A Sleep Guide For New Babies

There seems to be no common denominator when it comes to babies & sleep.

Some sleep for hours on end from just a couple of months while others are still calling for night service for what seems like years on end. If sleep (or lack of it) is an issue for you, try not to despair. However much it may feel like you are alone, the reality is that sleep issues are very common. Babies need to learn how to sleep through the night which can take a while. In the interim, here are a few suggestions to help them and you cope a little better.

The first step when putting a new baby down to sleep is to ensure it is wrapped. Little ones experience a startling (moro) reflex which is a little like the feeling of falling. Wrapping them helps to counter this, and helps prevent them from waking by flinging their arms or legs around. Generally you would use a muslin wrap in the summer months and a thicker cotton one in winter. Wrapping should be firm but not so tight that your baby can’t move. A nurse or midwife will be able to help you if you’re unsure of the correct procedure. To also help you, there are a number of products similar to sleeping bags for babies and toddlers, and these can be great for those babies who don’t like to be wrapped, and for older ones who have passed the wrapping stage.

It also pays to look at the baby’s sleep environment. A night-light (very dim or coloured) can sometimes be a good idea, and many parents swear by “white noise” such as the sound of TV static, fan motors or vacuum cleaners. Nature sounds such as the waves of an ocean can also do the trick or the sound of whales. You can buy CDs of these sounds in baby shops or record stores, or there are clock radios or sound machines that come with the sounds embedded. White noise and nature sounds tend to block out sudden and loud noises, and encourage sleep. Other parents even find that classical music or easy listening radio helps.

The next thing to work on is sleep techniques if you are having issues, professional community services such as Tresillian and Karitane can help. Basic settling techniques might include back patting or gentle rocking for instance, but for advice it would be worth contacting Tresillian (they have a 24 hour phone line), other professional sleep centres, or your local child health centre. New mums are usually provided contact details of a local centre before they leave the hospital and centre staff can be a wealth of advice and information. When you are experiencing real difficulty, it’s also advisable to seek professional advice. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Babies have been night waking for as long as there have been babies, but with a little help, and time, your child will eventually learn to sleep through the night and you’ll get some well-earned rest!