Bringing a baby into the world is one of life’s greatest joys – and most exhausting experiences. These tiny, adorable bundles don’t come with a manual and many parents find themselves down the rabbit hole of constant research, especially when it comes to sleep. It’s a crazy ride!
At Kids Club, we’re passionate about your child’s wellbeing. So we’ve created a handy list of 5 tips you can use to help soothe your baby and get better sleep. This guide is based on research and first-hand experience and you can use it whether you cuddle your little one to sleep or they manage to drift off on their own.
5 Tips to help your baby (and you) sleep:
1. The tired or triggered test
It can be difficult to tell when your bub is tired or their behavior is simply being triggered by their environment. Sometimes babies are bored (under stimulated) or triggered (overstimulated) and instead of meeting their need for sensory input, you are trying to put them to sleep. The battle begins. They need the right sensory input to ‘dial down’ or relax and unsurprisingly mother nature often has the answers. As adults, we often like to unwind before going to sleep and babies are very similar.
When you think it’s bedtime for your baby, try spending 10-15 minutes doing some of the following activities before attempting sleep:
- Water play in either a bath, the kitchen sink or with a little cup on the floor
- Outdoor time in either the backyard, on the balcony or going for a short walk in nature. It’s amazing how much our little ones love the breeze on their cheeks, sunlight on their skin and fresh air.
- Massage appropriately as the soft pressure can be relaxing and also meet their need for touch.
This little test can help eliminate the confusion over whether your baby is in fact desperate for sleep and wants to unwind or needs a little change in atmosphere to be happy.
2. Learn about lighting
Light plays an enormous role in the way our bodies regulate sleep and waking hormones. Using the right lighting will help your baby learn the difference between night and day.
Before bedtime, cut back or eliminate anything that interferes with the body’s circadian rhythm (body clock) or production of melatonin (sleep hormone). This includes light from phones, computers and televisions.
Nightlights are also one of the biggest culprits and many marketed products emit blue or white-light which are stimulants for the brain. Instead, try an orange or red-toned light if needed at night. This can be combined with white noise to create a comforting environment for baby.
During the day, it helps if naps are taken somewhere where there’s some light and noise. This helps them differentiate between day and night sleep. Don’t be afraid to nap baby in a carrier, pram or somewhere on-the-go.
3. Set the body clock for success
Waking up at roughly the same time each day helps set the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. This can be difficult to achieve for a baby who wakes at wildly varying times each morning. It’s best to work within your child’s natural wake window to find a good time to consistently start the day. For example, if your baby is waking somewhere between 6am and 7.30am every day, you could choose 6.30am as your regular start time. You can work towards a particular time in 10-15 minute increments. That could mean keeping baby in a calm, sleepy environment a little longer, or waking baby gently by making some noise or letting the sunlight in.
Some babies go through phases where they sleep in, to catch up if they have been awake a lot overnight. But if this becomes a regular habit, their naps will continue to stretch out to later times, which impacts bedtime and the cycle continues. Alternatively, you might have an early riser. Set a realistic goal, as there’s no point trying to begin the day at 7am if your baby wakes at 5.30am! As you find the morning settle into place, the rest of the day will eventually follow.
The second part to this equation is the sun! Soak baby in some morning rays, when the sun isn’t too intense, as it helps to wake up the body and brain. The sunlight suppresses the production of melatonin and increases the energising cortisol hormone (which is healthy in proper doses). Exposure to sunlight is also linked to serotonin production, which is also known as the ‘happy’ hormone. Serotonin is also the precursor to melatonin. Keep in mind, sunlight filtered through a window pane may not have the same positive effect as direct rays.
4. Use calming scents and sprays
Essential oils and minerals can help sleep directly or indirectly by promoting relaxation, relieving physical discomfort and improving mood. Using a diffuser with a blend of essential oils, or a scented spray on some clothing can really help set the tone for bedtime. Lavender is a popular choice for its soothing qualities, with research showing its usefulness as a sleep aid. In addition, products with these scents will be beneficial: jasmine, vanilla, chamomile and sandalwood. Of course, it is important to research baby-safe products and following instructions carefully (applying essential oils directly to infants can be harmful).
A magnesium spray or bath could also help make bedtime a little smoother, as the mineral is known to help quiet the nervous system, promote relaxation and improve muscle recovery.
5. Manage expectations and ask for help
There is so much pressure on parents and their babies to ‘sleep right’. Often, children pick up on our stress and anxiety that we project at nap and bedtime. This definitely doesn’t help them – or you! The early years are intense, unrelenting and exhausting at times. Manage your expectations and don’t compare yourself as everyone is going through their own struggle. Support networks are vital and asking for help could help you stress less and get the rest you need. This could mean asking family or friends to babysit while you take a nap, communicating clearly about your needs with a partner, hiring a cleaner to help out, or building in some self-care into your week.
Long-lasting results will typically take two days to a few weeks after applying these methods. You might find these tips will also help you to get better sleep – it’s a win, win!
If you want to learn more, call Kids Club Early Childhood Learning Centres or book a tour now of your closest Kids Club Early Learning Centre, click here to view your closest Centre.
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