Quick fix sleep aids such as pacifiers do not help your child long term as they form dependencies that cannot continue into adulthood. Please go to our post Avoid Quick Fix Sleep Aids -They Will Not Help Your Baby in the Future to find out more.
There are tools you can use that support sleep and help you create an environment that is calm and secure for your baby. These 8 tools are: a bedtime ritual, a bedtime story, swaddling, thumb sucking, cuddling, night lights, black out blinds and thermometers.
One: Bedtime Ritual
Some sort of bedtime ritual is a very good idea. However, you must follow the same process every night. Consistency will help your baby understand that this is the time to wind down and go to sleep. Before you get going with this think about the fact that you will be doing this for many years to come. I recommend making the ritual as simple as possible and not including any quick fix sleep aids. More more info on quick fix sleep aids read our post Avoid Quick Fix Sleep Aids – They Will Not Help Your Baby in the Future. By keeping it simple it can be done anywhere or by anyone. So when you want to leave your baby with his grandparents or a babysitter they can easily follow the ritual. By not using quick fix sleep aids your baby will learn to self-comfort and soothe himself to sleep. Playing music to your baby, singing and reading to him are all lovely things to do and are very important for his development and creating a bond. I recommend doing these activities during the day and following a simple ritual at bedtime. This could start with a bath or a wash, and then some quiet time followed by a breastfeed or formula feed, then quiet time in the room that your baby is sleeping in. Before you take your baby into the room make sure that the curtains are drawn and the bedding is organised in a way that you can put your baby to bed with minimal fuss. Once your baby is in bed do or say the same thing every night. A kiss and saying something simple like “good night darling” or “sweet dreams” is a good way of doing this.
Two: Bedtime Story
If you would like to include a bedtime story as part of your baby’s bedtime ritual then you could read to your baby during quiet time before he goes to bed. Just make sure that you don’t read your baby to sleep.
Most newborns like to be swaddled and some babies still like to sleep like this at two months old and beyond. There is an advantage to swaddling your baby when he is under three months old. Until this age babies have no control over their arms and legs. They jerk involuntarily and this can disturb and wake them. If your baby doesn’t like to be swaddled then don’t force it. As your baby gets older he will choose not to be swaddled, as he will want to be able to move freely. Baby sleeping bags are a good option once your baby has given up swaddling. Babies can start rolling over from three months old so a sleeping bag will keep him nice and warm, as it will move with him. Baby sleeping bags are available in different togs (thicknesses) and you should layer your baby’s clothing under the sleeping bag in accordance to the temperature of the room your baby is sleeping in. Read our post How to Keep your Baby Warm at Night for more information on baby sleeping bags.
Four: Thumb Sucking
Your baby’s thumb is a sleep aid that is permanently attached to your baby. Sucking comforts babies and most won’t get enough comfort from just breastfeeding or bottle-feeding alone. A thumb is not going to get lost in the middle of the night like a pacifier can. As long as your child gives up thumb sucking before any permanent teeth appear then it wont cause damage to his jaw or teeth.
There is nothing wrong in giving your baby a little cuddle before putting him to bed. Just don’t cuddle him to sleep. Cuddling your baby makes him feel loved and protected. So include a cuddle during quiet time before he goes to bed or give him a quick one before you put him into his cot. Babies are used to being carried and held so he won’t rely on this to go to sleep. It will just make you both feel good.
Six: Night Lights
Night lights should only be used so that you can see what you are doing while you tend to your baby. It is much better to turn a nightlight on to feed your baby or change his diaper at night than use a main light. It is much less intrusive and provides a calmer night-time environment. Babies do not need nightlights as sleep aids as they are not scared of the dark. We are not born with a fear of the dark. This fear can develop as your child grows up due to picking up on negative association with darkness.
Seven: Blackout Blinds
A blackout blind is useful if the room your baby sleeps in is very bright during the summer months when you put your baby to bed at night. It can also block out bright light during the early hours of the morning. You do not need to use one for naps during the day unless the sunlight from outside is beaming into the room. If your baby can sleep in his pram outside during the day he can sleep in a room with the blind up. Using a blackout blind only at night will help your baby learn the difference between night-time and daytime sleep.
No one sleeps well if they are too hot or cold. The optimal room temperature to assist sleep is 18ºc – 21ºc (65ºf – 70ºf). Guidelines on reducing SIDS risks state that the room a baby is sleeping in should be 18ºc (65ºf). Having a thermometer in the room your baby is sleeping in is a very good idea. Make sure you use bedding that correlates with the temperature of the room. Layer clothing in accordance to the amount and type of bedding you use. Baby sleeping bags are a great option as they come in different togs (thicknesses). Read our post How to Keep your Baby Warm at Night for more information on baby sleeping bags.
Michelle’s book ‘Two Weeks to Sleep – A Sensible Guide for First Time Parents’ will be launched on Amazon very soon. The book sets out a step by step approach that helps you encourage your baby to learn how to self-settling.
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