A recent study claims that new parents will get just 4 hours and 44 minutes of sleep on an average night during the first year of their baby's life. (Ouch!!) Considering this, no wonder sleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges facing new parents. Luckily for us, the brilliant Becky Walker ( Ask Mrs Poppins) is here to offer some of her top tips in the hope of securing a better night’s sleep…
TOP TIPS FOR A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP - by Ask Mrs Poppins
This is hands down the most asked about subject. I have had hundreds of messages asking about the magic formula to get a peaceful and uninterrupted night’s sleep. I’m sorry to report that there isn’t one; however, all is not lost.
Babies don’t enter this world with a “how to” manual. We guide them through life, helping them to feed, dress, socialise, to have manners etc. so why don’t we teach them sleep? Because they just do right? Well kind of but those unwanted habits come creeping in and get in the way and instead we actually end up teaching our children how not to sleep!
The best thing we can do to help our Children and guarantee sleep, is to teach them to self-settle.
Picture this, you are holding your baby in your arms, feeding, having a cuddle, staring in wonder at what you have created, watching them drift off to sleep…… priceless moments. Then reality hits you and you realise you need to cook the evening meal, go to the loo, make a phone call, so you put the baby in bed cautiously willing it not to wake, it does, screams and just like that sleep time is over and you end up with nothing done and with an overtired and frustrated baby!
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, believe me!
Self-settling doesn’t just happen, you have to work at it and it’s HARD WORK. I used to get very frustrated when people said to me “you are so lucky you have a baby that sleeps” let me tell you, there were many nights when this wasn’t the case, my husband blocking the stairway to prevent me from going upstairs, tears and major feelings of guilt, but we persevered and it paid off.
So I’m pleased to be able to share the techniques I’ve used (and pitfalls to avoid) to getting your little one to sleep successfully.
ALWAYS put your little one in the cot awake, dozy is ok but not asleep.
Leave the room and close the door.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE IN CRIES: just because your child is crying this doesn’t mean you need to go rushing in. Try to realise the difference between a frustrated “where are you I want to be rocked” cry and “I’m sad cry”
If they don’t calm down, go in. MAKE NO EYE CONTACT AND DON’T TALK.
Place your hand on their chest or lay them down (if older) and shush for a few seconds before leaving and closing the door.
Repeat this process until they are quiet or hopefully asleep. To give you some guidance, the longest I’ve had to do this for is 2 hours over a span or 5 days (each day reduced in time) until he was sleeping through the night at 6 months.
It’s a difficult task to achieve but the reward is like no other!
TRY TO AVOID:
1. Buying endless variations of sleepwear/sleeping bags, convincing yourself they are too hot/cold/sweaty etc.
2. Tiptoeing around the house and living in fear of the postman knocking on the door and frantically unplugging phone lines.
3. Rocking/feeding to sleep
LASTLY, I WOULD LIKE TO TOUCH ON SLEEP AIDS
Now if I had my time again I’m not sure I would panic about total blackout (it did become quite a big thing where I was trying to block out every chink of light) I do think a dark room at night helps, especially in the early days when babies don’t produce Melatonin and darkness and quiet at night, noise and light in the day helps them to differentiate between these times.
Dummies (controversial I know!): I have never personally used them with my Son (I did try) but actually was glad he rejected them. A dummy is the same as rocking or feeding to sleep, it inevitably causes further problems down the line (they lose it in their cot and wake up until you go in and give it to them) there usually comes a time when you decide they no longer should have it and then you have a new battle on your hands AND now sleeping issues. Also dummies are the major cause of language development issues.
White noise machines are incredibly helpful in blocking out background noises and helping to calm a busy mind, they are incredibly effective. They vary massively in price but I use one that was £20 and it can be left on as long as needed, also can be powered by batteries, so it’s great for travelling
TOP 5 SLEEP RELATED PRODUCTS
White noise machine or Ewan the Dreamsheep
A collection of great storybooks, Goodnight moon a personal favourite (we read this to our son every night from age 2 days!)