Common statements I hear from parents
“My baby doesn’t settle down to sleep easily
“My baby falls asleep but then is suddenly awake 15 minutes later”
Going to sleep is not just an isolated event. It begins with your first yawn and ends when you finally fall asleep. You have to help your baby to get there by recognising when this event is happening. You can do this by being familiar with it yourself and helping him wind down.
Ask yourself these questions…
- Do you know what your baby looks like when he’s tired?
- Do you act on it immediately?
If you miss your baby’s cue it is going to be a lot harder to get him to sleep.
With a new born baby, the biggest cue they give is a yawn. They might also fuss and fidget, open their eyes wide and make a squeak noise. The point is to recognise their cue and act immediately. If you try to keep them awake it is going to be harder to teach them the skills of settling down.
A wind down ritual needs to be predictable, repetitive and sequenced. This lets the baby know what to expect.
Ask yourself these questions…
- What method do you use to put your baby down for a nap?
- What method do you use to put your baby down for the night?
- Do you swaddle your baby?
- Do you cuddle him until he’s asleep?
- Do you put him in his cot after a cuddle but still awake?
A new-born baby’s cry that says “I am tired” begins with their mouth open, like a yawn and sounds like “owh”
Starting with a sleep ritual when your baby is very young will lay down the foundation of trust for when separation anxiety kicks in.
Set the Stage – by removing your baby from a stimulating environment to a calmer one. You could close the curtains, put on soft music or just make sure it is quiet.
Swaddling – some babies like to be swaddled which gives them the sense of being held. In Wallsend your health visitor would advise that you don’t swaddle your baby above their shoulders. Wrap your baby firmly but gently, not too tightly as this stops the hips and knees moving freely and is not recommended.
Sitting – after swaddling (if your baby likes this) sit with him on your knee in a vertical position for about 5 minutes. Don’t rock or jiggle him as this will stimulate him rather than calm him. Ideally you want to put him into his cot before he falls asleep, you should feel his body start to relax. Once you have given him a kiss and laid him down, if he seems calm leave the room, there is no reason to stay until he’s asleep.
Shush-pat – Some babies like some physical intervention to get to sleep which is when parents often jiggle them or pace the floor. I would advise trying the shush-pat method. Whisper, shh, shh, shh into his ear whilst patting his back. If your baby is under 3 months old they can’t, at this stage, concentrate on crying while being patted and shushed so they will focus on the shh, shh, shh instead. Follow these guidelines:
- Pat in the middle of his back and follow a tick-tock rhythmic motion. Do this while he’s lying in his cot, if that doesn’t settle him, hold him over your shoulder.
- While patting him, whisper slow and long, shh, shh, shh, the air should go past his ear not into it.
- Once you feel his body relaxing put him into his cot. If you feel he isn’t settled yet manoeuvre him so that you can still pat his back (slightly on his side)
- Don’t stop until you are sure he has complete focus on the rhythm and then slow down the patting and stop the shushing.
- If he cries pick him up and put him over your shoulder for a few minutes then try again.
- When he’s quiet, gently lay him on his back and step back from the cot. Then leave the room.
Remember that this whole ritual from noticing he is tired will take about 20 minutes. This may seem like a long time but you could spend more time going in and out every few minutes if you don’t follow these steps.