Hands up if you have ever googled “how to get my baby to sleep longer at night”
I have! I think I must have googled it a million times, especially with the boys and there was a lot of generic stuff out there and information on leaps and the wonder weeks app etc but I felt like was using these things as an excuse for why they weren’t sleeping and it also made me start to slightly dread the leaps that were apparently about to come before I even saw them. Now don’t get me wrong, these apps can be a god send to some but there is no scientific backing that I know of.
Now I have 5 really simple sleep hacks for you that you can start straight away.
Darkness is essential for sleep in order to allow the production and release of melatonin, which is only produced when there is darkness. As baby’s circadian rhythm matures, a key factor in how their sleep is regulated is exposure to light or to darkness. The problem with light when we are teaching babies to settle and resettle is that it enters the eyes and triggers the release of hormones such as serotonin which tell baby, it is time to wake up. Sleep is definitely easier for baby when the room is dark, so please don’t under-estimate the effect this will have on successfully sleep coaching your baby.
Let’s get that room as dark as we can. You can use blackout blinds, blackout curtains, tinfoil, dark paper etc. If you can see shadows or your hand then its too light! I understand that sometimes we can’t get it pitch black but if you can try to get it as dark as possible this really will help you. The darker it is the more we are helping your little one to produce melatonin which is the sleepy hormone that is produced by your little one in order for them to get good sleep. On a scale of 1-10 I want your babies room to be around a 8-9 minimum. Ideally we need to be at a 10 the whole time.
I LOVE white noise and recommend it to all of my clients. It is a really simple association for your baby but this is a positive association. When your little one was in the womb, was it silent? No, it was really loud in there, in fact it was around 90 decibels so as loud as a lawn mower and that’s what they got used to. I’m not suggesting that you have it on that loud now but about as loud as a shower is a good level to aim for, and if your baby is crying then we can turn it up a bit and once they calm down we can turn it down again. Now they are out of our snug warm belly silence can be more intimidating that noise so let’s get that white noise going.
I thoroughly suggest that you have white noise on for the whole time that your little one is asleep, both for naps and daytime sleep and because they are in your room at this age, I suggest you find a simple white noise that you can also sleep with! Something like rain or a fan are great ones.
Having white noise on is good for 2 main reasons; it will help to ensure that when they are drifting in and out of light sleep, they will recognise the same sound they had heard when they initially went down and hopefully drift back into another sleep cycle. And white noise also helps to act as a barrier for all those noises that go on in our homes every day, including mobile phones ringing, dogs barking, door knocking, noisy siblings.
There is a great company called Dreamegg who do fabulous white noise machines for not very much and they also have portable ones too which are great when you are doing naps on the go. The portable D11 machine also has a shushing noise which is perfect for helping your little one to settle.
Swaddle / Sleeping Bag
Swaddling is also another positive sleep association which will help you from birth up until they can roll. I find most babies need to be swaddled up to 4/5 months of age, sometimes 6 BUT once your little one is rolling then it is time to take them out of the swaddle and into a sleeping bag for safety.
Once your baby no longer needs to be swaddled, using a sleeping bag not only ensures they are not going to kick the covers off and wake up too cold but it acts like a non-verbal cue to them that it is sleep time. Babies come to associate their sleeping bag with sleep time and it will help them to settle.
When you are transitioning from a swaddle to a sleeping bag there are a couple of ways to do this.
- Just go cold turkey and swap your baby straight into a sleeping bag and see how they get on.
- Use a sleeping bag that is similar to a swaddle so its snug around their chest and loose around their hips but arms are out.
- Try 1 arm out at nap time and do this for a few days and see how you go. If your little one is happy with this then you can try the early evening with 1 arm out (7-10pm). You can then move onto 2 arms out for naps and then 2 arms out from 7-10pm for a few days and then once they are happy with this for all naps and evenings you can move to a sleeping bag.
Once they are in a sleeping bag make sure you use a temperature appropriate one so they will be nice and warm all night and you can keep your little one in a sleeping bag right up until they are in a big bed around 3ish.
A room that is too warm or too cold can disrupt sleep for a long time before you work out what is causing wake-ups. We want to aim for a temperature between 19-22 degrees. Most baby monitors these days include temperature gauges on them which will help you to keep an eye on your baby’s sleep space. Some classic signs of being cold are babies sleeping with their bottoms up in the air, early rising and excess feeding or urination (they do both of these to keep warm).
Always use a tog appropriate sleeping bag. This sleeping bag will not only act as an extra layer, almost like a blanket or sheet that we would use, but it will also become such a positive sleep association for them.
Although melatonin (the sleep hormone) is produced far more readily in darkness, sunlight actually can increase melatonin production. By giving our little ones a good dose of sunlight and vitamin D before they have their nap it will help with the production of serotonin, and this serotonin will convert to melatonin when they are placed in their nice dark sleep space. Aim for around 20 minutes of Vitamin D a day and always ensure you and your child are sun safe.