Getting your baby to sleep through the night is one of the toughest challenges of being a mum, and an established routine could soon become your new best friend. But which one?
While most experts agree there’s little point trying to implement a structure for the first few months, you may well want to start bringing a bit of order back into your life around weeks 10-12. That’s where a routine – a set of sleep associations that will help your baby know when it’s bedtime – can really help.
The classic feed, bath and bed is a great place to start. Bathe him in elbow-warm water to make him feel drowsy. Aim to put him down sleepy but awake, so he’ll learn to settle himself. If that works, you may feel ready for something more in-depth.
Here's a guide to the baby sleep routines that are out there...
Principles: Babies shouldn’t be left to cry in bed for more than a few minutes, because crying creates a negative sleep association.
How to do it: Use whatever soothing method works best for you, such as nursing or rocking.
Benefits: It’s a baby-centric approach that minimises upset to parents and baby.
Pitfalls: Constantly having to respond to your baby the second he cries can be exhausting.
Read: The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.
Principles: By creating routines that match a baby’s natural rhythms, Gina claims to prevent the hunger, overtiredness and colic that can lead to excessive crying.
How to do it: Follow the nine different routines, as outlined in the book, from birth to 12 months. The routines include minute-by-minute guidance on nap times, feeds and bedtime rituals.
Benefits: You should have a baby who sleeps through by eight to 10 weeks.
Pitfalls: The routines are very strict and your ability to leave the house is limited.
Read: The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford.
Principles: Dr Richard Ferber proposed ‘controlled crying’ back in the 80s to teach a baby to fall asleep on his own, but it isn’t advised for babies under six months.
How to do it: Put your baby in his cot awake and leave the room. Return after a few minutes to comfort him with words or touch, but without looking at him or picking him up. Leave the room and wait longer between visits to comfort him.
Benefits: It’s fast – you could see improvements within a week.
Pitfalls: Some research suggests crying for long periods could cause emotional distress, although other studies disagree. It can be heartbreaking for you, too.
Read: Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr Richard Ferber.
Principles: Devised by Tracy Hogg, EASY stands for an Eat, Activity, Sleep, your structured routine.
How to do it: It’s a recurring three-hour routine that involves food, play, then a nap. While he sleeps, you rest or get things done.
Benefits: Tracy emphasises the importance of a proper schedule – something nearly every sleep expert swears by.
Pitfalls: If your baby simply refuses to sleep when you want, it can be tricky to implement.
Read: Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.
5 sleep training methods for baby (and you) to sleep soundly through the night