Helping your baby to settle

Settling is the last part of the bedtime routine - a calming ritual that will help your baby learn to drift off to sleep peacefully.

Most of us need some down-time to relax before bed, to help us get a better night’s sleep - and your baby is just the same. Once the two of you have gone through the bedtime routine, taking a bit of extra time to settle your baby in their cot will help encourage them to close their eyes and drift off to the land of nod.

Top tips for settling your baby:

  • It may take some time to accomplish this, but it really is worth helping your baby get used to being put into their cot whilst still awake, so they can settle to sleep on their own. Comforting them to sleep through cuddling, rocking or feeding certainly seems easier, but there’s a good chance your baby will come to always expect this - particularly if they wake in the night.
  • When you’re settling your baby for the night, or giving a night-time feed, it helps to keep the lighting dim and talk in a soft voice. This helps your baby to start recognising the difference between daytime and night-time.
  • Some babies find a favourite toy or comforter soothing. For safety’s sake, it’s best not to have too many toys in the cot, but one special blanket or stuffed toy is nice to snuggle up to.
  • This is a tough one for many parents, but if your baby cries when you put them to bed, it’s a good idea to give them a chance to settle themselves before rushing back in. You may find that after a couple of minutes, those wails have turned into grizzles, and your baby is well on the way to sleep. (However, most experts agree that it’s not a good idea to leave a young baby to cry for too long. As with most aspects of parenting, your best bet is to follow your instinct – after all, you know your baby best!)

Tips for difficult settlers

Some babies are naturally good at falling asleep, whereas others may need a little more encouragement to relax. Here are a few things that may help:

  • If your baby is finding it hard to settle on a particular night, you may decide to stay with them, perhaps sitting by the cot or soothing them by stroking their hair or holding their hand
  • As they begin to settle with you nearby, gradually move away from the cot. It may be a good idea to stay in the bedroom area for a while so that if they do wake up or cry, you can reassure them. Try saying a couple of words, or giving a gentle stroke of their hand or head, before moving away again.
  • Some babies are happier if they can hear household activity nearby, so don't worry about making some noise at bedtime. However, it’s best not to bring an unsettled baby back into the main noise of the house if you can avoid it, as this is likely to stimulate them too much.

Tips for early risers

If your little one is an early riser, you’re in good company – lots of bleary-eyed parents find themselves starting the day at 4:30am, or even earlier! This can get worse in the summer, or on holiday, when the mornings are lighter. Luckily, we’ve come up with a few savvy tricks that might earn you a bit more shut-eye:

  • Make your baby's room darker by installing thick curtains or black out blinds; that way, you control the lighting, not Mother Nature.
  • Experiment with gradually shifting your baby's bedtime a bit later - ‘early to bed’ almost always means ‘early to rise’ for most small children.
  • If you have more than one child and they share a bedroom, you might be able to encourage them to play and amuse each other in the morning for a short while before they need to wake you up!