This time last year I was a complete wreck.
My youngest had been waking frequently – sometimes staying up for hours on end – for nearly 12 months. I was slowly reaching the end of my tether, and losing the last of my marbles.
I was so tired I could hardly function. Conversations were virtually impossible some days. I dreaded having to go out and see people because I couldn’t summon the energy to cope with getting the kids out of the house.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I am living proof.
My little night time warrior now goes to sleep at 7pm in her own bed and sleeps through until 7am. I realise we may well get a regression at some stage, and I am braced for that, but we have had this routine for more than six months now. It is brilliant.
Baby sleep is a tricky business, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, however I thought I would share some top tips to help your little one get a good night’s sleep. I’ve also added some tips for how mums can get a good night’s sleep too! I hope these help.
1. Have a solid bedtime routine
For me this has helped with both girls. Your baby may not love the routine at all for weeks, and then suddenly it will just click into place.
My tips for a good bedtime routine are here.
2. Be consistent
Don’t give up on a routine straight away. My youngest screamed through the bedtime routine every night for weeks and now she absolutely loves it.
You can’t force a baby to respond positively to a routine, but you can introduce it to them gently and keep on trying. Repetition is key.
3. Accept that your baby may be too little
Go through the routine every night, but if your baby throws up all over you or just outright refuses to play ball, try not to stress about it.
Once babies get to around eight weeks and they are out of the sleepy newborn stage it can become really tough to convince them to go to sleep.
Do be consistent, but remember that it may take your baby a few months to respond well to a bedtime routine.
4. Avoid too much daytime sleep
If you want your baby to sleep more at night, they can’t be sleeping for six hours straight during the day.
Split the naps into three of around one to two hours during the day and then cut this back to two naps from around six months, if you’re having problems at night.
5. Examine your daytime routine
Look at the timings of naps and try to spread them out evenly so your baby has lots of awake time in between when they can eat and play to tire them out for the next nap.
I tried to stop my kids sleeping after 4.30pm so that they would go to sleep better at bed time.
6. Think about what timings work for you
Pick nap and betimes that work for your baby, but that also work for you. There’s no point trying to squeeze a nap in at a time when you’re normally going to be out and about.
I used to make the morning nap start at around 8.45am so then we could go out at around 9.45am.
7. Ask relatives to stick to your routine
There is of course no harm is deviating from a routine on the odd occasion. But if someone else is regularly looking after the baby and they never follow through with your routine, it is going to make a difference.
Ask them to help you out by sticking to the routine.
8. Don’t forget yourself
Ever get into bed feeling like you’re going to pass out immediately, but then you just can’t get there?
It’s so frustrating, especially when you’re aware you could be woken up at ridiculous o’clock.
Have your bedtime routine that relaxes you. Looking after a little one can be stressful, so you need to give yourself a little wind down time.
Try a relaxing bath, or shower for speed, read a little bit of a book and try to avoid staring at an iPad or phone because that can often over stimulate your brain and make it harder to switch off.
9. Try a dream feed
A lot of people swear by a dream feed at around 10pm. Many parents will alternate doing this with a bottle so the other can get some rest.
The idea is to pick up your baby without waking them and feed them while they’re still drowsy. The ultimate goal being to get your baby to then sleep through until 7am.
It didn’t work for either of my children, but I know a lot of mums who swear by it. Give it a try if you think it may work for you.
11. Breast vs bottle
Bottle fed babies can be just as rubbish at sleep as breastfed ones. It really does not matter how you feed your baby.
If you spend too much time overanalysing, worrying and stressing about this point it can actually make the entire situation worse. Decide what works for you and do that.
12. You CAN have a break
If you are on the verge of burnout then you need to give yourself a break. There is nothing wrong with giving some expressed milk in a bottle or offering some formula to give you an hour in bed.
13. Stop the night feeds
It was doing this that finally forced my little girl to give up. I gave her water in the night instead of milk and she started sleeping through within a few days.
I only started doing this once she was doing well on solid food. You can read more about how I cut out night feeds here.
14. Baby massage
A relaxing massage after a bath can work wonders for relaxing your baby. Using moisturiser or baby oil, use your fingers to gently rub your baby’s belly. You could try spelling out the letters “ILY”. There are lots of videos on YouTube demonstrating baby massage.
15. By any means necessary
A lot of nonsense is written about how rocking your baby to sleep will mean they never ever self soothe. This is not the case.
Tiny babies NEED the physical contact and help to get to sleep, they just don’t know how to do it for themselves.
Rock, bounce or shh your child to sleep. Find out what their thing is and do it. You can work on getting them to nod off alone when they are a little older.
The fact is that if you’re living on little to no sleep, you’re not doing you or your baby any good by labouring away trying to teach them how to sleep the “right way”. Get them to sleep by any means necessary, so that you can recharge your batteries.
16. Sleep training
I’ve written a long post about sleep training before. It does have a lot of benefits but I really wouldn’t bother until your baby is around six months old, as painful as that might be.
17. Light and dark
Show your baby that it’s night or nap time by keeping the lights down low.
During the day, keep the curtains open and let the daylight in. This is an important sleep cue to let them know when it’s time to settle down.
20. There is no magical cure
It is absolutely worth trying products aimed at helping babies get to sleep and stay that way. But if there were one product that definitely worked every single time, everyone would have it.
Give things a try, but don’t get your hopes too high.
21. White noise
There are loads of white noise machines on the market. Some also act as a nightlight. We have used Ewan the Dream Sheep for years. He did nothing for our first baby but is still in our youngest’s cot now.
22. Swaddling blanket
This can be really effective as it stimulates being snug in the womb for your little one.
I love the Aden and Anais muslin swaddles, but if I were buying some now I would go for a swaddle that is easy to fold together as I could never quite get the hung of how to fold it! Various companies do swaddles with poppers that do the hard work for you.
This worked wonders on my eldest, who had a dummy until she was around six months. It helped her get to sleep for naps and at bedtime.
Introduce it if your baby is relying on sucking on a bottle or you at every single nap time and you want them to sleep in their own cot.
24. Pull up the drawbridge
Don’t pressure yourself to go out all of the time. If you’re having a particularly rough week, then spend extra time at home. Put the baby on their playmat while you lie down on the sofa. Binge watch something on Netflix and try to relax.
25. Ask for help
If your baby is in a sleep regression or going through a particularly tricky phase, there’s often not much you can do but ride it out.
Get your partner or a relative to step in and give you a rest. Even a couple of hours in bed without the baby to worry about can really help.