting enough sleep.
The ONE thing, no-one, tells you before you have a baby is that …
Babies do not know how to fall asleep independently.
The fact is we need to teach babies, and young children how to sleep.
I started researching sleep training and the best way to get my son to sleep. I tried all kinds of crazy things over the next few weeks.
- Placing black plastic sheeting on the windows.
- Sitting next to his cot, on a chair with my hand on his chest to stop him jerking himself awake, when he eventually did fall asleep.
- Rocking him to sleep.
- White noise apps in the cot.
- Barely breathing and tiptoeing around my own house so as not to disturb him and getting as mad as hell when the dog next door barked, or my poor husband made a noise in the kitchen.
- Sitting on the floor next to his cot in the dark, putting his dummy back in his mouth if it fell out and then literally crawling on all fours out of the room when I eventually thought he was asleep.
It sounds almost crazy now as I write this, but I did them because I was desperate.
What I did learn along the way is that there are some simple things you can do straight away to help your baby sleep through the night and enjoy some much needed and deserved sleep yourself.
Here are 7 Simple Baby Sleeping Solutions
1. Have an Earlier Bedtime
Stick to an appropriate bedtime. Please do not put your child to bed later in the hopes they will sleep longer or wake up later. Sometime between 6 pm-7.30 pm is the best time to put your little one to bed. Newborns will not have a set bedtime as they still do not know night from day and tend to only be awake for short periods. Around 3 months old, your baby should have a set bedtime that works around your family.
2. Put Your Baby to Sleep in the Same Place Every Night
Putting your baby to sleep in the same place every night (and for naps where practical) helps them feel safe and understand that this is the place where you expect your baby to sleep.
3. Create a Bedtime Routine
Your child is never too young to start a bedtime routine. The routine should be simple and easy to maintain every night.
Babies and toddlers love consistency and predictability. When they know what to expect, it makes the transition from wake time to sleep time so much easier. Your bedtime routine shouldn’t take more than about 30 to 40 minutes, and the routine must be the same every single night.
6:20 pm Bath time
6:30 pm Put on pajamas
6:35 pm Nursing or bottle (NOTE: Do not let your baby fall asleep while feeding!)
6:50 pm Story or songs
7:00 pm Into cot or bed
By doing these things predictably every single night, these things will act as “signals” to your baby that bedtime is coming and his body will start getting ready for sleep.
4. Create an Ideal Sleeping Environment
Your baby’s room should help promote sleep. Try to keep their room dark (lights dimmed at the very least), quiet and cool.
5. Never Let Your Baby Fall Asleep while Feeding.
Always make sure you put your baby to bed while they are awake. Do not you feed your baby to sleep. If you do this, then your baby will associate feeding with sleeping, and when they wake in the night, they will be looking for a feed to get back to sleep. In other words, they will not learn the vital skill of how to put themselves back to sleep.
6. Get Rid of Sleep Props/Aids
If your baby is relying on ‘sleep props’ to go to sleep (rocking, white noise, pacifier, bottle, singing), they will not learn how to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep. Your baby needs to be allowed to learn how to fall asleep on their own.
7. Wait a Few Minutes
If your baby wakes up during the night, wait a few minutes before going to them. If you have been helping your baby get to sleep, they still have to learn how to get themselves to sleep.
Falling to sleep on their own is a skill that your baby has to practice. For your baby to start sleeping through the night, you need to give them time to figure out how to get themselves back to sleep, when they wake up during the night.
If your baby does cry for more than a few minutes, go to them and comfort them but try not to pick them up and do not rock them back to sleep.
As parents, we want to help our children grow and develop into happy, healthy, funny, and intelligent adults who will take on the world.
Giving them the gift of a good night’s sleep is an essential part of their development. By teaching your baby to sleep well, you are preventing potential issues later in life.
‘Let them sleep, for when they wake, they will move mountains.’ Anonymous