“A baby who sleeps well is a happy baby, which in turn means a happy mum,” says Kim West, author of Good Night, Sleep Tight. “When you know what that feels like, you’ll value it like gold because it frees you up.” But hot weather and long days can play havoc with an established sleep routine. Here’s how to keep order – and a happy baby – in your home this summer…
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Stick to your schedule
“When you keep to your routine you’re better rested and there’s more structure,” says Kim. “Stick to it as much as possible despite the warm light evenings. Be decisive with things like when you have to leave the playground because it’s nap time.”
Watch the clock
Sleep routines can fall by the wayside in the summer due to long days spent in the garden, fun outdoor activities or exciting days out. And because it’s lighter and warmer in the evenings, you might not notice that bath time has come and gone. The problem is, when you break your baby’s routine, it’s hard to get back into the good habits you’ve worked so hard to set up. So make sure you keep established nap times even when you’re tempted to stay out and play. If your baby’s happy about taking his afternoon sleep al fresco in a shady place, then you can stay outdoors longer too.
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Babies need to be in a warm environment, as they can’t regulate their own body temperature – that’s why labour wards are kept hot. So when you’re back at home, even in the summer, try and keep your baby’s bedroom temperature consistent.
“If it’s hot at night, that can wake up a baby just the same as it does us,” says Kim. “It’s the same for cold temperatures too. Your baby wakes up and is unable to re-cover himself.” The ideal temperature is between 16º and 20ºC and the best way to monitor this is with a thermometer in your baby’s room.
Know his sleep window
Unlike adults, young babies don’t have a clue when it’s bedtime, which is why you need to put them down to sleep. They also have just a small window of time around bedtime when if you put them into bed, they’ll stay asleep, says Kim West.
“For babies up to 12 months, it’s between 7-7.30pm. Miss that window and your baby begins to wake up again. That’s why it’s not worth keeping your baby up late,” she says.
Buy a blackout blind
It’s lovely when the lighter evenings come around, but not so lovely when your baby can’t settle because he’s used to a dark room at bedtime. The simple solution is to make him think it’s nighttime when it’s still light. “Don’t move bedtime later to deal with the light,” says Kim. “The answer is to make the room darker.” This means blackout blinds, which incidentally don’t necessarily have to be black. Mamas and Papas do cream coloured ones.
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Make bath time a benchmark
Whatever you’ve been up to during the day, having a cut-off point and wind-down time will signal to your baby bedtime is approaching, and a bath is the perfect device for this.
“Bath time definitely tires Jasper out, and he knows exactly what to expect – bath, cuddles, getting dressed, feed, bed. Even when we put him down awake he knows it’s time for sleep and, apart from looking around his room a lot more now that it’s lighter, he almost always settles without any fuss,” says Helen Wooldridge, 38, from Somerset, mum to Jasper, 10 weeks.
Create a breeze
If your baby is perhaps finding it too stuffy to settle, open internal doors and some windows to allow a breeze to flow through the house. “If it gets very hot, I’d recommend using a fan in your baby’s room,” says Dr Miriam Stoppard. “Just a small one that can sit on the top of a chest of drawers is fine.” Keep the house cool during the day to help avoid night sweats. Leave curtains closed to stop the sun heating up rooms so they’re not baking when it comes to bath and bedtime.
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Change things around
You don’t need to be regimented with where you let your tot sleep to ensure you all get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes different rooms are cooler, so it’s worth moving outside the nursery. “It was regularly 28ºC at night in our bedroom so we set up a travel cot in the dining room, which was the coolest room second to the lounge (which we wanted to use in the evenings). Henry slept soundly in there,” says Celine Philbert, 26, from Surrey, mum to Henry, 1.
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Don’t lose the blankets
As a reaction to the heat, many mums take away bedding to keep their baby cool. But, like us, babies need covers all year round – just not as many.
“A lot of parents are scared about their baby overheating because of the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),” says Tizzie Hall, author of Save Our Sleep. “Actually, when babies are cold they roll on to their tummies, which is more of a risk.”
“The amount of covers you need depends on the temperature of the room,” says Dr Miriam Stoppard. Follow this table as a guide:
14ºC – sheet and four or more blankets
16ºC – sheet and three blankets
18ºC – sheet and two blankets
20ºC – sheet and one blanket
24ºC – sheet only