Sleep can be such a big deal when you have babies and small children. Not getting enough can be a big drain on the household and there is so much mixed advice. But let me start by saying, you are not alone, whether you have a newborn who wakes constantly, a baby who continues to feed frequently through the night or won’t be put down during the day, or an older toddler / preschooler who wakes at night for comfort or to be put back to bed, you are not alone. That’s not to minimise how tired you might be, but just that these are common issues.
Be clear about why you want to “fix” your baby/s or child’s sleep issues, there is a lot of pressure on parents to teach their babies to sleep through, or “be a good baby”, but it’s not an issue unless it’s an issue for you.
First things, first – please familiarise yourself with SIDS safe sleeping guidelines.
So, here are some ideas that might help:
• Have realistic expectation – unfortunately little babies do wake frequently and sometimes older babies and toddlers do continue to wake at night, or struggle to sleep during the day and sometimes if can be very difficult to change this.
• Have the cot or bassinet in your room to make night waking less disruptive to you during the night. Cosleep if you are comfortable to do so as it may make babies frequent waking less disturbing to you and they may sleep better themselves.
• Try getting into a pattern, particularly for babies under 6 months where they still need to sleep and feed often, rather than a routine based on the clock. Try a “feed – play – sleep” routine (or “Play – feed – sleep” if baby will only be fed to sleep), work out what works best for you baby for how long they sleep and how long they generally stay awake for. Being mindful of their pattern might make your day more predictable and manageable.
• For older babies and toddlers a routine may be helpful, though be flexible as they may have a bad day, get up earlier or later than usual, be teething, or just be a little person with their own needs. Be aware a routine that works well for your baby would be vastly different to a routine that works for a friends baby of the same age. Some babies have two or three evenly spaced sleeps per day whereas another baby may have one long morning nap and a short afternoon nap, or may have two regular sleeps and occasionally need a quick nap in the late afternoon to get them through until bedtime. Ultimately try to find what works best for your baby.
• A bed time ritual or wind down before each sleep time to give your baby a clear sleep cue, and prepare them for a good sleep. You might want to change your babies nappy and change them into a comfortable outfit. You may need to swaddle your baby, or put them in a baby sleeping bag. Then turn down the lights or close the blinds, put on some music, put on a fan or some white noise, sing softly to your baby, and let them that its sleep time. You may want to try a bath and a story. Generally wind down the activity level and get them comfortable before they go to sleep.
• Settling your baby to sleep is sometimes easier said than down – if you want to try to move away from feeding your baby sleep you can try rocking, maybe in a rocking chair or bouncing on a fitball. Try putting baby in the cot and patting them gently while singing to them, or try patting the mattress beside babies head if baby doesn’t like being patted. You could try feeding your baby until they are nice and relaxed and mostly asleep and then finish putting them to sleep by patting and gradually start to take them away from the breast or bottle while they are still awake.
• Night weaning – I personally found this immensely helpful – http://drjaygordon.com/attachment/sleeppattern.html