If you are looking to support your baby to sleep through the night, firstly, you are not alone. Many parents research ways to get their newborn to sleep for longer, and they often experience sleepless nights because of an unsettled or awake baby.
The early stages of your baby’s life are a perfect time to get to know their nature, their likes and dislikes, and their temperament. Before your baby is able to speak, bedtime is one of the first moments where they will communicate their wants and needs. Noticing what times of the day they are most sleepy, when they are restless, if they are anxious and how much soothing they require will all help you develop your baby’s own sleep schedule. Creating a nurturing and safe environment, as well as dressing them in warm, safe and snug sleep garments will support your baby to sleep through the night.
Light exposure in the afternoon can influence the development of the circadian system. The circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep/wake cycle and repeats every 24-hours. All of our movements throughout the day and evening can contribute to the quality of our sleep. The way we wind down, ourselves and our baby, can be in many different ways and can start at different times. A warm bath, low lighting, gentle movements and lessened noise can let your baby know that sleep is on the horizon and can support them to relax and let go to prepare for sleep. If your baby is prepared for sleep and able to achieve a good quality and restful sleep, then it is more likely you will to.
Each baby is different, therefore, although there are many ways to sooth and settle your baby there are no rules or hard and fast formulas. You need to do what works best of you and your baby.
Now for the ways you can nurture and promote healthy and lasting sleep habits. Below are Love to Dream’s suggestions around sleep routines, positive sleep habits, times and tips.
Developing a sleep rhythm for your baby
Your baby’s routine and daily sleep rhythm will be finely tuned depending on their age, preferences and physical needs. To encourage healthy sleeping habits, it is essential to ensure your baby is dressed warmly, securely and safely for bed. A quiet and warm environment will support with good quality sleep. Getting your new born to sleep can take practice, and by responding to tired signs and sleep cues, observing their awake times to prevent tiredness, and most of all, being consistent in following the routine, you can promote feelings of security and wellbeing and look to achieve longer nights of sleep.
Positive sleeping habits for parents & babies
- Observing sleep cues and tired signs.
- Putting your baby or toddler into bed before they become upset or overtired.
- Dressing your baby in warm, safe and snug sleep attire.
- Having a consistent routine.
- Positive sleep association to promote independent sleeping.
How much sleep does a baby or toddler need?
Over-tiredness which can be described as a wired or over-stimulated feeling is what you want to avoid when preparing your baby to sleep through the night. Your baby is developing their sleeping habits, so putting them down at recommended or required intervals will establish patterns that help your baby learn to sleep without being held. As a newborn, they can generally fall asleep on their own. The key is to monitor awake times and put them down when you observe tired cues—before they are overtired.
Remember, each baby is different and you know your baby best. The key is getting to know your baby and their needs so you can respond and support them to develop the routine that suits you best.
Signs of over-tiredness can be observed as going from crying to laughing really quickly. If your baby or toddler doesn’t fall asleep within their ‘tired’ window they need to muster more energy to stay awake. Over-tiredness can also show as excitable behaviour, crying or being a bit upset. In this instance it’s possible that the sleep cues have been missed.
So, how much awake time can each age group handle? As a guide:
Newborn 0 - 3 months
Newborn babies can normally have 45-minutes of time awake before they feel fatigue. The newborn phase is the perfect time for establishing healthy sleep habits. In this time your baby will often fall asleep by themselves. 45-minutes of awake time is generally time for a feed, change, and cuddle before they are ready to sleep again.
Tip: Putting your newborn to bed soon after they are fed will allow them to drift off to sleep and will prevent them going into an over-tired state. If they become over-tired then cry and are fed again, they may fall asleep during feeding whilst being held, this can commence a pattern of associating been held with falling asleep. Establishing falling asleep without being held from the beginning is ideal.
3 - 6 months
Babies at 3-6 months can tolerate 1.5 - 2 hours of time awake before they need a nap or bedtime.
6 - 8 months
2-3 hours of time awake is the usual time frame before fatigue sets in.
9 - 12 months
At 9 -12 months old, babies will have around 3-4 hours for time awake, then require 2 naps during the day.
12 months - 2.5 years
From toddler age, 4.5 or 5 to 6 hours of time awake with a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon is what is recommended. Bedtime can then start to be a more consistent time of 7pm or 7:30pm.
Tip: From two and a half your toddler will generally need only 1 nap and you can aim for a bedtime of 7pm. They will likely be sleeping through the night and for up to 12 hours. Also, from about two and a half your toddler will transition out of needing a nap but adapt a more regular bedtime. Love to Dream’s sleep suits & bags are perfect for this period.
And what about SLEEP CUES and TIRED SIGNS?
Sleep cues to look out for with newborns include yawning, closing fists, frowning, sucking on fingers to self-settle, fluttering eyelids, gazing, sharp movements of their arms or legs and arching backwards.
Babies and Toddlers
Toddlers will show tiredness by gazing into the distance, yawning, disengaging or losing interest, displaying clinginess, resting their head on furniture or car seats, or becoming upset easily.
How to get your baby to sleep longer at night?
Keep in mind that we need energy to get to sleep and energy to stay asleep. The more we reduce light exposure, engage in consistent full feeds, and allow for adequate movement throughout the day, our ability to sleep will increase. A key for your baby will be to learn to self-settle and self-sooth. Allowing access to hands and fingers through their sleeping garment will encourage this. Getting them used to being in their cot, by themselves and before they are over-tired or upset, will allow them to drop into a deeper and more consistent level of sleep. Remember, babies will wake throughout the night and it is natural to do so. ‘Sleeping through the night’ simply means if your baby does wake up through the night they can fall back to sleep on their own.
What can interfere with sleep for babies?
Artificial lighting or excess exposure to light can causes melatonin deficiencies. We need melatonin to help us fall asleep and stay asleep. Monitor exposure to artificial light and natural light. Get thicker or darker curtains to minimise light, and try to minimise any glare from television or computer screens filtering into their room.
Loud noises, busy chatter, televisions, music or any unfamiliar sounds can disturb your baby’s sleep. Try to minimise sounds and keep your baby’s room or sleeping space as sound-proof as possible.
Sometimes a stroll in the pram or holding your baby and walking can sooth and support them with winding down for sleep. Movement is an essential part of their routine, whether it is tummy time or crawling or playing. When it is time to settle, keeping movements gentle can create a nurturing and secure environment.
What should you do if your baby is struggling to sleep at night?
If you have reached a point where your baby is over-tired and out of their rhythm and sleeping habits, engaging a professional can work wonders. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your GP or a sleep consultant for support. Many mums and dads do!
Where should my baby sleep?
It is recommended for your baby to sleep in a cot that has no loose blankets, toys or pillows. Away from power cords and curtain blinds is ideal.
Why swaddles support your baby to sleep
Swaddles have been the preferred and recommended bedtime garment for babies over the use of blankets due to the lower risk of SIDS. Baby blankets have been deemed less safe due to the fact they can come loose, cover your baby’s face, or wrap and get caught around parts of their body. The snug design of a swaddle allows your baby to feel secure. They can calm the startle reflex that babies can have during sleep. The sleeping bag design of Love to Dream swaddles allows for free moment and flexibility. Depending on the swaddle you choose, some swaddles and sleep bags allow for access to hands which can support your baby to self-sooth.
“Babies sleep well in Love to Dream - they feel secure more than anything,” Sacha Rendolph, Midwife and certified baby sleep consultant says. “Love to Dream is really good; I have recommended the Love to Dream swaddles for years. I find babies have a lot of movement in the swaddle so they are safe… For example, if they begin to roll and land on their front, they land safely due to the room in the swaddle and the ability for movement.”
Love to Dream has a selection of seasonal swaddles available that can be used all year round to help your baby sleep. They come in different TOG ratings and are available for all ages, from newborn up to 4-years old.