It’s 1am. Your baby is wide awake, and so are you. In fact, you haven’t even gone to sleep yet.
This is not the ideal situation for a mum who has just given birth and desperately needs some shuteye to recover.
Babies are not aware of the difference between day and night when they are born. It’s up to you to teach them.
You can get a good idea of when your baby’s wakeful periods might be when you’re still pregnant. If you’re woken by several flips and kicks at 4am, like I was, then once baby arrives this may well be a favourite wake-up time for them.
It takes time to teach them, and you can still have bad nights at any time, but you can show your baby when it’s ok to be live and kicking and when sleepy time is.
Here are some tips:
Have a good bedtime routine
A good bedtime routine consists of bath, bottle or breastfeed, book and bed.
Many newborns will conk out on the bottle. The next trick is getting them to stay asleep when you put them down into their bed.
There is no magical answer to this one I am afraid, just being persistent with it. Eventually the message will get to them that they need to sleep in their own bed, not on mummy.
A few tips to try include swaddling, white noise, and shh-pat. This last one worked sometimes with my youngest. I would pat her shoulder or rub her belly while making shh noises.
Read more: How to stop rocking your baby to sleep.
Try to start the day at roughly the same time
It can be painful getting out of bed at 7am when you’ve just got back to sleep. I’m not saying that if you’ve had a horrendous night you shouldn’t get a few extra zzzs and just let your baby sleep.
But allowing them to sleep from 6am to 10am, for example, isn’t going to help them sleep through the night.
If they do have a bad night, try to have them up by 8am for their first feed of the day.
Keep night feeds quiet
Don’t have the telly on loud and all the lights on. Keep your voice low and quiet.
If you have to change their nappy, do it quietly but if you think it’s ok then leave it, as this can wake them up more.
Make daytime fun
Make silly faces and noises, play with them, take your baby for a walk. Just make daytime all about being playful and learning new skills.
Remember to give baby their tummy time as well. They may cry but even a couple of minutes is better than nothing.
Feed, feed, feed
Try to feed as much as possible during the day. Time when and how long you’re feeding for to get a rough idea of when they might need milk again. It’s hard to know when you’re breastfeeding, but if in doubt, offer the boob.
A young baby may still want a lot of milk at night too. Don’t try to wean babies off of night feeds in the first six months, wait until solids are well established or they may not get enough calories.
If you have a very sleepy newborn on your hands, it can help to change their nappy to wake them up fully or strip off a layer of clothing so they’re a little cooler, but not cold.
It’s not the case that keeping your baby up all day will help them sleep through the night.
Actually, if anything, it will make their sleep even worse. It’s also bad for their brain development to not take regular, decent naps in the daytime.
Some babies fight naps every single time and it is exhausting for the parent. Try not to let them get overtired. In the early weeks the signs can be hard to spot, so time their awake periods. Once they get to an hour of being awake in the early weeks then they could do with going to bed in the next 30 minutes.
A newborn needs three to four naps a day. Once they get to about five months they’re probably on two naps a day, one morning and one afternoon. This stays the same until a year old when they drop the morning nap.
Make sure their sleeping environment is right
The official advice is to keep your baby in the same room as you for the first six months. Try to keep their sleep environment dark and quiet.
You may want to invest in blackout curtains or blackout blinds so you can block out the daylight when it’s nap time and bedtime. Drawing the curtains can be one of the sleeping cues for your baby. They will pick up on these cues if you use them every time.
Pay attention to temperature and advice about safe sleeping. Dressing your baby appropriately for the temperature can help soothe them to sleep at the right time.
Don’t expect everything to happen overnight but if you can be consistent then the message will get to your baby eventually. Good luck.