Creating a routine
Sleep. We all need it and at some point in your life as a mum, you’ll be pretty keen to have a sleep routine in place for your little one (and know when the best time is for you to nap, too). When it comes to working out a routine that suits you both, there are three key things to think about:
1) Your baby’s age: Forget about a rigid routine for the first three months. If you try to establish routines too early, you’ll probably find yourself feeling stressed as you try to fit your baby into a schedule that she’s not ready for.
2) Your baby’s personality: Some babies and mums do best with a more rigid routine, which makes them feel secure. Other personalities may prefer a more relaxed approach. Take some time to work out your little one’s character.
3) Awake times: This is the time from when your baby wakes until she should go down again for her next sleep:
- 0 – 6 weeks: 45 – 60 minutes
- 6 – 17 weeks: 60 – 90 minutes
- 4 – 6 months: 1 ½ – 2 hours
- 6 – 9 months: 2 – 2 ½ hours
- 9 – 12 months: 2 ½ – 3 hours
- 1 – 2 years: 3 – 4 hours
Your new baby needs to sleep a great deal to grow and process all she’s learning. Up to 6 weeks old, your little one will need to be settled to sleep after being awake for only 45-60 minutes, day and night, stretching to 60-90 minutes from 6 weeks of age. That’s literally time for a feed and nappy change.
From 6 weeks, when she wakes from her last day sleep (any time between 4:30pm and 6pm) start a bedtime routine with a bath before bed and then give the last feed of the day in the quiet of the nursery. Newborns may wake as frequently as every three hours for a feed or sleep through for up to six hours. If she’s gaining weight, don’t wake her for a feed, unless your health visitor tells you otherwise.
It’s essential that you grab a nap during one of your baby’s sleep stretches. The best time is before 9am and/or between 12pm and 3pm, as this is when your natural dip in alertness will allow you to nod off quickly.If there’s a spare set of hands in the house, go back to bed after the first feed of the day (6 to 7am) and stay asleep until the next feed is due.
Likewise, when you put your baby down at any time between 12pm and 3pm, hop into bed yourself and sleep until the next feed is due
- Rouse your little one to wind her if she’s fallen asleep on the breast and try to put her down slightly awake.
- Swaddle your newborn and settle her to sleep in a dark room as much as possible.
- Try to give her the first sleep of the day and the sleep closest to midday in her room when you can.
Because she’s so sensitive to sounds, touch and sights, she’ll become over-stimulated easily and is more likely to fight sleeps.
A sensitive baby often won’t give clear signals that she’s tired, so you need to watch the time more than her. That means if she’s up to 6 weeks old, she needs just 45-60 minutes between sleeps, stretching to 60-90 minutes up to 17 weeks old. From four months, this increases to 1-2 hours.
Parenting a sensitive baby can be tough. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself breaking all the rules with your little one. Once she’s asleep, go and look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a great mum because there’ll be days when you feel pretty glum. Then tuck yourself up in bed and catch as many ZZZs as you can. Remember, babies are different and it can take longer to get some into a routine than others.
Sound asleep in 7 simple steps:
- Take your baby into her room 15 minutes before awake time ends
- Swaddle her if she’s younger than 3 months of age
- Make sure the lights in the room are dimmed
- Put on a white noise CD to help make her drowsy
- Rock her until she’s sleepy if she needs it, but don’t rock her to sleep
- Leave a comforting hand on her until she’s in a deep sleep – many babies find this is enough reassurance to nod off
- She’ll probably stir 15 minutes into her sleep and might startle and wake. Settle her by swaddling, using white noise, or placing your hand on her again
With two or more
Managing two or more little ones presents a new set of challenges, as each has very different sleep needs.
If your baby’s up to 6 weeks old, she needs 45-60 minutes between sleeps. Once she reaches 17 weeks, settle her to sleep after she’s been awake for 60-90 minutes, increasing to 1V-2 hours from 4 months and 2-2V hours from 6 months. If her day sleep time coincides with the start of your toddler’s day sleep, put the older child to sleep first. Stick to a calming bedtime for your baby, as she’ll be more likely to become unsettled in the evening than your tot.
Your tot will probably be having one sleep a day, around midday, and should be in bed by 7pm at the latest. The midday sleep takes priority over everyone else’s, so ensure you’re there to settle her. If you rock a toddler’s day sleep routine, you’ll lose the sleep battle quickly.
If you’re lucky enough to have your toddler and baby both sleep over midday, hop into bed for a nap yourself. In the evening, get your baby down while hubby entertains your toddler. Once your baby’s asleep, spend time with your toddler and createa calming bedtime routine.
If you’re a single mum, or home alone, and you’ve got two little ones to manage, don’t feel guilty about using the TV as a babysitter for your toddler while you get your baby down.
Twins or multiples
It’s important that you set up a sleep routine early on. This means following awake times – 45-60 minutes between sleeps up to 6 weeks old, then 60-90 minutes up to 17 weeks, and increasing to 1V-2 hours from four months – and putting your twins down for sleeps at around the same time. Begin each day by waking the sleeping baby within 15 minutes of the first twin waking. For instance, if one twin wakes at 6:20am, take 15 minutes to change this twin and then wake the second twin.
The overwhelming responsibility of two little ones means that you need some time out. The ultimate option is to have help during the day so that you can rest once a day. This isn’t always possible so as soon as you’ve got a routine in place, it’s important for you to use any time you have when both babies are down to rest or even sleep so that nights will become more manageable.
Twins… but different…
If one of your twins feeds and sleeps with ease, he can slot into the routine of the other baby and can be settled to sleep second.
He’ll need longer to settle, so remove him from stimulation, including socialising with his sibling, 15 minutes before bedtime. Once he’s asleep bring his twin in.
He might need a separate sleep space to start with, so put the more settled baby in your room. Keep the sensitive twin’s sleep zone calm, use white noise and swaddle for the first three months.
Back to work mum
If your little one will only fall asleep in your arms or on the breast, you’ll find it difficult to hand over to others. Try to make changes in the last month of your maternity leave. Your baby has to start to settle herself to sleep, so you’ll need to set up a routine in which she falls asleep independently with ease.
Your baby will be having between four sleeps (from 4 months old) and one sleep (over 14 months) per day. Be sure to follow the suggested awake times of 1V-2 hours between sleeps from 4 months of age, 2-2 ½ hours from 6 months and 2 ½ -3 hours from 9 months.
You’ll need to gain confidence in the new person who’ll be caring for your little one. Once you’ve got your baby into a routine – hopefully a week before you head back to work – start to leave her for one sleep a day in the care of someone else, so she gets used to you not being around.
- Feed and rock her gently, but be sure that she’s awake when you pop her in her cot so she can learn to settle herself.
- Give her a security blanket so she can soothe herself to sleep when you’re not there.
- Write out your baby’s sleep plan for her carer, including times for sleep, signals that she’s tired, bedtime routine and favourite comfort toy.