Time for bed, sleepy head

As a parent of a new baby one of the biggest challenges is establishing a good sleep pattern, and whilst it’s not possible to make a baby sleep there are certain things parents can do to help and encourage their baby to develop a sound sleep routine. Of course, it’s also important to look after yourself and there are some suggestions on how to cope with the abrupt changes to your own sleep patterns.

There’s no set amount of sleep a baby should have, they are all wonderfully different and so the amount of sleep they need will also differ. The times babies take that sleep will also differ, some sleep more in the day and some sleep more at night. And likewise the length of time they sleep for will also differ, for some it may be naps of 45 minutes, and others it maybe more deep sleep for two plus hours.

However long your baby sleeps for, remember to try and look pleased for your smug friend whose baby is sleeping through the night at 3 months – your time will come.

Make sure your baby is safe

The safest position for your baby to sleep is on their back. The cot or crib should meet the necessary safety guidelines and there should be no gaps between the mattress, the headboard, the walls or other surfaces that your baby could get trapped in.  It is recommended that you position your baby Feet to Foot, so the baby’s feet are towards the foot of the cot. This will help to prevent your baby from shuffling down under the bed covers.

Make sure your baby is comfortable

Make sure the room your baby is sleeping in is well ventilated, smoke free and has a comfortable temperature. Consider the number of layers of clothing your baby needs and the number of blankets for the time of year. It is also possible to buy baby ‘sleeping bags’ which help to stop babies wriggling under the covers, but also means they can’t kick blankets off and get too cold.

Work towards a pattern

In the first 3 months, it is difficult to establish a regular sleep pattern but as your baby grows you may notice signs that they are becoming tried, they may cry or even rub their eyes. Babies may move to a nap in the morning and a nap in the afternoon, or one longer nap in the middle of the day.

Bedtime routines work

Key to a good night’s sleep is a good bedtime routine. It helps to settle a baby and for them to know what is expected of them next. A good routine usually involves taking them for a bath, dressing into bedtime cloths, a story or a song, some milk, cuddles and kisses goodnight. It also helps to dim or turn off the light and to talk in a hushed tone. Once you have established a routine try to follow it every night. Babies and children respond well to routines.

Wait when your baby awakes

There is a natural tendency to rush to comfort a baby who is stirring or starting to cry, but wait a minute before you go to them. It may be that your baby is able to settle themselves back off to sleep without your help.

Comfort your baby is they are distressed

Obviously if your baby is becoming distressed they are looking for you to comfort them. It may be that they are hungry and need some milk, it may be that their nappy is wet and this is making them uncomfortable or it may be that something has unsettled them and they need a cuddle and to feel you close by.

Be prepared for changes

There may be times when there is a disruption to your baby’s sleep routine. Sometimes a child’s illness, teething, growth spurts or learning a new skill can all disrupt the routine. You may wonder if all your hard work will be forgotten. Don’t worry, often the routine you have put in place will soon return. If you are concerned about your child’s health then talk to your health visitor or GP.

Look after you

You may be suffering from lack of sleep yourself, and that might make you quite irritable, emotional and less patient. It’s important to take steps to look after yourself so you are able to cope with any sleep deprivation.

  • Nap when your baby naps, the chores can always wait. Make the most of the time to catch up on some sleep rather than the housework.
  • Try some relaxation techniques, deep breathing, warm baths, allowing your body to relax and switch off.
  • Ask your partner, a friend or a relative to look after the baby for an hour or so whilst you get some rest.
  • Try and maintain a healthy diet, it is easy to skip meals or replace them with biscuits but a health body supports a sense of well-being.
  • Be realistic on what can be done. Don’t put pressure of yourself.
  • Consider getting some help if caring for your baby is causing you stress, there is lots of help available.

The information in the blog is taken from advice given at a free parenting workshop. If you feel you would like advice and support on any aspect of parenting then get in touch, we can send you some information on when the next parenting workshops are. Call 01743 254400 or email shropshirefis@shropshire.gov.uk

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