1) Newborns are accustomed to the sensation of human contact that the womb provides, so don’t be surprised if, in the early days, the only place she wants to sleep is in your arms or right night to you. To prolong this sense of contact, carry a muslin or other soft item tucked into your top during the day, to take on your scent, and then place it in your baby’s crib when it is time to sleep.
2) Rocking your baby can help her to drift off, but be sure that doesn’t go to sleep in your arms – if this becomes a pattern, she then may not be able to go to sleep on her own. Most experts recommend allowing a baby to become sleepy in your arms, then placing her in the cot while she’s still awake. This way she will learn to go to sleep on her own.
3) Babies are easily stimulated, and making eye contact with a sleepy baby can inadvertently encourage them to snap out of their ‘sleep zone’. So, if you enter your baby’s space at night to soothe her, don’t hold her gaze, chitchat or serenade her. Keep your gaze on her belly and keep contact to a minimum – soothe her to sleep with a soft voice and gentle touch.
4) Even if you’ve established a good sleep routine, waking at night may return when your baby is teething or feeling ill, especially after an immunisation, when reactions occasionally happen. A change in routine, such as a holiday, can also disrupt sleep. Don’t worry, though – once your baby is better or you’re back in your own environment, you’ll be able to reintroduce the routine.
5) Your baby loves to be pampered as much as you do, so why not try a massage to calm her before bed? You should use slow strokes and gentle pressure, and ensure you choose a baby-safe massage oil. Research shows that newborns who have a bedtime massage fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly through the night. It’s also great for bonding with your little one.
6) Your baby isn’t yet able to regulate her body temperature, so make sure that her bedroom is at a constant temperature. The ideal is between 16°C and 20°C. A lightweight sleeping bag is ideal for babies from about four months old, as they can’t kick these off and get cold. If it’s very warm, though, she might not need any covering – just a vest or a sleepsuit.
7) Help your baby to sleep by establishing the difference between night and day. When you feed him last thing at night (or during the night), keep the lights dim, talk quietly, avoid too much interaction and don’t change his nappy unless he’s dirty. He will soon come to learn that night time means sleep time!
8) The ‘crying down’ method is one way to teach your baby to go to sleep. After putting him down for the night, don’t pick him up again if he starts to cry – you can actually disturb his natural ‘settling pattern’ if you do. You may find it difficult, but wait 5 to 10 minutes before going in to reassure him with a soothing touch or a quiet voice. Try to repeat this until he learns to drift off by himself.
9) To help settle your newborn you may want to stay close to her cot as she falls asleep, perhaps even touching her hand or hair to reassure her. Once she learns to settle with you nearby, you can gradually move further away from the cot for the settling time, until your sitting by the door. Then, finally, you need no longer stay in the room while she drifts off to sleep…