We have all been there…your baby wakes at an unusual time. Tired and bleary eyed you stumble in to your babies room and resort to settling them the best way you know how. That might be rocking them, giving them a bottle, singing their favourite tune or doing a handstand: quite frankly anything to get them back to sleep…and you! But then when they wake up the same time the night after and the night after that… and the night after that; it slowly dawns that they are now waking up out of habit and that you are reinforcing it. They are now waking up because it’s bottle time/cuddle time/singing time. What on earth do you do with that? How do you break this new habit? The key is getting them to be adept in the art of self-settling.
Firstly encouraging your baby to self settle only works once they are aged 6 months over. Younger than that and your baby is still learning to trust you will always be there and they need lots of night feeds and comfort.
You also need to rule out negative reasons your baby night be waking like illness, teething, a full nappy, developmental changes and changes to their routine (like starting nursery etc). All of these might mean they just need a little extra reassurance at night-time and once things have settled down they will return to their previous sleep pattern. Also as the weather starts to change are they waking up cold? It might be worth investing in one of our baby sleeping bags to make sure they are snug and these winter nights aren’t causing them to wake.
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If your baby is over 6 months and you’ve ruled out the above we might have some tips to help everyone get more sleep…
In order to help your little one self-settle you need to start with a good evening routine, this usually means a bath, some baby massage, quiet time and maybe a story. The aim is to change the whole tone of the day-dim the lights, turn off any electrical devices and try to talk calmly in hushed tones.
If you feed your baby before bed make sure they are not totally exhausted by the time you start bedtime-the last thing you want is for them to fall asleep mid-feed as this just perpetuates the need to feed to sleep. In short your little one should be calm, warm and sleepy but awake.
It is best to prepare your baby’s room before you take them up to bed. Draw the curtains (a good blackout blind is a good idea but not essential), tidy away any distractions such as toys or mobiles from the cot, remember a clear cot is a safe cot. Again you are aiming for this room to be tranquil, calm and quiet.
Feed your baby making sure they remain awake afterwards, be sure to wind them-it might be tempting to skip this if they seem sleepy but definitely don’t. A windy, colicky baby will not sleep.
Pop them in their cot offering a comforter if that is your preference and then remove yourself from the room. Should your baby cry, return every 5/10 minutes to reassure them, gently stroke their back and/or give them a little kiss and then again leave. This a gentle method which reassures them they haven’t been abandoned whilst encouraging them to self-settle.
Sometimes when planning on making a change seeing it in writing and thinking things through to make a plan can help… We suggest thinking along the following points:
1) What behaviour or ‘things’ do I need to wean my baby off?
2) What positive sleep associations can I add?
3) What changes to sleep environment do I need to make?
4) What outcome am I aiming to achieve?