If bedtime is a battle field, you need the night-time magic formula for better sleep
How you put your baby to bed is pretty important for just how successful your night’s sleep will be. It's never too early to establish bedtime habits. Simple bedtime associations will work wonders by helping her wind down and become sleepy.
5pm Snack time
For older children, a glass of warm milk, a banana or some wholegrain cereal can help prevent tummy rumbles in the night.
‘These all contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is thought to be converted into melatonin and so aids sleep,’ explains Mandy. ‘Give these before bathtime, so your toddler doesn't go to bed with a full tummy.’
5.30pm Quiet time
Close the curtains, dim the lights and keep noise to a minimum. Now’s a good time for you to all have a break from the TV – turning your home into a little oasis. ‘This will signal to newborns that it’s evening while toddlers will get the message it’s close to bedtime and begin winding down,’ says Dee.
Splashing in the bath will help your little one burn off some energy and help calm her before bed. Baths are a wonderful sedative. ‘The drop in body temperature after the bath helps to trigger the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, so your child should settle more easily,’ explains Mandy.
6.20pm PJ time
Get her new nappy and pyjamas on in the bedroom, with the lights dimmed, rather than taking your baby downstairs again, which she’ll associate with daytime and play.
6.30pm Supper time
Give the last feed of the day while your baby is relaxed but still alert. It means she’s less likely to fall asleep during feeding, so will learn to settle by herself in the night rather than cry for you,’ says Mandy.
6.40pm Story time
Even babies as young as three months will enjoy listening to you read before bed, but try and do it in a low, quiet tone.
‘This should be more about having a cuddle and being calmed by your soothing voice rather than a terribly exciting story,’ says Dee. ‘Keep your voice low and avoid engaging your child too much by pointing at pictures or asking questions.’
6.50pm Cuddle time
This is the bit all children will relish. ‘A cuddle before bed helps your child feel safe and loved,’ says Mandy. ‘It also boosts levels of the hormone oxytocin, which relaxes the entire body and promotes sleep.’
Tell your little one it’s time to sleep and place her in her cot or bed. ‘It can be helpful to whisper the same words every night, for example, “Sweet dreams, baby. Mummy loves you,”’ says Dee. ‘That way your child will come to associate these words with sleep.’
Up to three months it’s best to stay in the room if your little one cries. After this age, leave the room and listen to any cries. ‘If you can hear her winding down, give it a few minutes and she’ll probably settle,’ says Dee. ‘If not, return to the room, say, “Mummy’s here, ssshh, ssshh”, before leaving the room again.’
Tell your little one it’s time to sleep and place her in her cot or bed
10-11pm Dream feed
Some mums top up their baby with a feed at this time, which your little one will take in her sleep.
‘This can be done without waking your baby and will extend the length of time she sleeps during the night,’ says Dee. ‘However, it’s not really necessary once your baby is weaned.’
12pm Wake time
If your little one has a habit of waking up at a random time in the night, don’t be too quick to run to her, especially if she’s older than six months. Leave it a couple of minutes when she cries and you may find she settles by herself.
'If she doesn't, keep the lights dimmed, give her a cuddle, say, “Mummy’s here, ssshh, ssshh”, and return her to her cot,' says mandy. 'Keep your voice low and she should soon settle again.’