Establishing Good Sleep Habits

By Megan Faure 

Occupational therapist – co-author of Baby Sense, Sleep Sense, Feeding Sense

  Sleep is absolutely critical to your health. It rejuvenates your mind and repairs your body. For centuries sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture because when you don’t sleep, you cannot think clearly and may even become depressed. Yet at a time when you are expected to carry the most responsible role of your life, you could well find yourself doing so in an extremely fatigued state! Likewise, babies need their sleep. Poor sleep habits in babies leads to overstimulation and fractiousness during the day. Knowing that sleep is vital for your health and state of mind and your baby’s growth and development means that it is really worth establishing good sleep habits from day one.

What to expect Almost every mum wants to know when her baby will sleep through. In the early days expect your baby to wake for feeds. In the first week, your baby may have her day and night muddled up and may wake for more feeds at night and sleep all day. Wake your baby to feed at least three hourly during the day in the first two weeks and leave her to wake herself at night, unless she is ill was premature or is not gaining weight. Between two weeks and four months, your baby will gradually lengthen the time between night feeds until by four months of age you can expect one night waking after 12am and one in the early hours (close to 5am). If your baby wakes more often than this, you need to check that she is gaining weight and feeding well during the day (at least every four hours). Four ways to establish good sleep habits

  • Daytime rhythms

In time you can guide your baby into a baby-centric daytime routine by watching how long she is awake. Your baby will fall asleep with the greatest ease if she is put to sleep according to her age specific awake time. For instance a newborn can only be happily awake for 45 minutes to an hour before needing to sleep. A three month old will fall asleep with ease if she is put to bed after one to one and a half hours. If you watch your baby’s awake times (see Baby Sense) your baby will fall asleep with ease and develop a day sleep routine according to their age.

  • Bedtime routine

A bedtime routine serves as a signal for your baby’s brain to switch off and go to sleep. Make your bedtime routine calming and consistent every night. Begin with a soothing bath, followed by a baby massage. Do not leave your baby’s room, but feed her in the calm sleep zone and settle her to sleep after the feed.

  • Help your baby to fall asleep on her own

In the early days most babies fall asleep while feeding. This does not cause bad sleep habits and it will be very hard to wake your baby. From 4 months onwards, habits begin to develop. Aim to have your baby fall asleep in her crib with a dummy or small comfort blanky from three to four months old.

  • Feed in the dark and don’t wake your baby at night

When your baby wakes for a night feed, feed her in the dark with no interactions and don’t change her nappy unless it is soiled. If you keep night feeds as calm as possible, you are more likely to have your baby fall directly to sleep afterwards.

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