How to establish good baby sleep habits

Caring for a new-born baby brings with it a lot of joy and excitement, but it also comes with sleep deprivation. New borns cannot sleep for 8 hour stretches simply because they have nutritional needs. A new born needs to feed 2 to 4 hourly initially and will wake for feeds at night. In time, their little tummies adjust to taking more milk in the day and thus gradually stretch their sleep periods at night. Here is how you can help baby settle.

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  1. Recognise signs that he is tired

Baby will let you know if he needs sleep. Signs include rubbing eyes, yawning, fussing or looking away. Some babies will flick their ears with their hands, become quiet and still, stare blankly into space and lose interest in people and toys. Do not wait until baby has started being cranky.

  1. Show them the difference between day and night

From about 2 weeks, teach your baby that night time is for sleep and day time is for play. Keep things active during the day, stimulate baby, play and interact with him as much as you can. Make day time feel social, sing as you feed him, keep his room light and bright, and let him hear every day noises such as the radio.

When night time comes, keep things low-key, calm and peaceful. Feed baby in a darkened room, try not to speak to him when you feed him, give them a warm bath just before bedtime, dress him in pyjamas to indicate the end of the day, reduce noise and keep the lights low. For consistency and effectiveness, keep activities the same and in the same order, night after night.

  1. Establish a bedtime routine

Some parents use vacation days to sleep train their babies so they won’t have to worry about being at work in the morning. A familiar bedtime routine can help to regulate your baby’s body clock and help her establish a sleeping pattern. These can include swaddling baby, singing a lullaby, giving a gentle massage or reading a bedtime story. Separate eating time from sleep time and avoid over feeding your baby nearer to sleep time as this can make them uncomfortable. You also do not want your baby to doze off while eating. Remember to record your baby’s sleeping and waking times to help family members and caregivers adhere to it.

  1. Putting baby to sleep

Some babies may associate bedtime with being left alone and may start crying just to keep you around. Save your baby’s favourite activity for last, and do it in his room. This will help him look forward to bedtime and associate his sleep space with things he likes to do. Soothe baby until he is drowsy, put him down and let him drift off on his own. If the baby cries, wait a few minutes and console him without picking him up. Your presence will reassure him that you are close by so he can eventually fall asleep on his own. This way you won’t need to rock or cuddle him to sleep every time he wakes up during the night. The first few nights will be difficult but you’ll begin to see improvement in his sleep pattern in a week.

  1. Don’t wake your baby up at night to feed

By 2 months, you don’t have to wake baby up at night to feed as long as he is gaining weight and eating during day time. Similarly don’t worry about changing diapers if your baby is asleep. Don’t rush in the moment you think your baby has awakened. Babies often sigh or vocalise during partial arousals. If you avoid stimulating them during these moments, they may go back to sleep on their own.

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