Babies and sleep just don’t seem to mix (unless you’re very lucky), but neither does tiredness and parenting. If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to sleep through the night, or wake up to anything but the sound of crying, we want you to know that we’ve been there and we are here to help.
If you’re struggling to get your baby to sleep, here are some tips which might surprise, and get you some shut-eye too!
10 ways to soothe your baby to sleep
Lavender, in its various forms (essential oil, soap, lotion), is often praised for helping adults sleep. Little surprise that it can soothe you and your baby to sleep.
Research shows that the scent of lavender has a positive effect on stress markers, reducing the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) that we produce, making it easier to reach a state of relaxation and eventually sleep.
Try bathing Baby in lavender-scented soap, and then massaging him or her with lavender oil or lotion. The smell with soothe Baby, along with the massage itself.
White noise, that constant whirring sound that comes from TV static, vacuum cleaners, fans, and hairdryers, may not put you in the most relaxed state, but it might work for your baby.
When babies are in the womb, all they know are muffled, repetitive sounds, like Mum’s heartbeat, breathing and blood flowing. When they’re fresh and new to this world, they aren’t adjusted to the many different sounds that we would consider “day-to-day”, and they aren’t adjusted to silence either. White noise creates a perfect in-between.
Many parents use whatever they can around the house, or white-noise apps, to create sleep-inducing white noise. Kendra Yamamoto from Vancouver, WA, told parenting.com, “When our son wakes up at an ungodly hour, we click on the ceiling fan in his room, which almost always soothes him. We call it our snooze button.”
Even if you don’t think you have a sleep routine in place, your baby probably associates certain things with going to sleep, for example being fed or rocked. You can strengthen these associations by only giving Baby his or her comforter (a blanket or teddy) at times you want them to associate with sleeping.
When your baby gets older, you might also want to limit their dummy to bedtime too.
Cut Out the Light Shows
In the same way that watching TV or scrolling through Instagram on our phones while we are in bed reduces our ability to have a good night’s sleep, light shows can disrupt your baby’s sleep – especially if they are left on all night.
White, blue, and green hues – those most commonly used for night lights as they are considered soothing – actually inhibit the secretion of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone). Studies also suggest that exposure to screens and harsh lighting in the hours before bedtime can also have a negative effect on your baby’s sleep.
If your baby is really struggling to settle, they may be suffering from gas pain. It doesn’t hurt to go through the motions of eliminating gas, such as bicycling Baby’s legs or laying Baby down across your knees and then rubbing his or her back. If the problem persists, you may want to talk to your doctor about infant gas drops.
Babies love motion! Used to constant swinging and rocking from when they were growing inside Mum’s tum, this is known to help soothe babies to sleep outside the comfort of Mum’s tum.
A interesting choice by many parents, although frowned upon by most experts, is driving around to get babies to sleep. The constant, gentle motion of a car (along with the white noise created by the engine) can create a very soothing atmosphere for your baby. According to research by Mothercare, new parents drive 1,322 miles per year on average getting their babies to sleep.
One thing not frowned upon by the experts however, is routine. Us human beings are all creatures of habit no matter how old we are. Even now, you probably have a sleep routine without realising it, it could be as simple as putting on your pyjamas, brushing your teeth, and then reading a chapter of your favourite book. For babies, however, a sleep routine is even more important because initially they don’t know the difference between night and day.
Here are some links to help you find a routine:
- Getting Your Baby into a Sleep Routine
- Bedtime Routines for Babies
- BabyCentre: Bedtime Routines for Babies
Archaeological evidence suggests that parents have used lullabies to soothe their young for at least 4,000 years. We all know what they are – but what is it that makes them so special?
Lullabies typically feature a triple meter, giving them a rocking or swaying motion that closely matches movements that babies experience in the womb. By singing lullabies, you can recreate this experience and soothe your baby to sleep a lot quicker.
But what about keeping them asleep?
If your baby falls asleep to the sound of a lullaby and wakes up to silence, the contrast is likely going to mean that Baby can’t fall back to sleep without some help from you. But if you keep playing the lullabies, this could comfort your baby back to sleep by him or herself. You don’t have to sing all night! There are plenty of lullaby videos on YouTube, some of which are a couple of hours long.
Dream feeding is exactly what it sounds like – it is the process of feeding your baby while he or she is asleep. Bizarrely, babies can still suck and take milk without fully waking up. If you put Baby down at around 7 or 8, give him or her a feed before you go to bed, around 10 or 11 is the norm, and hopefully this should grant you a couple of extra hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Your baby was used to being packed up snugly in the womb, so recreating this scenario with a swaddling blanket naturally helps to soothe. However, it is also important to make sure your baby is at a comfortable and safe temperature. According to Lullaby Trust, the optimal room temperature is between 16 – 20 degrees celsius. The risk of SIDS is higher when babies get too hot.
There are good nights and bad nights when you have a new baby (okay, mainly bad nights to begin with), but by equipping yourself with as many tactics as possible, you have a better chance of getting through it with your sanity in tact! For more tips, tricks, and advice, check out our FREE eBook: The Post-Baby Guide for Couples: How to Stay Happy, Healthy and Sane.
Now that your baby is sleeping, why not check these tips on how to get the perfect sleepy shots? Check our blog post How to take dreamy photographs of your baby as they sleep.