No matter how prepared we think we are for our first-born, everything is still incredibly overwhelming. First of all, there’s the burst of pride, of love, of protectiveness that would knock you off your feet if you weren’t bed-bound.
Then the bond that forms so quickly it feels like it’s always been there.
And then, of course, those first few months of pure exhaustion when you bring your baby home.
The first couple of weeks can pass in a whirlwind of family visits, photo shoots and exclamations over how well-behaved your new tot is. You can’t help but feel a little smug to be coping so well with this motherhood thing. You’ve got a new little unit, and everything is just wonderful.
But then your baby stops sleeping all the time and starts to become, well, a lot more demanding. Those first weeks feel like a dream compared to what you’re going through now.
Perhaps your baby is suffering from colic or perhaps they’re just developing a little personality of their own – whatever the case, they refuse to sleep at night…meaning you can’t, either.
As human beings, as parents, and especially as new parents, we need our sleep. Because good-quality sleep leads to us being more relaxed, rested, happier and healthier people. Whereas bad-quality sleep can lead to us being irritable and unfocused, more prone to sickness and even depression.
So sleep is definitely one cutback we can’t afford when it comes to having a family. That’s why I’ve created this list of ways to get your baby to sleep through the night.
1. Reduce stimulations
Newborn babies are able to tune out sights and sounds around them, so they can get on with their main jobs of sleeping and eating. When they get a little older, however, they lose this ability and become far more sensitive to their environment. You might notice that your baby is difficult to get down at the end of a busy day, or when family members have been over to visit – they’re simply feeling overwhelmed.
2. Create an evening routine
Obviously the sheer idea of ‘routine’ can go out the window with a newborn; but even attempting to make a pattern of pre-bedtime activities can work wonders. I’ve already mentioned removing stimuli – in addition to this, give your baby a nice bath and oil massage in the evening before putting them into a swaddle or sleep sack. Give them their night-time feed while sitting in your favourite chair (a rocking chair would be great, if you have one). Speak or sing to them in a soothing voice – or not at all – until they become drowsy.
If you’ve set up the room beforehand with dim lighting and soft music or white noise, this setting should lead them to a deeper slumber. Do this every night so they start to register the difference between night and day – and that once bathtime is over, bedtime isn’t far away.
3. Encourage independent sleep
One common mistake we tend to make as mothers is only putting our baby down when they’ve fallen asleep; after much rocking, singing and feeding on our part. However, while these things are useful as part of an evening routine, we don’t want to reach the point where our baby depends on them to get to sleep.
From as early as 6 weeks, you can lie your baby on their backs when they’re sleepy, but still awake. Make sure their cot is as comfortable as possible and you might find that your presence isn’t needed to get them drifting off.
This method helps them to develop their ‘sleep-wake cycle’ all by themselves, so they’re less likely to cry out for your comfort in the night.
4. Add a touch of security
When your baby’s over 6 months, it’s safe to give them a baby blanket or stuffed animal in their cot. This is when your baby becomes aware of separation from you. And by keeping the object close to you for a while so that it picks up your smell, then placing it alongside your baby at night-time, this familiar object is like a comforting reminder of your presence.
Remember, like developing any new habit, these things take time. The tips above might not work immediately but keep at them and you may start to notice a big improvement. If not, there will be something out there that works for you and your baby.
So try not to be disheartened – just enjoy this first year of being a mom!