In the early days with your baby it is best to be led by them. Trying to get their sleep pattern to fit in with yours is very unlikely to work and will be stressful for you and your baby. Keep them close and get to know the ‘cues’ or signs that babies give to let you know they are hungry, tired or want a cuddle or chat.
*Click here* to find out more about baby feeding and sleeping cues.
Rest when you can. If it is your first baby sleep when they do. If you have other children try and build in some rest time where you do quiet activities together.
Relaxation techniques can help with tiredness and don’t take too long. There are some to try *here*.
If you live with your partner make a plan together of how you will both fit in rest as well as time with the baby.
If family and friends can offer help make the most of it. Loved ones like to feel useful. If you have help don’t struggle on your own – this is good for you and for your baby.
Babies sometimes begin to have some slightly longer periods of sleep at about three months old.
Once you get to know your baby's sleeping pattern, you can start to teach them the difference between night and day.
- When you are caring for your baby in the day have lots of chat and play time. *Click here* to look at our talk and play pages
- Don’t worry about household noises like the hoover or the washing machine in the day
- At night times keep the house quieter, the lights low and your voice soft
- Try and do night feeds in a bedroom. Avoid TV and other screens as this can be stimulating for baby and make it harder for you to go back to sleep.
Some babies need more help to get to sleep they may need rocking, stroking or dummies to help them.
Try and put your baby down in their crib when they are drowsy – it is good if over time they learn to drift off to sleep. This might work sometimes and not others, but your child will be learning that their cot is a nice place to be and that you will come to them when they need you.
As your baby gets older you can carry on helping them understand bedtime routines. Babies need a lot of repetition to help them get into a routine.
You may notice that there is a time in the evening where they naturally seem sleepier – begin your routine about an hour before this. You can gradually move the bedtime earlier once they have begun to settle down regularly at that time.
Bath time, pyjamas, quiet cuddles and then bed at similar times every day will help this. It takes a while for it to become a habit so keep going.
Leaving your baby to cry
Some advice talks about leaving your baby to cry it out but this is not good for babies. Babies rely on their carers to help them feel safe and secure. When babies know that their parents and carers always respond to their needs and their feelings, they grow in confidence.
- They are more likely to learn to settle back to sleep quickly.
- If you don't go to your baby they may stop crying because they lose hope that the people they trust most will come.
- This might make it harder for them to show their feelings in a healthy way as they get older.
When you have a new baby and are tired yourself, sometimes the easiest options about where and how your baby falls asleep can put them at risk.
By remembering some simple guidelines, there are things you can do to keep your baby safe while they are sleeping. This will reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death.
For guidance on safe sleep *click here*.
If your child has additional needs it can be even harder to get them into good sleep patterns. This can be very tiring and stressful for the whole family.
*Click here* for more information and advice.
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
Alternatively you can go to see your GP to discuss concerns.