One of the many myths to be debunked on this subject is the colloquial saying: He sleeps like a baby. We, parents, know that people who say that probably never had children.
That is because not every baby falls asleep quickly and sleeps long.
So, How To Help My Baby Sleep Better?
Let me share with you 7 Awesome Tricks For Calmer And More Peaceful Nights, so you can try to test which one of these works best for you and your baby!
How To Help My Baby Sleep Better?
The answer to this question is that everyone needs to find their rhythm and ritual to fall asleep – including your baby. So, all you can do is to work out what works well for you and your baby. Here are my 7 suggestions for you to try – introduce a steady rhythm of the day and bedtime routine, teach your baby to self-soothing, try swaddling, dream feeding and use white noise when putting them down. And last but not least – take care of your emotional state, as it will affect your baby wellbeing.
1. Introduce A Steady Rhythm Of The Day
Babies thrive on routine, predictability, and consistency. One of the most effective ways to help your little one sleep is by establishing a steady rhythm for her day and following these rules consistently. And so, consider the following suggestions:
- Activities such as: walking, playing, feeding or napping should always take place same time and in the same order.
- The last nap should end in the early afternoon – otherwise, the child will not fall asleep in the evening when is well-rested.
- Feeding, bathing and putting the newborn to sleep should be in the same order.
- Try to calm your baby before going to bed. A warm bath, a gentle body cream massage, cuddles and feeding the baby will help.
- The light in the room should be dim – a small lamp should give you enough light.
- Place your baby in a crib when she is drowsy but not yet asleep.
2. How About Swaddling Your Baby?
Many babies like to fall asleep being tightly wrapped. This need is associated with the feeling of a warm, tight and cosy womb of their mom. That is why so many little ones long for this comfort – hence – swaddling them for sleep might be the way to a long, restful sleep.
So, what is swaddling? It is simply wrapping the body of your baby snugly (and safely) in a lightweight, breathable blanket. The idea is to restrain the movement of their arms and legs to prevent startling themself during sleep. That is because the newborns may be awakened from sleep by uncoordinated movements of their legs and hands (known as moro reflex or startle reflex). Therefore, swaddles will provide the comfort that your baby needs for a peaceful sleep.
This technique should be used until your bundle of joy is approximately two-month-old. That’s when the moro reflex reduces, and your baby starts learning how to self-soothe.
So, go ahead and try swaddling your little one to sleep and see if it helps. Try not to give up swaddling, even if it doesn’t work after the first try – it may take some time and practice for you to get it right.
How to Swaddle a Baby: Step by Step | UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital
3. Introducing Consistent Bedtime Routine – Get Your Timings Right!
I believe it is never too early to introduce a bedtime routine.
Routine is essential in getting the baby used to the natural circadian rhythm and learning the sequence of actions that indicate bedtime.
To start the bedtime routine – first, find the time that suits you and your baby to go to sleep. Ideally, between 6 pm. and 8 pm, when melatonin (a hormone that controls the sleep cycle) levels raise, and your baby is naturally ready to drift off. That is also when your baby becomes drowsy. That means it is time to go to bed, and your job is to pick up on cues, follow through and start the bedtime routine as soon as you can see the first signs of drowsiness. If you wait too long, your little one can become overtired, and it would be significantly more difficult to put her down without a fuss.
Secondly, you should always put your baby down at night in her crib. Whilst the daily naps often happen in the car seat, stroller, baby carrier or on your chest – for nighttime, you should always put your baby in her crib so she can get the best quality rest. For extra comfort, I put either a used breast pad soaked in milk or used muslin clothe. The smell of milk in the crib made it more attractive for my little one to stay content.
It is worth mentioning that this routine will have to be adjusted as your baby grows and enters new stages in her development. Events such as growth spurts, teething, a cold or a medical condition can also influence your baby sleep habits and alter her routine.
How Do I Get My Baby To Sleep?
4. Teach Your Baby To Self-Soothe From Start
Another advantage of putting your little one to bed whilst drowsy but still awake is that she will learn to fall back to sleep by herself if she wakes up in the middle of the night, instead of relying on you to comfort her by rocking, bouncing, patting and shushing back to sleep.
Babies often fall asleep whilst feeding – after all, it takes an effort – especially for a breastfed baby to nurse.
But be careful and try not to make it a habit – otherwise, your little one will associate feeding with sleeping, and she will not fall back to sleep without getting her milk first.
If your little one sleeps with a pacifier, it is very likely she will wake in the middle of the night because she can’t find it! So, it is a good idea to put a few pacifiers in her crib and tech her to find them by herself.
Think your baby is waking up? Be cautious about intervening too soon. Your sweet one might be already fast asleep, or ready to resume sleeping on her own. So best is to delay intervention and let your baby drift off by herself!
5. Consider Dream Feeding Your Baby
What exactly dream feeding is? Dream feeding is simply giving your baby extra milk late in the evening, before you go to bed, while she is asleep. The main purpose of dream feeding is to help you and your little one have a longer stretch of sleep at night because she is fuller (especially if she didn’t have much milk during the day). It also helps to get your baby prepared for sleeping through the night without feeding – a golden goal of every parent!
There are two ways of dream feeding:
- Feeding while your baby is asleep. All you do is give a bottle to your little one while she sleeps. You should prop her head gently on a pillow, place the teat to her mouth and gently stroke her cheek to encourage her to suck. For breastfed babies, you have to lift your sleeping baby and feed her. However, the chances are your little one will wake up. You can avoid this by giving her a bottle of expressed milk, or even better – your partner can do it for you! If your baby does not latch on while asleep, which can happen for exclusively breastfed babies, you might need to try the second method.
- Gently wake your baby by picking her up and changing a nappy, for example. The trick is to wake them enough to feed well but keep them sleepy so they can doze off fast enough.
Both methods have pros and cons (the main cons being that you disturb your baby their natural sleep cycle), so it is up to you to try what works best for you and your baby.
One thing to note is that burping your baby after the feed is usually not necessary. That is because during the feed your baby will not take in extra air as she is calm and relaxed.
So, when should you start dream-feeding your baby? Well, the earlier you start, the more chances you have it will work. Some experts suggest between 8 to 12 weeks is a good starting point, and you can carry on until your little one eats solid foods (around seven months of age). To wean your little one off the dream feed, you can gradually reduce the quantity of milk/duration of nursing and move the time of dream feeding closer to the final meal of a day.
6. The Power Of White Noise
Not all babies like to fall asleep in complete silence because they never experienced silence in the womb. So, all you need to do is to recreate this noisy environment for your baby. And this is when white noise comes to play.
White noise is a sound designed to mask other naturally occurring sounds in the environment. It creates a sense of security to some extent, and therefore has a calming effect on newborns and allows them to sleep peacefully. The sounds of white noise could be the sounds of household appliances (hairdryer, vacuum cleaner or washing machine), as well as the sound of rain, air conditioner or humming radio.
However, you should note that the constant use of such sounds may be harmful to the baby. So, always follow the recommendations of manufacturers of the white noise gadgets.
Here is some general guidance:
- Place the noise source as far away from the baby as possible. The white noise equipment shouldn’t be used in a cot or on its rungs.
- Limit the time of noise output to the necessary minimum. It is worth remembering to turn off the device yourself or to set the automatic switch correctly.
- Set the device volume as low as possible.
So, it is worth experimenting with white noise. It can be either a hoover or a mobile app – and see what works for your little one.
7. Stress Is Contagious
Physical closeness to the mother is essential for the good development of a baby. That is because the warmth of her body will reduce the level of stress of the baby.
However, when the mother experiences stress or anxiety, the stress hormone (cortisol) raises, and therefore stress level in the baby increases.
As a result, the baby loses the sense of security and reacts with crying, anxiety, loss of appetite and experiencing problems sleeping problems.
The calmer and happier the mother is, the cheerful the baby is.
Studies suggest that chronic stress during pregnancy may negatively impact the baby. It can weaken her immune system and contribute to the development of allergic diseases, asthma or lung diseases. Other studies confirm the relationship between the stress of a mother and excess weight in the child, which may also affect the emotional and social behaviour of the offspring (anxiety, depression, social withdrawal).
So, look after your emotional state because stress is contagious. And if you detect negative emotions in your baby, counter them with soothing and reassurance.
A Final Few Lines
Nothing can melt a heart of a parent than watching a baby sleeping.
Therefore, parents should make every effort and help them sleep better. So they can enjoy those blissful moments more often.
I hope that this post gave you some inspiration, and I would be happy to hear your thoughts if you tried any of these tips and how it works for your baby. Please feel free to leave your comment below.