Are you looking for some tips for getting your baby to sleep?
The elusive ‘S’ word. Sleep. Probably THE most talked about element of parenthood, with parents of young children honing in on nap lengths, night wakings, the split nights phenomenon, bedtime routines and early wake ups. Lack of sleep has recently been linked to higher instances of postnatal depression, and the effects on your body and mind can be far reaching. Let's not forget, sleep deprivation has been used for centuries as a form of torture and interrogation for prisoners of war for a reason! It can affect everything from your mental wellbeing and clarity, to your physical health, your work and your relationships.
All is not lost - Bloss has some top tips from some of our sleep consultants and tried and tested products to help navigate your baby's first year of sleep.
All of our Bloss experts are available to contact for help and assistance, whether you want to ask a simple question, book an online consultation or for sleep consultations with you and your family at home. If you don’t find what you need here, be sure to reach out to any of our sleep experts via their profile, who will be happy to help you and your family.
The Early Days: Understanding Newborn Sleep
Those early newborn days are often a mixture of long, sleepy cuddles with your tiny new bundle and frantic periods of soothing their cries. It can sometimes be hard to know what they need and what they want, and this is often when sleep feels very challenging.
“After birth, babies suddenly feel the cold, they understand touch (particularly if hands are cold), they have unfamiliar smells and sounds, lights which they have never experienced before and they have primal brains as the frontal cortex and other areas of their brain have not yet developed,” explains The Eco Midwife. “Babies naturally feed and wake more at night for these primal reasons and regular waking is suggested as a safety mechanism for babies as well as a feeding reason (as oxytocin and milk production is highest in the early hours, usually between 2 and 4am)”
If settling your newborn at any point during the night or day is a challenge for you, the Eco Midwife has a list of 8 tips to settle your baby during the postpartum period period.
Understanding the science behind newborn sleep and what is possible for very young babies developmentally can help you establish realistic expectations of what is ‘normal’ and achievable for them. The Daddy Sleep Consultant talks you through this in his article, ‘Everything you need to know about your newborn’s sleep’, which focuses on a newborn’s sleep cycle, awake windows and how this changes as they reach the 3-4 month mark.
Some items to help along the way include:
- A bedside cot, or cot suitable for your bedroom
You may have spent time excitedly preparing your baby's new nursery, but extensive research recommends it is safest to have your baby sleep in your room next to you for the first six months of their life. The Shnuggle Air Bedside Crib serves not only those early days (0-6m) but has a handy conversion kit available (to purchase separately) which turns it into a full size cot for when they transition up to a main cot. The bedside cot includes the mattress (not many do!) which we feel makes it an overall great purchase due to its versatility and value for money. It’s also pretty stylish and height adjustable for your bed, with a drop down, breathable mesh side for easy access during those night time feeds or wakes.
- A Monitor
Always useful during nap time if you are in a different area of the house. There are many monitors on the market which range from budget to super high tech, but opt for one that you feel offers you the most reassurance. Some parents prefer a camera view and for other parents, knowing their baby is awake from hearing them is sufficient. Your choice will also depend on how big your home is and how far the connection reaches - so be mindful of this when you make a purchase.
- A white or pink noise machine
Some babies find it tricky to settle when it’s quiet, but are lulled by the womb-like sounds of white or pink noise. With older babies and children, the opposite can be true and sudden noises outside or around the house can disturb their sleep. White or pink noise provides a constant, reassuring sound that blocks out external noise and can lead to peaceful sleep. There are many machines on the market, but The Daddy Sleep Consultant recommends having one that can be plugged in and left on all night so you don’t have to keep switching it back on again! Glow Dreaming offer an innovative 5-in-1 sleep aid which includes pink noise, a NASA utilised red LED light (which promotes the sleep hormone melatonin), a humidifier and medicinal grade essential oil which wafts gently around the room. It’s a Bloss favourite because, not only can it be plugged in and left on all night, it also has a rechargeable, compact and portable version which has just launched (Glow Dreaming Travel) which is perfect for holidays and weekends away at grandparents houses!
Whether you are for or against dummies, designs have changed significantly in recent years so you may wish to consider an orthodontic approved dummy, which the Enchanted Nanny, Danielle Manton-Kelly considers a God-send! You can read about Danielle’s pros and cons for dummy use in this helpful article. Nuk do a great range of orthodontic dummies, available here.
- Easy Access Sleep Suits
Don’t underestimate the power of an easily accessible baby sleepsuit! New parents have all been there - it’s the middle of the night and your baby needs a nappy change, but you know it’s going to mean a very awake baby at the end of it. If you have not yet mastered a swift nappy change, a Zipster Sleepsuit can help you along the way. WE LOVE these butter soft bamboo suits which sport a huge range of snazzy designs are not only cute but very practical. Instead of battling with hundreds of poppers in the dark, they live up to their name and quickly and easily zip up (or down) with a two way zip. Sibling and parent matching sets are also available which make for thoughtful gifts.
Establishing routines in the early months
Sleep consultant Sally, from Mini Sleepers, says that it can be useful to introduce good sleep routines even during the very early months to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits from the get-go. Although it can take babies 12 weeks or more to develop a circadian rhythm, there are things that you can do to help this along.
“During awake times, try to make sure your baby gets exposure to lots of daylight. This can be outdoors (make sure it’s indirect sunlight) or indoors (open the curtains up when waking your baby in the morning and from naps),” says Sally. “Don’t put pressure on yourself to be outdoors daily or for long periods of time. 15-20 minutes will suffice and fresh air and daylight will be good for you as well.”
“In the lead up to bedtime, keep activity levels low and the lights dim in order to create a calming and relaxing environment conducive to sleep. If you wanted to, you could begin a bedtime routine consisting of a few activities such as bath time, massage, singing/story, feeding.” For more tips on introducing sleep routines to very little ones, check out Sallys article here, or download Sarah Patel’s Sleep Guide for the 4th Trimester.
If bath time is a regular part of your routine, we can highly recommend the Schnuggle Bath range. These baby baths have been incredibly popular since they launched and for good reason. Unlike traditional baby baths which can often be slippery and don’t support your baby, these have a little ‘bum bump’ at the bottom which helps your baby stay stable, upright and comfortable. Less awkward than constantly having to lean over and certainly better for parents backs! They also offer a toddler bath which is an ideal next step up when your baby is confidently sitting upright. We give an eco thumbs up to this one as it also saves water if you didn't want to fill the entire bath.
Equally important to daylight exposure, is trying to make it as dark as possible for your child during naps and at bedtime. Olivia Mulcahy says “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.”
We tried out some fantastic Blackout Blinds from Pure Earth Collection which are an ample size for most windows with suction cups so they can be attached and moved around easily. These can be used both at home and for travel so are a great investment and a real sleep essential, especially during the spring and summer when evenings begin to get lighter.
Naps on the Go
If you’re juggling more than one child and perhaps have to opt for more napping on the go in the stroller, consider a SnoozeShade. The Snoozeshade is a revolution when it comes to buggy naps and allows for darkness, just like a blackout blind but is air permeable. These come in a selection of different sizes (newborn - 6 months and 6 months+) to fit different strollers, it can even accommodate double buggys so one child can nap while the other is awake if necessary!
If your baby likes motion to keep them asleep in the stroller, the award winning Rockit Baby Rocker is another firm favourite of ours. This clever little device clips to the side of your buggy and gently vibrates side to side to mimic pushing back and forth by hand. Free hands = more time to chat and have a coffee in peace while your little one stays sound asleep for longer! With an RRP of £39.99 this is well worth a purchase.
If your baby tends to nod off in the car, ditch the usual blankets (which often get kicked off and are impossible to re-position mid-journey!) and invest in a baby wrap. The Kura Organic Baby wrap is not only a universal fitting car seat wrap but also fits 3 and 5 point harness buggies, moses baskets and bassinets so is incredibly versatile. We adore ours, super soft and cosy, easy popper buttons and they make a gorgeous (and useful!) gift for new parents too!
The 4 month Sleep Regression
The 4 month sleep regression is the period around the 4 month mark where everything you thought you understood about your baby’s sleep goes out the window! But what actually is a sleep regression?
“Sleep regression is a term used to describe a disturbance in your baby's sleep pattern. Usually characterised by regular waking throughout the night and difficulty transitioning between sleep cycles,” says sleep consultant, Rebecca Ashton.
There are many schools of thought about this development milestone, including what to call it! Sleep consultant Sarah Patel calls it a sleep PROgression and has put together a helpful guide to help you through this tricky time.
“Personally I like to use the term 'sleep transition',” suggests Alissa Pemberton. “This is really what it is. Our baby is transitioning from one way of sleeping, through a period of rapid development, to another way of sleeping. It doesn't have to be a negative experience, and with consistency and understanding, you can help your baby to sail through these periods as easily as possible.”
If your baby is around the 4 month mark and is beginning to roll, is starting to sit with some support or is reaching out for objects, then any one of these things could trigger a change in their sleep. For more information, check out Alissa’s and Rebecca’s articles to understand more about what is going on developmentally and how you can help your baby through it.
Joanne Lozman also has some useful information about how other developmental milestones can affect your little one’s sleep too - things like getting teeth through, learning to talk and learning to walk. Unfortunately these regressions are not limited to the 4 month mark, but they are a sign your baby is making some huge leaps in their development!
What are TOG ratings?
When looking at sleeping bags for your baby you’ll notice they often have a ‘TOG’ rating. This is a unit of measure for the thermal resistance of textiles so the “Thermal Overall Grade”. Essentially, the tog rating or weight of a baby sleeping bag determines its thickness and consequently how warm it keeps your child. The higher the tog rating (weight) the warmer the baby sleeping bag is. Many baby sleeping bags on the market contain polyester wadding (and therefore micro plastics) and if this is something you’re conscious of then it’s worth exploring Bamboo products. Pure Earth Collection have a gorgeous range of bamboo sleeping bags which help babies regulate their body temperature - it also means one sleeping bag is suitable for all seasons. They offer a 1 tog baby sleeping bag suitable for room temperatures from 13-27°C. We tried them and were really impressed. They are incredibly well made, soft and luxurious and we loved the fact that they have a clip on comforter. These bags are designed to fit from 3m – 3y, so you don’t need to constantly buy new ones as your little one grows -making them both economical and environmentally sustainable. As a side note, if you are feeling a little envious of your babys beautiful cosy sleeping bag - Pure Earth Collection also offer both child and adult matching robes which are equally as soft and luxurious as the sleeping bags.
Let’s talk about naps!
From how long and how often a baby should nap, to what babies should wear when they do, day time naps can be just as difficult to navigate as the nights.
Here are some common questions we hear in The Bloss Clinic about naps, and some articles written by our experts with all the answers.
“My baby is taking chronic short naps!”
The Fox and the Moon Sleep consultants advise on what to do if your little one’s naps are frequently shorter than 30 minutes and therefore not getting the chance to have restorative sleep.
“What should my baby or toddler wear for their daytime nap?”
The Daddy Sleep Consultant shares his tips on how to make your little one comfortable for their day time nap to ensure optimal sleep.
“How can I extend my little one’s nap time?”
Joanne Lozman has some good advice for extending your little one’s nap time so that they can connect their sleep cycles by themselves.
“What are the optimal timings for my baby’s nap?”
Olivia, from the Dream House Sleep Consultancy, has put together this handy video explaining everything you need to know about nap times for your baby according to their age.
“When should I transition my baby from 2 naps to 1?”
Helping your baby transition from 3 naps to 2, and then from 2 down to 1 until they’re no longer napping at all (sob!) is something many parents struggle with. The Daddy Sleep Consultant has put together this comprehensive article about nap transitions that covers everything you need to know about nap transitions from 4 months to 4 years!
‘Sleep Training’ and the quest for independent sleep
As with anything baby related, there are many opinions and schools of thought about how to encourage your baby to sleep through the night and at what age this is possible or realistic. ‘Sleep training’ has received mixed press over the years, and many parents are left feeling confused about what sleep training actually involves, whether it works and what the alternatives might be.
As with any milestone, teaching your baby to sleep independently can involve quite a few tricks of the trade, and Alissa Pemberton has several of them up her sleeve, which she covers here. From offering your little one close contact for reassurance, to getting babies used to their sleep space during the day, and even accepting that there will almost certainly be a few bumps in the road, Alissa has some top advice to help your find an independent sleep strategy that works for you and your little one.
The Lullaby Trust recommends sharing a room with your baby for at least the first 6 months of their life. If you choose to move your baby into their own room after this, you will want to create the perfect environment for them to ensure the best night’s sleep. One element you may not have considered for your baby or little one is a floor bed instead of a cot or toddler bed, which Alissa Pemberton says can be a real game changer for ensuring optimum sleep all round for the whole family.
You’ve got this! (But if you haven’t, we’ve got you!)
We know it can be a lot to take in, especially if you are sleep deprived and struggling to see a way out. But rest assured that our team of qualified and trusted experts are here for YOU whenever you need support - not just during your baby’s first year, but beyond this too.
Keep this guidebook handy so you’ll always have the advice you need and experts at the ready, whenever you need a little helping hand.
You look after your little one, and we’ll look after you.
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