Sleep. It’s the Holy Grail for all new parents.
We spend our waking moments dreaming of the time we can have another snooze and just stop feeling so damn tired.
We all know that sleep deprivation can make even the most superhuman of parents feel crazed and at their wits end. So, we’ve put together some tried and tested tips to help baby sleep.
Is my baby the only one who didn’t read the manual?
Tip for settling newborns
Download a ‘white sound’ or a ‘pink sound’ app to play to them. They will feel just like they are back in the womb and should drift off to sleep within a few minutes.
Chances are that you will hear tales of babies who sleep ‘through the night’ from an early age and those who ‘love their kip and can sleep through anything’.
Often you have to listen to such anecdotes while you yourself feel like a walking zombie who could do with a couple of matchsticks to keep your eyes open.
It’s hard not to feel envious of the parents of good sleepers and easy to feel like you must be doing something wrong as your baby seems to think that sleep is for the weak.
Hard though it may be, try not to compare. All babies are different and some sleep more (and more easily) than others.
There are some things you can try to help your baby sleep more easily and to help you get a bit more much needed rest too.
Find the magic bob dance
Most babies find rocking and rhythmic motion very soothing and it will often help them drift off for a nap. Many parents perfect a ‘magic dance’ that soothes and helps their baby sleep.
By rocking them in your arms, while bobbing at the same time, babies can relax into slumber. You could then pop them in their cot.
There are times though when your arms are just too tired to do this, or you’re too busy with demands of other children or chores or life.
This is when vibrating bouncy or swinging chairs for babies can be a real godsend. They provide a safe place for your baby to have a daytime nap. They are lulled to sleep by the vibration and movement so you can grab a well earned snooze (or even just a sit down and a cuppa).
They can be costly though, so it’s worth seeing if you can borrow one from a friend first to try first before you buy, and see if it helps your baby sleep.
Turn on the hairdryer!
As adults we tend to prefer complete peace and quiet to drift off to sleep. Some of us like the most the soothing sounds of waves lapping on the ocean.
Babies though tend to prefer much louder ‘white noise’ to lull them into slumber. This is because it is actually quite a loud place in the womb with all the muffled sounds, heartbeats and blood circulating around them.
Newborn babies find it strangely quiet when they come out. White noise reminds them of all these sounds they used to hear, like the rushing of blood through the placenta. This helps them to settle.
Some babies relax and start to nod off when they hear a hairdryer or the noise of the washing machine or the whooshing noise of a fan. Instead of running the hoover or hairdryer for hours on end (and ramping up an eye watering electricity bill) you can use a white noise app. These apps have hundreds of sounds to choose from.
With a little luck you’ll find the right noise to help your baby drift off into the land of nod.
Play some pink noise
Who knew there were so many colourful noises?
‘Pink noise ‘has actually been found to be even more effective than white noise in helping baby sleep. Pink noises are fuller, richer and deeper than white noises.
Examples include the sound of a heartbeat, of rainfall and of wind rustling through leaves. These sounds are all similar in frequency to the whooshing water sounds your baby heard in the womb, which is why they can help them relax into sleep.
Again, you can use an app to play the noises. Just take care to find a low volume one (no louder than a running shower) and to place the device at least three feet away from your baby.
Hopefully it will help baby sleep in as little as a few minutes.
Try a snuggle buddy
Many parents swear by the power of a snuggly sleep companion to get their little ones to drift off into the land of nod.
There are plenty to choose from, such as Ewan the Dream Sheep, who plays four soothing sounds, including actual womb recordings, and the Lulla doll, which plays sounds of a real life heartbeat and breathing.
A note on safe sleeping: remember to keep these snuggle buddies outside the crib until baby is 12 months old.
Paediatric guidelines do not recommend that any loose items like soft toys are placed in the baby’s cot or moses basket when baby is sleeping until they are 1.
Sleep buddies often have special clips to help attach them to the side of the baby’s cot or stroller for that first year.
Wrap them up as snug as a bug
Some babies feel more settled and are more able to fall asleep if they are swaddled or wrapped up in a blanket. After all they spent nine months tucked up snugly in a womb so it makes sense that swaddling could help them feel safe and secure and ready to sleep.
If you want to try swaddling to help your baby to sleep, do be aware of the safety guidelines recommended by the Lullaby Trust:
- Only use thin materials to swaddle your baby
- Do not swaddle above the shoulders
- Do not wrap your baby too tightly
- Never put a swaddled baby to sleep on their front
- Check your baby’s temperature to make sure they do not get too hot
The best advice from experts is to always put your baby to sleep on their back and with their feet at the foot of the cot. Putting them at the base of the cot means that they can’t shuffle down and slide under the swaddle blanket while asleep.
Babies’ cries always sound quieter outdoors.
The motion of being pushed in a pram or walked in a sling eventually soothes them into slumber. So, head outdoors and take a short walk.
If you’ve been indoors with your crying baby for a while, the fresh air will do you the world of good as well.
If baby drifts off into a deep sleep you could have a sit down on a park bench or grab a coffee in a cafeteria to help you relax as well.
Be boring at night
Newborns come into the world with no concept of night and day, but you can set up a routine very early on to help them begin to recognise the difference.
In the daytime keep the curtains open, play games and don’t worry about everyday noises when your baby sleeps.
After the first 2-3 weeks you might want to make things more regular and introduce a rough eat-play-sleep routine during the day,
This is when babies eat as soon as they wake. That way they’re more likely to finish a feed without falling asleep on the bottle or breast.
They then have some awake or play time with you and their toys (black and white picture books fascinate them).
When you notice tell tale signs that they’re getting tired, you put them down and they drift off to sleep. Hopefully they’ll have a nice long nap before waking up hungry again. See more on getting babies into a routine with our article The 1-2-3 nap schedule that works for you.
In contrast in the evenings and during the night you can keep the lights down low, talk in a quieter voice and keep other sounds (such as the TV) lower. Keep things quiet and calm.
After a feed you can rock your baby straight back to sleep or pop them back in their cot as soon as they look drowsy. Soon they should begin to learn that night times are quiet times for sleeping.
Try the tissue trick
This is a quirky technique that has been shared online. One dad has a very unusual tip that gets his baby to sleep, using only a tissue. It could be worth a try!
Coping with sleep deprivation
All newborn babies need to be fed and changed every few hours, so there is no getting away from the fact that you will lose a lot of sleep in the first few weeks and months.
Even if your baby does nap well in the day, the succession of so many broken nights’ sleep soon takes it toll. If you have a partner, ask them for help. Even if you are breastfeeding you can ask them to take over the morning shift and get up with your baby, so that you can grab another hour or so of sleep.
Rest whenever you can. If you are too wired to sleep when your baby naps, at least sit down and grab some peace and quiet.
If any close friends or family members offer to take your baby out for a walk in the pram for a little while after they have had a feed, don’t think twice about saying yes. Sleep deprivation is super hard but always remember, you’re not alone and that things WILL get easier.