When I had the Sprog, I thought I was going to die from lack of sleep and exhaustion. She refused to sleep in her Moses Basket, and anywhere else that wasn’t mine or her father’s arms. She also stayed awake until the early hours of the morning, and when she did sleep, she woke up and nursed every two hours. I was literally out of my mind.
Nothing, I repeat, nothing prepared me for the wake of tiredness and frustration and helplessness that threatened to overwhelm me in those early days. As new parents with no experience, and no family support around us, we had to rely on each other and sometimes follow the baby’s lead. As time went on, we began to learn her patterns, try different things, and collect wisdom from family and friends. These are the steps that worked for us:
Let them sleep in their own bed
You want to establish this routine very early on. There will be squeaks, and noisy breathing, and tossing and turning, babies are noisy naturally. When the sprog arrived, every squeak and noise from her had me rushing to pick her up and place her on my chest where she promptly nestled and stopped squeaking. Listen Mama, if something is wrong with your baby, you will know and ring your doctor or health visitor straight away. But those squeaks and noises are what babies do. Leave them be in their cot or Moses Basket, or co-sleeping pod.
Falling asleep with baby in your arms is dangerous and can also delay their ability to get used to their own beds. Just make sure the beds and cots are comfy, the room is a good temperature, and baby is in comfortable clothes to sleep. If they are crying or unwell, by all means intervene, but do not fall into the routine of letting them sleep in your arms every night or on your bed. It means every move you make, or your snores can wake them. Eventually, they sleep better in their own beds, I know mine did.
Settle into a routine as quickly as possible
Put your baby to bed at a particular time every night, and dim the lights to signify night time. With ours, at exactly 10 weeks, she went to bed at 7pm every night, come rain, come shine. How did we do it? Well, we watched her for tired cues, and we did the same bedtime routine daily for a few weeks, until one day, it became the routine. She understood that after a bath, a massage, and lights off, it was time to sleep. We did not deviate from this, even when we had guests or when we were travelling, this was very consistent.
Have a bedtime routine
Decide what your bedtime routine would be. For us, it was and still is, dinner, a bit of winding down play in the bedroom, nice relaxing bath with lots of coloured toys and splashes, then massage with moisturiser, lights off, nurse, and bed. The Sprog always fell asleep nursing, I would then take her off the breast, burp her for 20 mins, and put her down. She was up in 2 hours for another feed in the beginning when she was exclusively breastfed, but these reduced as she became older. It is not best practice to let your baby fall asleep nursing, or drinking milk from a bottle. Ideally, they should be put down drowsy. That way, they are not reliant on the bottle or breast to fall asleep. Although putting them down while drowsy is best practice, I always nursed the sprog to sleep as she didn’t go down otherwise, and now that I have stopped nursing, she comfort sucks on her blanket or comforter before sleeping. Do not feed to sleep if you can help it. A bedtime routine helps to relax them and remind them to get ready to sleep.
Prepare for bed from the minute she wakes in the morning
My baby’s bedtime does not start only at bath time. It starts when she wakes up because that is when I start feeding her, playing with her, and implementing my strategy for night time sleeping. Additionally, ensure that baby has her daytime naps, because naps beget naps. You do not want a baby who is overtired by the end of the day and as a consequence, is crying a lot. In summary, feed promptly and well, play and stimulate a lot (put baby on their tummy to develop the muscles for sitting and crawling, do sensory activities, let your baby expend some energy), and make sure daytime naps are had. If you do all these, by nighttime, your baby just wants to snore away.
Use these strategies to prepare baby for sleeping
If your baby has colic or reflux, a tummy massage for the former and a slightly elevated head on the latter should help baby to sleep better. For all babies, Play for a long long time, so that she is tired enough to go down easily. Read to her in a soothing just before bath time. It sets the stage for a nice warm bath, you can start to read after baths when she is much older.
Make sure baby is well fed as a full baby will go down easily and long.
You know how a nice hot soak is great at relaxing adults and sending you straight to sleep, sometimes in the bath? Well, it is the same for babies. Give her a lovely soak that is not lukewarm. Please do not scald your baby, always test the bath water on your own skin before putting baby in, using a safe and child friendly baby bath.
The sprog loves massages, gentle kneading using circular motions always work like magic. Wrap your baby in a dry fluffy towel so that she does not get cold, then using a baby safe oil, give a nice massage, Do not be surprised if she drops off before it is over.
Try playing white noise or lullabies. Personally, this did not work for mine, but I have heard some mummies swear by them.
Make your baby’s bed soft and nice to sleep in, using a good mattress and safe sheets. Do not use duvets or heavy sheets. Use light baby blankets, layering depending on the temperature. Once your little one finds their hands, or starts to roll, it is advised to transition to a safe baby sleeping bag to keep baby warm, again depending on the temperature (invest in a good room and water temperature, it made things easier for me).
As I remind myself all the time, the dangers of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death) are very real. Please do not sleep in the same bed with your baby, especially if you drink or smoke. Remember to put your baby on her back to sleep per the recommendation of health boards. Let me know if these work for you. Your baby should be sleeping and snoring away in no time. Good luck mummy.