Encouraging your Baby to Sleep

closeup of a little newborn baby girl

“The Secret is to Surrender… To the truth that your baby will interrupt your sleep…
The sooner you are able to accept this, the less you will have a power struggle with your child…
Early morning waking will then hold less frustration and become quiet…Treasured moments!
~ Natalie Guscott”

Baby Sleep Signals
Your baby will give you clear ‘sleep signals’, that he is ready for sleep. It may take you time to learn to interpret and recognise them. If you are alert and respond quickly to your baby’s ‘sleep signals’, it will be much easier to get your baby to fall asleep. You can then avoid the crying and fussing of an overtired baby.

• The yawn: It is one of the first signs is that baby is ready for sleep.
• The focused, fixed gaze: His eyes are wide open, un-blinking and staring, but not really ‘seeing’  anything.
• Nodding off to sleep: If in an upright position baby ‘nods’ off to sleep. He closes his eyes and his head drops forward or to the side. Just as he seems to be falling asleep, his eyes open suddenly and his head jerks back, jolting his whole body. He closes his eyes and repeats the process between 3 – 5 times until he finally enters dreamland.
• He moves his head from side to side, legs kick and arms move in an uncoordinated manner.
• Baby gives a cough-like cry.

The older baby:
• Turns head away from people and buries their face into your chest. When held, will arch back, leaning away from you. Rub their eyes, pulls at their ears and scratch at their face or your chest when held.
• Their movement becomes noticeably less coordinated, with them falling or bumping into things.

Tips for Good Sleeping Habits
• Keep the evening calm to avoid over-stimulation. If a bath is relaxing for your baby, you can bath him before bed. If it’s too stimulating, bath him at another time in the day.
• Many babies sleep better and feel secure if they are swaddled in a cotton blanket.
• The way in which you regularly put your baby down to sleep, i.e. rocking or breastfeeding will create a sleep association; a ritual which your baby will become dependent on, to fall asleep. Use ‘contented’ times to practise good habits, like putting her to bed when she is a little drowsy, but not completely asleep.
• A dummy can be a wonderful source of comfort for a fussy baby, and a soothing way to fall asleep.
• If baby is wearing an absorbent nappy; it will not be necessary to change a urine nappy at night, unless she has passed a stoole, has wet through to her clothing or has a nappy rash.
• Do not rush in to pick him up at the first sound. Try to lull him back to sleep, by rhythmically patting his nappy and making a sh-sh sound.

Sleeping through the Night – for 6 hours that is!
• Encourage 3 hourly feeds during the day – especially from midday
• How to time a 3 hourly feed: It is 3 hours from the beginning of one feed, to the beginning of the next.
• A baby who feeds 5 – 6 hourly in the afternoon, will be sure to keep you up with 1 ½ – 2 hourly feeds sometime in the early hours of the morning!! Your long afternoon nap will not be worth it!
• These ‘cluster feeds’ will hopefully get baby to sleep past midnight, giving you 5-6 hours of rest.
• Follow a Feed – Bath – Feed routine in the early evening
• E.g. Feed her at 17:00 – Bath at 18:00 – Feed at 19:00; then off to sleep
• You could offer her a ‘Dream feed’ before you go to sleep; at 21:00 or 22:00. Baby might sleep till 04:00 or 05:00. This could be considered “Sleeping through

The Overtired Baby who fights Sleep
An overtired baby tends to cry and cry until their high pitched screams reach a crescendo. They’ll stop for a moment, and then start all over again, having three or more crescendos before finally calming down. What happens, though, is that by the second crescendo of high pitched screaming, you have had enough! Desperate, you revert to anything to get your baby quiet! If you are attentive, you can prevent your baby from becoming overtired; making for a gentle transition into sleep. The solution is: The quicker you respond to your baby’s ‘sleep signals’, the easier it is to get them to fall asleep.