One way to keep your baby happy and healthy is to make sure he’s getting all the sleep he needs. But (as any frazzled parent will attest) this is often much easier said than done. Here’s our expert guide to the insider tips and tricks that will help him settle
1. Let him self-settle
If your baby learns to settle himself at bedtime, he’ll hopefully manage the same if he wakes during the night.
‘Using the gradual retreat method helps,’ says sleep expert Wendy Dean. ‘Make sure your baby is awake when you put him in his cot, but maintain contact, such as a hand on his chest, until he falls asleep. Over time, you gradually distance yourself, sitting further away until your baby is able to nod off when you’re outside the room.’
2. Recognise his sleep cues
You can save your baby (and you) some unnecessary tears if you recognise the signs that he’s ready to sleep. These include eye rubbing, yawning, crying or turning his head away from you when he’s tired. ‘This is when you should try putting him in his cot with minimal fuss, and let him settle himself,’ says childcare expert Rachel Waddilove.
You can save your baby (and you) some unnecessary tears if you recognise the signs that he’s ready to sleep
3. Do not disturb
Rush to your baby at his first whimper, and you could be making him more dependent on you for sleep.
‘All babies naturally wake up in the night as part of their sleep cycle, so give him a moment to see if he’ll settle again,’ says sleep expert Andrea Grace. If he continues crying, check that he’s OK. ‘Try to avoid lifting him out of his cot, though. Use the gradual retreat method (above) instead,’ says Andrea.
4. Set a sleep routine
‘Having a different bedtime every day is not conducive to a healthy sleeping pattern,’ says health visitor Philippa Forsyth.
‘Babies thrive on knowing what to expect and when, which is why routines are ideal.’ If you want your baby in bed by 7pm, start with your first sleep cue, perhaps a warm bath, at 6.15pm. You could then follow with a massage, story or lullaby and cuddle in a low-lit room. Repeat this routine every night and he’ll soon recognise that it’s time to sleep.
5. Ban your bed
You’re knackered and you know your baby will relax if he’s in bed with you – tempting, isn’t it?
‘Bringing your baby into bed with you is a bad habit you don’t want to encourage,’ says Wendy. ‘Instead, make his cot as comfortable and welcoming as possible with a musical mobile that plays a soothing song. This way he’ll see it as a safe and permanent sleeping place.’