Sleep, sleep, sleep, PLEASE, go to sleep! This topic is much wider than I realized at the beginning. So here’s the 3rd part of the baby & sleeping articles. This time it’s all about bedtime rituals and teaching your baby the difference between night & day, sleep time & play time. Babies are very clever and they’re fast learners too. You just need to find the right way of explaining them important things before they start understanding the words.
First advice for the first time mums: don’t touch your sleeping baby
It was while back when I expected my first baby and I attended antenatal classes in the hospital. Midwife told us during one of the lessons: “First time parents are all the same. When baby’s crying, they think he’s dying. When baby is sleeping, they think he’s dead.” As much as it is tempting to pick your baby up while he’s sleeping calmly in his cot, please, don’t do that. You can watch his chest slightly moving up and down if you want to make sure everything is alright.
That applies only for the first time parents, because:
- You wouldn’t even think of disturbing your second, third, etc. baby while sleeping. Unless it’s absolutely necessary (e.g. you need to go and pick your older kids up from school in the middle of your baby’s nap)
- If you have a baby and a toddler at home, the toddler will do all the touching and disturbing the baby for you 🙂
You’ve probably heard already that bedtime rituals aren’t about putting your baby down to sleep at 8pm sharp. Way more important is the sequence of actions you take before putting your baby to sleep. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated with 10+ steps and it doesn’t need to include a bath if you’re not giving your baby a bath every day. Simple bringing your baby to a bedroom, changing his nappy, changing him to his sleepsuit, turning off the lights and a feed is enough to send the right message: “It’s time for bed.”
You’ll probably put your baby down to sleep roughly around the same time every day. But it’s not necessary. Watch your baby’s signs of tiredness, consider the day he’s had – some days may be more tiring so you might want to put your baby to bed earlier. And other way around, if your baby’s had unusually long nap in the afternoon, he might be fresh enough in the evening to stay up longer.
Please remember, that your baby is growing fast and is changing from one week to another. It’s really not about following the same time schedule every day. It’s more about following the sequence your baby knows. This way he knows what comes next and can prepare for the next step.
Don’t turn the light on at night
It’s night time so keep the light down. It’s a good idea to have a little night light in the room that is either turned on all the time or that you turn on just to see enough to pick the baby up and feed him. Only turn more light on in an emergency of soiled nappy. Even in this case, I wouldn’t use the main light. When the light is low, it sends a clear message to your baby that it’s not a day time. It’s time to sleep.
Whisper or rather don’t talk at all at night
Another advise to go along with the previous one is: don’t talk to your baby at night. Keep interaction with your baby to minimum. It’s not playtime, so you’re not interested in talking to your baby, you don’t want to hear him talk and you don’t want to play. It’s a quiet time, time to sleep, a night time. Some babies get excited by simple eye contact with you (then they want to interact and play with you), so you might just hug your baby, give him a cuddle and repeat the calming noise in a very very low voice or just be quiet.
If your baby is in a play time mood during the night, just ignore him (no, don’t let him cry, just don’t respond to his talking and don’t look at him when he talks to you). Next day you can clearly let him know that you want to play with him and you can have a lot of fun together as it’s a day, not night.
Don’t change the noise level of the surrounding environment
When your baby falls asleep at the certain noise level, he might wake up when the noise level changes. Especially if the noise stops. Funny thing is that most babies don’t mind if the noise level rises. I’m not talking about sudden, loud, one time noises. More like constant, indistinct noise. This kind of noise might also help your baby to fall asleep as it reminds him of the time in the womb where he could hear the body noises. Try to avoid putting your baby down to sleep by playing him a white noise as he’s not in a womb anymore and you’re trying to teach him that quiet time equals sleep time. Nevertheless many parents use white noise records to help their baby fall asleep. At the end of the day, it’s entirely up to you. In case you do play noise to your baby, don’t worry about it too much. I haven’t heard of any 17 year old who can only fall asleep when hoover’s on, have you? 🙂
Day time naps
I have a feeling that I’m not a right person to preach about day time naps for babies as I have never invested much time and effort into putting my babies to sleep during the day. When baby’s tired, he falls asleep. Wherever he is. My first baby wasn’t a big fan of daily routines. She’s now six and cannot even go and brush her teeth in a same way 2 times in a row. She does not like repetition, rules and schedules. So when she was a baby (my first baby), she didn’t have any strict daily routine set up. It was fine by us (parents) as she was very flexible and we didn’t need to organize our life around baby’s naps. Out and about? She fell asleep in her pram. Road trip? She slept in a car. At home? At some point she was tired enough to fall asleep while feeding…
However if you are “a routine person” and/or your baby needs a clear day time routine, I’m sure you’ll find a way of telling your baby that it’s a nap time. The important thing here is to follow your baby’s lead. As I’ve said earlier, trying to put baby to sleep when not tired is waste of time and energy. Older your baby is, longer he’ll be able to stay awake. So you either include more tiring activities in between the naps or put him down to sleep later. Good luck and sweet dreams 🙂
Read the first part of series: Baby & sleeping (do those 2 words even get along?) and second part: Baby & sleeping: Breastfeeding, Cry it out & Baby’s own room
Here’s something about communication with your new baby: How to teach baby happiness or communication with a baby in early days