Why won't my baby sleep properly?
About a quarter of children under five have sleep problems. Refusing to go to bed or waking in the night are both common, and the two often go together.
If your baby is constantly waking in the night it won't be news to you that it disturbs your own sleep patterns. You will be tired the next day and will probably find it hard to function and could make you more prone to depression.
There are a few different sleep strategies that you could try, so it's important that you choose one that suits your family.
What sleep strategies can I try?
The following tactics may help your baby to sleep better when she's as young as six weeks. Try to be consistent, even at weekends.
- Make daytime feeds social and lively, and night-time feeds quiet and calm. This will help your baby to set her body clock and learn the difference between day and night.
- Give your baby the chance to fall asleep on her own from between six weeks and eight weeks. Put her down on her back when she's sleepy, but still awake. If you rock or feed your baby to sleep she may start to depend on it, rather than be used to settling herself. But it's up to you to decide what's best.
- Set a bedtime routine. Keep it short and simple, such as a bath, a nappy change then into her pyjamas, and a story or song. You could also try massaging your baby. Finish the bedtime ritual in your baby's bedroom and make sure that her room is a pleasant place to be. This routine should last no longer than between 30 minutes and 45 minutes.
- Give her a security object, such as a baby blanket or stuffed animal. Keep it near you for a while so it becomes mum-scented. If you are breastfeeding, you could try expressing some breastmilk onto a small piece of muslin. Babies have a strong sense of smell, and when she startles awake, the smell of you will calm her down.
- Cuddle up if you'd like her to sleep in your bed. Comfort her so she knows it's time for sleep. Lie down together and cuddle her, pretending to sleep, firmly letting her know it's bedtime. But make sure you are aware of how to make co-sleeping safe. If your baby is six months or younger, she should sleep in a cot next to your bed.
- Share the role of comforter with your partner, so both of you can help your baby fall back to sleep. Once your baby is old enough not to need a night-time feed, she can learn to be comforted by your partner. She might stop needing anyone when she learns there's no food involved.
- Tune in to your baby’s needs. During the day, you could make her feel secure by carrying her in a sling. If she wakes in the night, try to work out why. Is her nappy full? Are her night clothes comfortable? Has she got a cold?
If your baby is still waking after you've tucked her in her age may have something to do with how well she settles. So adapt your approach to her stage of development.
Full article available on BabyCenter.