Nothing can prepare you for sleep deprivation caused by a newborn baby or a baby that just needs you NOW. And when you feel brain dead, body numbed, grey faced by lack of sleep, by the constant waking and settling a baby at intervals through the night, then you become obsessed by how to get sleep. And we mean OBSESSED.
Should you let her cry or not? Is it OK for your baby to sleep in your bed? How can you get him to sleep without being rocked around the house at 4am? And when, please, please, will she sleep ‘through’? (And does sleeping through really only mean midnight to 5am, please no?) These are the sort of questions that obsess you as you sleepwalk through the days.
So, we asked parents who know that baby sleep induced feeling of exhaustion (and have come through the other side) to explain what helped their baby settle to sleep and into a sleep routine.
As always you’re the expert on your baby and you’ll discover what works best for your individual baby and your routine, but there are some nuggets of advice that may give you and baby a bit more shut-eye time.
Getting your baby to sleep
“With the tip of your finger, stroke your baby’s nose gently downwards. It works like magic. My friends used to call me the baby whisperer.” Danielle
“Babies like the comfort of being swaddled (wrapped up tightly). I suppose it reminds them of being packed tight in the womb. Our health visitor also recommended reducing the size of the moses basket by rolling up a cellular blanket and curving it around our newborn baby’s head.” Tammy
“Don’t let visitors jiggle your baby and pass him around just before bedtime. It can be really unsettling for an overtired baby. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as trying to settle your cranky, overstimulated baby while your friends chat in the next room in blissful ignorance.” Jill
“If you put your contented, sleepy baby down before he’s actually sound asleep (middle son), he’ll learn to go to sleep by himself without the need for rocking then twitching wide awake the moment you put him down (oldest son). I learnt the hard way.” Catherine
During the day
“I put each of my babies in a sling - a baby Bjorn. They like the kangaroo feeling of being close to your warmth and scent and moving around. Plus, it frees your arms up so you can put on a load of washing or make a cup of tea and have a phone chat.” Mary
“My daughter would only sleep in the buggy and would wake the moment we were home. It was exhausting! When I had my twins I was determined to get them into a nap time routine during the day (for my own sanity) so I put them in their cots at the same time every morning with black out blinds down.” Chris
“Don’t tiptoe around when your baby is napping. If your baby is conditioned to sleep through you hoovering or clattering the dishes or an older sibling’s playing, they will sleep through almost anything when they’re older. My friend used to talk in tense whispers and now her daughter wakes the second someone knocks at the door. Stressy!” Mimi
Establishing a bedtime routine
“By the time your baby’s about three months, I think it really helps to establish an evening routine - a feed, a calming bath, quiet time and a top-up feed and then lie him into his cot.” Becky
“I never spoke to my babies at night. When they woke or wouldn’t settle, I’d go in and cuddle them and give them a feed or change a nappy, but I wouldn’t talk. I wanted them to realise although I was always there for them, night time was for sleeping, not fun.” Fiona
“Get blackout curtains or blinds, especially if you’re trying to put your baby to bed on a bright summer evening.” Sally
When you think you’ve cracked it, and then...
“If your baby suddenly starts waking, having been a good sleeper, don’t give in to despair. It could be teething or hunger triggered by a growth spurt. It will pass and you will get back into a routine. Also, it happens to everyone - you’re not alone” Liz
“I started putting my baby in a sleeping bag. She used to wake herself up moving around and getting into all sorts of weird positions - and getting cold because the blanket and sheet had got in a tangle at her feet.” Mary D
“My oldest daughter was a great sleeper and I could put her down still awake. But my second (as the typical law of motherhood goes) was the total opposite. By about five months, I’d managed to get rocking her down to 10 minutes and she was sleeping for longer than 3 hours at a time. But by six months she was waking more, crying and would only let me settle her (no matter how many times my poor hubby tried to step in to give me a break). I was at the end of my tether and people kept telling me to just leave her and “let her cry it out” but that didn’t feel right. Another mum told me that she was going through what they call a “leap” and that during this time she needed some extra reassurance and if I gave it to her she would eventually go to bed feeling reassured that if she cried I would go to her and in the end sleep better. Sure enough, after a few further nights of going to her as soon as she cried she stopped waking through the night and was sleeping through to 6am (which felt like a much needed lie in!).” Olivia @TheBabyBible
“Putting our son in his own bedroom helped him sleep right through. I think we were waking him and he was waking us when we were all in together.” Jamie
“If you’re confident that your baby is not hungry and you’re ready for one last push (really, really knackered but with enough stamina or determination for a few nights), then I would recommend controlled crying (going in after an interval of crying, reassuring but not picking your baby up.) It saved me.” Bernie