Sleep routines for your baby

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

sleeping_childWhether or not to use sleep routines for your baby is always a hot topic at mother-and-baby groups. Some believe wholeheartedly that your baby should lead her own development, much like on-demand breastfeeding, while others swear by enforced routines outlined by the many books available to buy on the subject.

Whatever your preference, most mums find that imposing a certain routine on their baby has a positive effect. The baby benefits from clearly structured rest patterns and learns what to expect when certain signals are given, while the mother benefits from seizing some precious time to herself while the baby snoozes.

A sleep routine doesn’t need to be completely rigid. Life isn’t always predictable and sometimes your baby’s sleep patterns will be disturbed by illness, growth or anxiety. As they grow, babies can be awakened by hunger pangs and no amount of cajoling is likely to coax them back to dreamland until that tummy is full! Sometimes there will be circumstances beyond your control that affect your end of the deal too – it’s best not to dwell on any perceived ‘failures’ and work towards an overall goal of teaching baby when it’s time to rest and for how long. Also it’s important to bear in mind that the amount of sleep your baby needs changes as she gets older.

Establishing a predictable routine is the most important thing you can do when teaching your child the difference between day and night. Before bedtime, why not try the following:

  • Give your baby a soothing, warm bath, keeping exciting activity such as splashing games to a minimum.
  • Put on your baby’s nappy and dress her cosily for bed, perhaps singing a gentle lullaby as you go. Keep the lighting low by this stage.
  • Cuddle up for a story – depending on your baby’s age, gentle play with a cloth book can suffice here – either sends a clear signal that bedtime is near.
  • Tuck your baby in and kiss her goodnight. All children vary in whether they prefer darkness or a nightlight, door open or shut, but again the degree of darkness in the room could and should be a clear indicator of what is to happen next.
  • If your baby has a favourite cuddly toy, make sure it is close to hand so that she can snuggle up when you are gone.

For daytime naps, no bath or change of clothes is needed – well, hopefully not! – but it is important always to change your baby’s nappy before settling her down, as you wouldn’t want uncomfortable wetness to wake her ahead of time. Again, keep the lights down low, use familiar cuddly toys to reinforce it being sleepy time, and perhaps also use a bedtime story to help her wind down.
Well-rested babies equal well-rested mums, so it’s worth spending a little extra time asserting and continuing a sleep routine that suits you.
For further reading try:

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley
The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan by Alison Scott-Wright

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