10 baby - toddler sleep tips for exhausted parents
So you've moved beyond the point of delirium and feel like you are starting to loose your mind from lack of sleep, Tired of being awake at all hours with your baby?
Here are some of the best sleep strategies for you and your family. Hopefully they are able to bring you some peace of mind.
1: Follow a consistent, calm & quiet bedtime routine
During the evening overstimulating your baby may make it difficult to get them to settle and fall asleep.
Try taking a bath, reading a book, having some cuddle time, singing gently or playing quiet music. Make sure you leave the room with a clearly defined end point. Don't wait until your baby is overtired, lay your baby in a quiet, softly lit room, dressed or covered to suit the weather.
2: Swaddle your new-born
Between birth and about the of age 5 to 6 months babies possess a startle reflex, this causes them to feel as if they are falling. The sensation of falling causes jerking movements which incidentally wake your baby up. Swaddle your baby tightly, this prevents babies from startling themselves by keeping them still. This will help your new-born baby sleep better and longer. Just like the saying goes "Snug as a bug in a rug".
If your baby seems to dislike the swaddle, don't give up keep trying. Think about how cosy it was in the womb for them, being tightly swaddled is a very familiar feeling for your baby to enjoy snugness around them. Once both of our baby's could regularly get their arms out and roll over we discontinued the use a blanket to swaddle and moved on to an all in one sleeping bag.
3: Eat, play, sleep repeat.
A baby's routine usually consists of, waking from a sleep and immediately eating. Staying awake for a cuddles and play time. Then going straight back to sleep…. What a life, right!
This cycle encourages full feedings by allowing the baby to eat immediately after waking. Your baby will have most of it's energy immediately after waking, making them more inclined to take a full feed and go longer between feed times.
There are definitely times where you will want to feed your baby before sleep, sometimes they may need a little extra TLC if a little upset before a nap. Feeding before sleep can be a great way of calming an upset baby before bed, warm milk and a cuddle usually works like a charm. For the most part try to avoid feeding your baby just before sleep.
4: Support each other, take turns
If you have a partner or have a care giver that lives with you, a great way to lighten the load is to sleep in shifts. There's no reason for both of you to be awake each time the baby is.
If you see your partner having a tough time, ask them "are you ok?", tag in for the next feed and nappy change while your partner takes a well earned break. This way they can get four to five hours of uninterrupted sleep. This can make all the difference, leaving you feeling recharged and ready for playtime!
5: Keep cool and stay calm
Most of us sleep best in a cool room, including babies and toddlers. Place a thermometer in your baby's room to keep and eye on the temperature. If the room has an air conditioner set the thermostat to between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius.
This will give your baby the most comfortable sleep. Your baby's fingers may feel a little cold sometimes, this is normal. If unsure place your hand on the chest of your baby. If it feels nice and warm, they are warm enough.
6: Keep night-time care low-key
During your night-time feed, try to avoid turning on bright lights. Using a A low watt battery operated LED lamp allows you to put the light wherever you need it and turns on with a quick touch. Using a dim light helps reduce the “wake-up” signals going to your baby’s brain, this makes it easier for them fall back to sleep after feeding.
A low wattage warm white light can protect your baby from blue wavelengths (which can cause negative sleep effects), yet provide you with enough light to carry out night-time feeding and changing.
7: Use sound to block out sound.
A white-noise machine and block-out curtains can transform a baby's nursery into a womb-like environment. The white noise machine will help muffle noise from outside, while block out curtains will stop any unwanted light entering the room. Half of a baby's sleep is REM (rapid eye movement). This stage of sleep is light and is in which dreams occur. Almost any noise will wake them, a phone ringing, a knock at the door, you may laugh too loudly at your favourite show, a cough or a sneeze.
Medium volume noises are less likely to wake your baby with a white-noise machine running as they create background noise to cover it. We used the white -noise maker in the centre of the photo above, it has a built in timer that turns off once baby is asleep. You may prefer one that plug in so it stays on all night. An easy way to test the volume is by having one person stand outside your nursery with the door closed and talk. The white noise machine should muffle your voice but not drown it out completely.
8: Avoid late afternoon naps
Your baby may not get sleepy until late at night, one way to reduce this is to make sure your baby isn’t getting exposed to bright artificial lighting before bedtime.
Naps are great for your baby, but similar to adults late afternoon naps can postpone drowsiness your baby would usually feel at bedtime. See if you can stretch out the time that your baby spends awake during their last active period of the day. Research has shown parents who employed this technique found that their babies began to need less help falling to sleep at night.
9: Don’t rush in… Give baby time to resettle
Rushing in when a baby cries or rustles during the night may inadvertently encourage the start of a bad sleep habit. Your baby may cry briefly or babble and still be asleep. Babies will often wake up have a little grizzle, sometimes cry and be able to self-settle. Give your baby a little time to see if they can resettle themselves. Try not to rush in and disturb the resettling process, this will help your new-born baby learn to sleep more independently.
Next time your baby wakes shortly after going down, wait for between 2-10 minutes to see if your little one self settles. There’s no exact science on how long to wait but listen to your baby’s cries. If your baby's cry is starting to escalate, or they even start to panic it’s usually a good sign enter and provide some extra comfort and reassurance.
10: Bright days - Dark nights
Many new parents are tempted to keep things quiet and dark for their new-born to nap well, this may prolong day-night confusion that almost all new-borns get. Day-night confusion can last several weeks. While your baby was in the womb, movements lulled them to sleep, and when mum was resting it was time to have a party. When the time comes to be earth-side they don’t realise they should act in the complete opposite manner.
Keeping days bright and upbeat, and nights dark quiet and calm will help your new-born sort out the difference between days and nights faster. Light cues our eyes to tell our brain to stay awake or whether it’s time to sleep.