Posted on 10. January 2017 by
Going to sleep may seem simple to an adult – and if you have a young baby, it’s probably just about the most precious thing in your world right now – but nodding off can be a real challenge for little ones. We’re not born knowing how to drift off peacefully to dreamland, so one of a parent’s first jobs is to help their baby learn how to settle into a calm, relaxed state that will let them fall asleep.
Of course, this can be much easier said than done! Fussy babies can seem utterly determined to wail all night, and there’s so much conflicting advice out there – how’s a sleep-deprived parent supposed to know what will work?
We’re parents ourselves, and we feel your pain – so we’ve compiled a few useful pointers to help get you and your little one off to a good start with settling (and hopefully bag you a good night’s sleep as well!)
· First, timing is key. If your baby is overtired, it’s much less likely that any settling strategy will work. Keep an eagle eye out for ‘tired signs’ like grizzling, eye-rubbing, grimacing or clenching fists... when you see them, it’s time to start the bedtime routine, sharpish.
· Wrapping or swaddling really helps to soothe some tired babies; the gentle constriction of their movement feels comforting (like the womb) and helps keep them from waking themselves by startling in their sleep. (However, it must be said that all babies are individuals, and some absolutely hate being wrapped up – so watch your baby’s reaction and judge accordingly!)
· Cuddling is the most basic, and usually the most effective way of getting your baby into a calm, quiet mood. You can sway or bounce gently, sing in a low voice, or speak softly to your little one... whatever gets those eyelids drooping is good. In the early weeks, you may decide to do this until your baby is all the way asleep before carefully (oh, so carefully!) transferring them to the cot or bassinet; later on, you can transition to settling them in their cot.
· Motion can help soothe even a very fussy baby – after all, they’ve just spent nine months quite literally rocking and rolling every time you moved! It’s worth experimenting to see what sort of motion your baby finds most soothing; some like the back-and-forth of a baby swing, or a gentle up-and-down bounce, and we’ve even heard of parents who swear by the constant vibration and white noise of a washing machine or tumble dryer! (NB: Of course, the baby should be on top of the dryer, in a car seat, and shouldn’t be left unattended...)
· If your baby seems to like both snuggly closeness and motion, a sling might just be the answer to your prayers – especially if you have things to do, or you’re heading out and about, and you need to have your hands free.
· Wombs are quite noisy places, and babies in utero get quite used to being surrounded by the constant sound of Mum’s breathing, heartbeat and digestion. Replacing those repetitive background noises with other sounds – like the whirring of a fan, the burbling of a fishtank filter, or even the sound of a hoover in the next room – can sometimes do the trick.
· If nothing seems to be working, one time-honoured tactic is to get out of the house. Pop your little one in the pram and go for a brisk walk – even if they don’t stop wailing, it will seem less distressing out in the open air, and quite often the motion will lull them into sleep. Alternatively, you could always hop in the car, pop on some soothing music and drive (preferably to the house of a relative or friend who will bring a cup of tea out to you when you and your sleeping bundle arrive!)
What’s your go-to trick for soothing your baby’s fussiness? Come on over to our Facebook page and let us in on your secret – there are lots of desperate fellow parents out there who would love to know!