How to make baby sleep so that you can get some shut-eye too
Know how to make baby sleep easily and soundly with these helpful tips
Eight hours of uninterrupted, blissful, sleep. Did this statement dig up fond memories and tear you up, dear parent? Baby sleep, or the lack of it, can turn even the most collected individual into a zombie. Amongst all the advice and tips, the one answer a new parent desperately looks for is to the question, “Please tell me, how to make baby sleep?”
While you cannot expect newborns to sleep through the night, you can surely begin introducing healthy sleeping habits from the time a baby is three to four months old. “A newborn does not have a fixed cycle of sleep for at least the first two months. The gentle swooshing of the amniotic fluid in a pregnant mother’s womb when she moves about during the day soothes the baby to sleep. So, for a new baby, it’s about any soothing movement that induces sleep as he does not have a concept of day and night,” says Dr Rahul Varma, paediatrician, Maya Clinic, Delhi NCR.
But after your baby is three to four months, maintaining a good sleep hygiene early on conditions the body into a healthy sleep pattern. Here are some tips you could follow to know how to make baby sleep on time and through the night, so that you can claim at least some of your sanity back.
How to make baby sleep: The must-try tips
The sleep routine mantra
The importance of schedules and routines are emphasised repeatedly in whatever we take on and baby sleep is no different. Following a bedtime routine urges the mind to expect sleep and switches it from an alert state to a calm one. “Schedules introduce predictability and a rhythm in the body and hence must be adhered to,” says Amita Jain, psychotherapist, counsellor and founder, Trivium Transforming Minds, Mumbai. When a baby’s sleep pattern is broken, it confuses his body clock and this may lead to irritable behaviour.
So what can I do
- Don’t keep sleep timings different for weekdays and weekends. Sleeping late on a Saturday night may feel like the normal thing to do for you, but it isn’t normal for a baby’s sleep schedule. Experts say that these varying sleep and wake up times during weekends lead to a permanent jet lag-like state in little ones. Try maintaining the same slumber timings for your child even on holidays
- Stick to the same sleep timings even during the day. A baby then knows what’s coming his way at a certain time.
- Establish a routine before the baby sleeps. It can be feed, change, song, story, massage and bed. Be consistent but not hurried
Babies’ brains develop at phenomenal rates and any kind of stimulation turns on their, “what’s this?” button. Now imagine what to expect if they’re exposed to all kinds of stimulation before sleep. “Colour and sound stimulation will just awaken the baby rather than calm him. Sleep must be associated with calmness,” says Jain.
So what can I do
- “Wind down a baby at least half an hour before the night time sleep,” says Dr Varma. Speak in soft tones as you change him in his night suit or give him a relaxing massage and a bath
- Turn on some soft, soothing instrumental music or mantra chanting. Read out short bedtime stories in a gentle, drowsy voice
- Dim the lights or turn on a night light. During day time sleep, draw the curtains to block light coming in. Give the baby plenty of playtime in daylight to help differentiate between night and day
- If your baby wakes up at night, avoid switching on glaring lights. Babies cannot put themselves back to sleep like adults do and they need an external assurance in the form of rocking, feeding or walking. Gently assure him of your presence but don’t play games or talk animatedly with him. If you nurse him, do it in silence. Slowly, you could try giving up the rocking or nursing and move to gently patting the child briefly. This will gradually teach him to be more independent in putting himself back to bed
- Avoid showing him the iPad, the crib mobile or any ‘sleep apps’ on the phone. These are stimulants and may shake your baby awake instead of winding him down. “iPads before nap time are the worst things you could expose your child to. It’s an easy way out for parents to keep a baby engaged. But all the information in the screen is two dimensional and babies cannot process this,” informs Dr Varma
- Avoid eye contact with your child. Babies about to sleep look oh-so cute, but looking into their eyes may just signal them to ‘abort mission sleep immediately!’
- Avoid trying to calm your little one with TV or phone on in the background. This will again, stimulate him and push sleepiness away.
You may have enough people telling you that the best way to make a baby sleep through the night is to keep him awake all day. This advice may sound interesting, but take it with a pinch of salt. Babies get overtired easily and require more sleep than adults do. But they need sleep in pockets spread out over the day. “When a body is overtired, it does not come to rest. Fatigue and muscular pain can set in such cases,” informs Jain.
So what can I do
- Look out for sleep signals such as yawning, rubbing eyes and ear-pulling. If a baby loses his ‘sleep window” he may end up just being cranky. Settle a baby down to bed before he moves into the irritable phase. In other words, be pre-emptive
- Stick to regular sleep patterns. A well-rested baby will sleep more soundly at night
- After you begin your bedtime routine, do not stimulate your baby, as mentioned above
Dinner time rules
If your baby is bouncing off the walls at 11:30 p.m., don’t assume that it’s his ‘active time’. He’s probably had a sleep-unfriendly dinner. Giving the child wrong foods or late dinners make the brain throw sleep on the back burner.
So what can I do
- Caffeinated and greasy foods like chocolate and fried items are bad for babies’ little tummies and feeding them before nap time is a complete no-no. “Caffeine is a stimulant and greasy foods take a long time to digest. These don’t allow the child’s body to go into sleep mode,” informs Dr Varma
- “High sugar foods must also be avoided before sleep. The sugar gets absorbed quickly in a child’s bloodstream and give him an energy burst,” says Jain. This may end up over-tiring the child and delay sleep time
- Feeding the child dinner close to bedtime must also be avoided. “Keep a child’s dinner time 1.5 to 2 hours before settling him down for bed,” says Dr Varma
Continue reading for more tips to know on how to make baby sleep
Playtime is must
Babies thrive on stimulation from playtime and nothing beats a healthy outdoor stimulation. According to a research paper by the Early Head Start Natural Resource Centre, USA, babies who were exposed to plenty of daytime light and play knew how to differentiate between light and darkness better than others. “Outdoor playtime is also positive exhaustion and creates a hormone balance in a child, urging him to sleep peacefully,” says Dr Varma.
So what can I do
- Take your baby for a walk outside for at least half an hour daily
- Encourage him to develop his milestones by providing a safe area that allows him to work his limbs
Sleep and the hyperactive mom
Most of us may not realise this, but babies are very receptive to the environment around them and pick up emotional cues from parents. So if you’re singing a lullaby to your little one but are stressed out in your head, do not expect your baby to be restful. “A hyperactive mother induces hyperactivity in her baby. A mother needs to destress and calm down before she attempts to put her baby to bed,” cites Jain.
So what do I do
- Take a chill pill, mama! The sleeplessness and the pressures of motherhood might be getting to you, but the faster you calm down, the better it is for both baby and you
- Do some meditation before or during your baby’s last feed of the day. This will regulate your breathing and your heartbeat
- Once you feel you’re relaxed, keep your baby close to your chest and gently rock him or sing him to slumber
Babies associate real quick. The sight of the cradle or a familiar bed is a signal to them to settle down to sleep. But if you’re travelling, the newness may mess your baby’s sleep schedule and this is natural.
So what do I do
- Carry along the usual sleep time books, blankets and songs that your baby is used to at night time
- Create the usual ‘sleep environment’ wherever you are by dimming lights and shutting out sounds
- If your baby associates a favourite toy with sleep, it’s a good idea to get it along as well
Even if you follow the above to a T, it may still take a while for your baby to settle down and sleep throughout the night. But don’t lose heart. Avoid fretting if your little one’s sleep schedules vary a bit. Babies take time to get used to any change. Colic, cough or other illnesses can also disturb a baby’s sleep routine. The key is to be persistent, relax and soon you will develop a healthy sleeper who will allow you some zzzs too.
References: Babycenter, eclkc
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