Firstly, congratulations on your new arrival. When you first announce your pregnancy you brace yourself for jokes such as ‘get your sleep now, you won’t have any when you’re a parent’. And yes, there is going to be sleep loss; a young baby needs to be fed regularly day and night, but there is a difference between supporting your little bundle’s needs vs years of sleep deprivation! So what gentle things can you do in the early days to encourage your newborn on a successful sleep journey?
The Sleep Environment
One of the simplest things you can do to encourage good sleep habits is to set up the right sleep environment. The first thing I tell my clients to purchase is blackout blinds or curtains. Having the room your baby will sleep in at night – and for naps eventually - as dark as possible really helps with my next point.
Day & Night Separation
Differentiate day and night from the beginning. This is such a simple technique that can help babies learn that night time is more restful than daytime. Introduce a gentle bedtime routine from early on. Pick the feed closest to your ideal future bedtime (e.g. 7pm) and use that as the basis of ‘night time’. Give your baby a wash/massage, put them in a fresh sleepsuit and take them into a dark room to feed. Once they are winded and content, pop them into their crib. They will still wake up for their next feed when they need to, but also do that feed in a dark room. They will learn that night time isn’t much fun and is for sleeping long periods, and that daytime is where all the fun noise and stimulation is!
The Bedtime Feed
As they get older, try to make the last feed of the day the biggest. One of my favourite tips for this is feeding before AND after the bath. It just means babies have a bit more energy to enjoy their bath and it takes the pressure off the feed right before bed when they are super tired and they may fall asleep before taking much milk.
Feeding After Sleeping
When baby is ready, I really believe in the ‘wake-feed cycle’. This is essentially getting into the habit of feeding your little one straight after waking from a nap (for up to an hour) and then giving them some time to digest and play before they go down for their next sleep. It means your baby is feeding when they are at their most energised, which will lead to them consuming more milk and hopefully avoid forming the habit of feeding to sleep which is likely to cause sleep challenges as they get older.
Daytime Naps & Naps On the Move
Encourage your baby to have at least one sleep in their crib in a dark room during the day where you remain with your baby. Newborn cuddles are the best! I’m absolutely not saying to not have them. But one nap per day not on you or in a sling, teaches them that there are other places to sleep. It’s a great skill for later on. Plus, you might just get that nice cup of HOT coffee or tea!
If your little one is fussy and showing signs of tiredness but will not settle, take them out in the pram if you can. Some parents (and sleep consultants) fear naps on the move as it can be considered ‘rocking the baby to sleep’. And this can be true, but sometimes little ones just need a helping hand. I believe sleep breeds sleep. So as long as your little one isn’t having all their naps in the pram or on the move, then keeping their day schedule on track so they aren’t overtired is absolutely fine.
So there we have it – Chris’ 5 steps towards better sleep for you and your family. Will you be trying them out? Or do you have any of your own that have revolutionised your routine? We’d love to hear from you, so do get involved via our social channels @kitandkinuk.
Chris McFadden (The Daddy Sleep Consultant) is the first male baby and toddler sleep consultant in the UK and Ireland and specialises in gentle sleep training. He works with families on a one-to-one basis to design bespoke sleep training programmes that work around their lifestyle and little one’s needs. He also offers a series of age specific online courses starting from £29 that you can follow at your own pace. Follow Chris on Instagram for lots of tips and strategies for better sleep.