When your baby or child isn’t sleeping well and you’re getting broken sleep it can feel all-consuming. A common topic of conversation for many parents is their little one’s sleep – how well they slept, how badly they slept and whether they have “slept through” the night yet. The truth is all babies fall asleep eventually, but some may need a little more help than others.
Strictly speaking none of us consistently “sleep through” the night. We all stir between our sleep cycles as we cycle between light and deep sleep. However, in some people (and babies), this stirring could just be a twitch, a moan, a yawn or a quick opening of the eyes and then back off to sleep. What most people mean when they say that their baby “slept through the night” is they did a long chunk of sleep without parental intervention.
We do need to be realistic. It’s normal baby behaviour for newborns to wake regularly through the night and to feed. Their tummies are only teeny and if you are breastfeeding they will be working hard to build your milk supply.
At Just Chill Baby Sleep we talk about the “4th trimester”, which refers to the first few months of your little one’s life. This is when both parents and baby are adjusting to their new lives. Your small baby will find it comforting to be close to you, to hear your heartbeat and to smell your skin.
Although babies wake to feed, they also wake for other reasons – if they are cold or wet, they startled themselves awake, or that they just want a cuddle. All these things are valid reasons to wake, as tiring as it can be for parents.
"At Just Chill Baby Sleep we talk about the "4th Trimester", which refers to the first few months of your little one's life. This is when both parents and baby are adjusting to their new lives."
The truth is all babies fall asleep eventually, but some may need a little more help than others.
In spite of this, a settled night’s sleep can still be a reality. In order for baby to sleep well at night it’s really important to have a balanced daytime too. A good way to support your little one to sleep well at night is to work on naps during the day. We should watch for sleepy cues and try to settle them down before they become overtired. However, we also don’t want to attempt to put them down when they are “under tired”. Forcing naps is no fun for anyone.
When working on sleep it’s always worth having a think about your little one’s sleep space. Is their sleep environment conducive to a good night’s sleep?
Here are my top tips for creating a great sleep environment:
Black out those bedrooms! Whether baby is still in with you (if they are under six months), or if they are now in their own room, having blackout blinds or curtains can really help you. In spring and summer for example, we are often putting our little ones to bed when it’s light outside. Keeping things nice and dark can help melatonin production in the evenings (our sleepy hormone) and can stop them being woken by the sun coming up.
Have a tech-free space. The light from TVs and devices can wreak havoc with our sleep. If you need a light for night feeds/nappy changes, I recommend a low lamp or an amber/red or pink light.
If there are noises that might be disturbing your baby it can be really useful to use white noise. This can drown out your neighbours, the birds in the morning or even you or your partner’s snoring! Small babies can also benefit from white noise as it mimics the sounds of the womb.
"With patience, consistency and time you and your family will get the sleep that you need. Don't even be afraid to reach out for support if you need it."
Once you have a good daytime routine and sleep space set up, it might be time to assess how baby settles to sleep. There is no right or wrong way for our babies to fall asleep, but if you find yourself in a position where how you settle baby isn’t working anymore you may decide you want to make a change. Some babies are “assisted” to sleep and are able to get a settled night, but others expect that same assistance each time they stir.
Practising the skill of independent sleep can often be the key to a good night’s sleep. Working on a plan and technique that suits you and your family is paramount. Giving your little one the space and the support to practice the skill of falling asleep can be a gift. If you find yourself rocking baby all night for example and it’s not working for you anymore, you can think about a strategy for moving away from this.
The world of baby sleep can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. As your baby grows and develops, they may be capable of longer stretches without feeds and to have a more settled night. With patience, consistency and time you and your family will get the sleep that you need. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out for support if you need it – you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you would like support with your little one’s sleep, do check us out at www.justchillbabysleep.co.uk