One of the biggest preoccupations for new mums and dads is trying to figure out how to get a baby to sleep. It is true that infants sleep a lot – but not always when you want them to! Some babies sleep through the night from an early age, while others are restless, irritable sleepers who require constant soothing and breastfeeding throughout the night.
Why Do Some Babies Sleep More Than Others?
Some babies refuse to sleep at all unless they are being held or breastfed – and they will awaken with a startled scream at the first moment that their mum tries to lay them down for a nap. Sound familiar? No wonder sleep deprivation is the number one challenge facing new mums! So let’s see if some of our Medela Mums can offer useful advice.
As the tired eyes of many sleepless mums and dads can attest, this unpredictability of babies’ sleep rhythms can cause big challenges for parents who are trying to stay awake, be productive around the house, perform effectively at their jobs, and otherwise function throughout the day. So it’s important for parents to try to find some predictable, repeatable ways to get a baby to sleep.
Babies have different phases of sleep, just like everyone else. There’s drowsiness, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, light sleep, deep sleep, and very deep sleep. However, babies sleep much more in each 24-hour period than older children; you can expect your baby to be asleep for up to 18 hours over the course of 24 hours in the first few weeks.
But even though babies sleep a lot in total, their sleep is often interrupted so the baby can breastfeed – most babies won’t sleep for more than three or four hours at a time, day or night. That’s 24/7 – at least for a short period of time!
The Importance of Consistency
This makes it important to establish some routines and to be consistent. One tip is to let the baby fall asleep by himself during the day to get used to not being dependent on breastfeeding in order to fall asleep. If you’re trying to figure out when or whether your baby is tired, watch for signs of sleepiness such as rubbing eyes or fussiness, and establish good sleeping habits anytime during the day – not just at night when you really do want them to go back to sleep quickly. If you are always sending your baby off to sleep with a feed that can establish a difficult habit to break.
There’s no one right answer to the question of “how to get a baby to sleep,” so we asked our community of mums from the Medela Australia Facebook page to share their advice on what has worked for them. Hopefully you can learn from their collective wisdom and find some good tips that will help your baby – and you! – enjoy more restful sleep-filled nights.
Kind Persistence and Consistent Discipline
One of the best ways that some mums have found to get a baby to sleep is to use a consistent routine – and stay disciplined, but flexible, in laying the baby down in the same circumstances, in the same way, every time. Watch your baby and adapt to their patterns in a consistent way.
Remember that there is no such thing as “normal” behaviour, so work out a routine for your own baby’s unique style, and don’t trying to fit into a routine for an “average baby.” Some babies nap for 2 hours at 10am and some at noon, while some have longer sleep in the afternoon.
Jessica, who has a 5 month old daughter, says: “During the 2nd month when we moved our 5 month old daughter to her crib, I started laying her down right after breastfeeding and burping. Sometimes she would stay asleep through the burping and sometimes she would wake up, but I would lay her down regardless. It only took a week and a half before she could lie down in her crib and stay asleep or fall asleep in minutes. This was when she started consistently sleeping through the night as well! I know it’s difficult to cut back on the cuddles with your baby, but maybe try not letting her sleep so long in your arms so she can fall into that deep sleep in her crib with no interruption!”
Keeping Snuggly – Wheat Bags and Heating Pads
Babies are very sensitive to warmth and cold – they love to be cuddled, secure and warm. Often it can be jarring and startling to a baby when they go from their mother’s warm arms to being placed into a cold bed. So, try warming up the bed with a hot water bottle prior to putting the baby down to sleep, or breastfeed the baby in her crib’s blanket so the blanket is “pre-warmed” for nap time.
Sharon says, “We put the heating pad on low in the crib while I breastfed and then took it out and placed her directly on the warm spot left by the heating pad. Having a warm place to lie upon made such a difference and she stayed asleep instead of stirring.” Jessica suggests, “We had to use a wheat bag to heat up my son’s cradle before putting him in, so he wouldn’t notice the temperature change.”
Soothing Sound Machine and Sleepy Time App
Some babies respond well to soothing sounds when falling asleep. Christina says, “Lay in bed while breastfeeding the baby, and then leave her there after she falls asleep with a sound machine or the iPhone Sleepy Sounds app.” Sara suggests, “I used a sound machine. The music helped my little one relax and go back to sleep.”
She only needed it a few times so far, and she’s now 3 months old. And even being breastfed she sleeps throughout the night, but the sound machine really helps when she’s having a hard time going to sleep.”
There are all wonderfully creative ideas that are hopefully helpful for mums just beginning the journey of getting their little ones to sleep and enjoying a little shut eye themselves!
What has worked for you when trying to get your baby to sleep? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the discussion on the Medela Australia Facebook page.