How to set a Successful Sleeping Routine for Your Baby

We speak to the baby sleep experts who share their tips on how to set a successful sleeping routine for your baby.

Being a mum is not easy. Everyone assumes that because you have had a baby you know what to do, but babies don’t come with their own manuals. It can be overwhelming trying to decide whose advice to take. And this is particularly true when it comes to baby sleeping routines.

Try to remember there isn’t a wrong way to care for your baby, as long as it is safe.

New mums often ask what’s the single most important tip for coping with a baby. Without a moment’s hesitation, Gillian Stewart of Little Routine says it’s all about “routine”.

Here are her top tips for setting a successful sleeping routine

Set some structure

A routine needs to have structure with some flexibility. Life goes on, and it is not sustainable for you to stay at home and dedicate every hour to your baby. Feeding when you are out is possible. In the early days, it can seem daunting but your baby will learn to nap away from home. If there are siblings, you want to be able to slot your baby into their routine.

Most babies will slot into a three-hourly routine if you guide them, but they need time to adjust. Your baby is looking to you for help because he can’t do it alone. A flexible routine will teach your baby what is expected of him, and knowing when feeds and naps are due will allow you to plan your days. It will give you confidence – if you are confident, your baby will feel safe, relaxed and calm too.

READ MORE: This is How Much Sleep a Newborn Needs 

Sleeping

Babies aren’t born with their body clocks set. If you let your baby make the decisions, he will always choose to party at night and sleep all day. Babies get tired after being awake for about an hour-and-a-half – any longer and they become overtired and find it difficult to settle. All babies need one long stretch of sleep in a 24-hour period and you want this to be at night. The best sleepers are babies who have been taught to self-settle. By putting babies to sleep fed and settled, but still awake, you will be allowing them to fall asleep on their own.

Gillian’s golden rule for a peaceful evening is to not let your baby sleep after 5pm. This is the time for baby to be awake, have a snack and enjoy a bath before the bedtime feed and sleep. Other siblings can enjoy bath time, too, and have their story time while you are feeding your baby. Bedtime needs to be consistent, calm and positive. The goal is to have your baby in bed by 7pm.

Swaddling may help. Babies are born with the Moro reflex. When startled, they wave their arms uncontrollably causing them to brush their hands across their mouth stimulating the sucking reflex. Babies wake thinking it is time for a feed. Swaddling makes them feel secure and able to sleep peacefully.

Feeding

Good feeds are also key to a successful routine, so wake your baby for feeds during the day. Encourage him to feed well every three hours or so and wake him if he falls asleep. Just because your baby dozes off during a feed, it doesn’t mean he has had enough. If you try to put him down to sleep, he will wake after a few minutes feeling hungry.

If your baby is hungry after two-and-a-half hours, you must feed him. I don’t let babies go longer than four hours between feeds during the day. I know that many parents think it is cruel to wake their baby for feeds. It is not. We all need to sleep, not just your baby, and we need it at the right time so that we are able to cope with life’s daily demands.

READ MORE: easyHotel launches lullaby service to help baby sleep away from home

Moving forward

Many of the problems parents encounter with their toddlers and young children stem from lack of routine. Set boundaries and, if you remain consistent, everything else will follow. As your baby grows, you will be able to shorten daytime naps and move feeds on to become family meals. You will have a happy child who is eager to learn and enjoy life, and you will feel confident and in control.

Babies don’t judge you or hold grudges. They love you unconditionally, so approach a routine with a positive mind. Be confident you will be doing the best for your baby. You will be rewarded with a happy, content and inquisitive child ready to conquer everything with confidence, trust and huge smiles.

5 top tips for setting a successful sleeping routine

1. Teach your baby to self-settle.

2. Encourage good nap times so your baby isn’t overtired.

3. Wake your baby for regular, good feeds during the day.

4. Avoid napping past 5pm for a 7pm bedtime.

5. Have a calm bedtime at the same time each evening.

baby-sleep-clocks-change

Your baby’s sleeping routine in summer

The warm weather and longer days in summer can have a detrimental effect on your baby’s sleeping pattern and mess about with your baby’s sleeping routine.

Making sure your baby stays cool during the warmer nights can help secure a better night’s sleep.

How to help your baby sleep in Summer

1. Invest in blackout blinds

While the longer days mean more hours of fun to be had in the summer, it can also make it far more difficult to convince your baby it’s time for bed.

Investing in some quality blackout blinds will allow you to make you and your baby’s rooms dark and give the illusion of nighttime.

2. Keep blinds and curtains shut during the day

If you don’t fancy forking out on a whole new set of blackout blinds for a few short weeks of summer here in the UK, by just making sure all the curtains and blinds are drawn throughout the day can help prevent natural light coming in. This will also help keep the room cool and more comfortable.

3. Monitor the room temperature with a thermometer  

The optimum room temperature for a comfortable night’s sleep for your baby is around 16 to 20 degrees centigrade. However, its best to check your baby’s body temperature to gauge whether to increase or decrease the room. And to know how many layers and blankets to use.

4. Create a cool breeze

On particularly warm summer nights, try to create a cool breeze to help make sleeping more comfortable. If it’s not too noisy outside, open several windows, in or near the bedroom to allow air to flow the room. 

5. Place ice in your baby’s room

If the open windows alone aren’t cutting it, bring out the big guns with a fan and a bowl of ice. Place the ice near the fans so cooler air filters through the room.

6. Run a cool bath before bedtime. 

A cooler bath will help your baby feel more comfortable and therefore more likely to settle.

However, there’s a bit of debate over which temperature of your baby’s bedtime bath is best for helping them sleep better in summer in the long run. According to some parents speaking on blogs and forums, a warmer bath than usual actually allows your baby to cool down quicker and therefore maintain a cooler temperature throughout the night.

It’s all about working out what’s best for your baby – but try and monitor how comfortable they’re feeling as you put them down for bed.

Using a cool, wet towel or flannel to mop baby’s arms, legs and face can also help soothe them when they’re trying to drift off.

Newborn sleeping in mother's arms
Credit: iStock

Tips for Getting Baby to Sleep When the Clocks go Forward

You may think you’ve mastered your baby’s sleeping pattern and then BAM! the clocks change and your little one’s routine could be about to fly out the window. Paediatric sleep expert, Lucy Wolfe has come up with some top tips to combat the clock changes and ensure your baby’s sleep routine is time-proof.

1. Do your best to prepare your child for this transition by ensuring that they are well rested in the run-up to DST (daylight saving time). Pay specific attention to day time sleep and fill this need as much as possible.

2. Make sure that you have blackout blinds and a healthy sleep-friendly environment to help with going to sleep and to avoid unnecessary early rising.

3. Consider moving your child’s schedule ahead by 15 minutes every day from Wednesday before the time change. Adjust meals and naps times and of course their morning wake-time accordingly so that by Sunday you’ll be in sync with the new time on the clock.

4. If you prefer: do nothing until the day of the change, waking your child by 7.30am “new time” that morning and then follow your daily routine, addressing meals, naps and bedtime as you always do but offering a level of flexibility – possibly splitting the difference between the old time and the new time. This means that your child is potentially going to bed 30 minutes to one hour earlier than normal; they may struggle as their inner-clock may resist this, but within 3-7 days their system will adjust and your regular timetable will run just fine.

5. Bear in mind that we do not really want the time change to achieve anything, except that by the end of the week we are on the same time schedule that we have always been on prior to the change. Allowing the new time to make bedtime later or creating a later wake time rarely has a positive result, often resulting in nighttime activity and decreased nap durations by day.

6. Remember to wake by 7.30am “new time” each day so that the internal body clock is not disrupting your nap and bedtime rhythm.

7. Treat any disruptions with consistency so that you don’t create any long term sleep difficulties during this transition.

READ MORE: Classic FM Launches new Album to Help Babies Sleep


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