“My baby is broken, he/she doesn’t sleep at night” comes the common cry. There are parents all over the country reaching for their morning coffee whilst their child who has been up most of the night is finally asleep looking like a little angel. If this is you then please know that you are almost certainly not alone in having a child who doesn’t sleep during the night. Read on to see our guidance on how to help your child get a good night’s sleep.
Helping your baby sleep
Starting a bedtime routine when your baby is born is a great way to put in place the building blocks that are needed to aid them in getting a good night’s sleep. We will look at specific sleep training methods in detail in another article.
Where should they sleep?
It is recommended that for the first 6 months of their life your baby should sleep in the same room as you, for daytime naps as well as at night time. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) recommend using a Moses basket or crib with a firm mattress. Cot bumpers should not be used due to the risk of suffocation, nor should pillows – your baby will be perfectly happy sleeping flat. To be honest, when newly born, your baby will be perfectly happy sleeping just about anywhere, and can often drop off instantly! The mattress should be firm and whilst it is fine to use a crib or Moses basket you have used for another child the mattress should also be new. This can help to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS – also referred to as cot death). Children’s sleep advice suggests that moving baby to their own room after 6 months is fine. However, some parents, especially those who are co-sleeping, prefer to wait longer. If you are co-sleeping then it is very important to follow the recommended guidelines.
New guidelines from the World Health Organisation recommend that newborns are not bathed for a few days after birth. This allows the vernix caseosa that is on their skin at birth to provide optimum benefit. However, once you do choose to bathe your baby, a bedtime bath can form a very good basis for their sleep routine. Once your baby is bathed and dressed, feed them in a darkened room before putting them to bed. This will help them to make the right associations to get used to the idea of night and sleep. Whilst your baby is very young, they will wake for milk in the night. Their stomachs are tiny so little and often is how they feed. With this in mind it can be a good idea to ensure that you use a suitable night nappy as they will get wet quicker. If you are using cloth, an extra nappy booster or dedicated night-time nappy should help, and you should expect to change a nappy in the middle of the night as well. It is also never to early to add a bedtime story to the routine.
Helping your toddler to sleep
How children sleep can change over time, and there may be a few periods where you wonder whether you’ve gone right back to the start if they suddenly seem more wakeful at night. The advice below covers what to do to establish a new routine, or help a toddler get back to getting a good night’s sleep if their sleep habits suddenly change.
By the time your child is a toddler you will probably have moved them into their own room, first into a cot and then making the transition from cot to bed. You can introduce a pillow and an appropriately-sized duvet to your child’s bed from the age of 24 to 36 months. Until this time it can be a good idea to use a baby sleeping bag such as the Grobag, which comes in a range of togs. If you are wondering when to drop nap time then you will probably find that your toddler will drop a nap at some point during this age bracket as well. Some may not fully drop naps until they start at school. If your child is having trouble sleeping then you may want to see your GP to rule out possible sleep apnea in children. There are some changes that you can make to assist your child if they are diagnosed with sleep apnea.
You may already have a routine of bath, milk and a story and bed that you put into place when your child was a baby. Continue this as they get older. It is really important to read to your child, and bedtime is a great time for doing this – reading is important for your child’s development and a relaxing thing to do before they sleep.
As your child grows you may want to start using disposable night time nappies, such as Huggies night-time pull-ups which are suitable from approximately 12 months. Your child may also express a dislike of the dark so you may want to invest in a nightlight. The Gro clock also has some handy features to stop early waking! We’ve also found black out blinds and curtains are vital to ensure your child doesn’t wake at sunrise!
Remember healthy sleep habits, happy child. So, it is a good idea to find a routine that works for you and your child and stick to it.