Mother and Baby

The secrets to a silent night: Help your baby sleep better

Secrets to a silent night

Fact: some babies are just better sleepers. They’ll naturally sleep through the night when they’re a few weeks old, they’ll nap when they’re meant to and they’ll carry on snoozing when their teeth are coming through. Other babies will do none of these things. Why? It’s all down to their temperament: their individual, inbuilt traits and tendencies.

We’ve taken a look at the main baby sleep traits and put them into one handy article. Even if your little one falls in the middle of the spectrum, adjusting their sleep routine slightly can make all the difference. 

How sensitive is your little one to his bedtime environment? 

How sensitive is your baby?

If you answered mostly A, you have a sensitive baby. He’ll react strongly to noises such as hand-dryers or people shouting and will get upset. You will find ways to help him get a better night’s sleep below.

If you answered mostly B, you have a responsive baby and might find adjusting his sleep routine slightly will stop him waking up at all.

If you answered mostly C, you have a chilled baby. Count your blessings!

Sleep expert and author of Baby S.T.E.P.S to Better Sleep, Nicole Johnson, explains: ‘the difference between a sensitive and a chilled baby is how strongly he reacts (or not) to environmental changes.’

Tips to help your sensitive baby sleep better:

  • Move his bath time to the morning: Whilst a bath is a part of lots of baby’s bedtime routine, it can be too stimulating for a sensitive baby. A bath means a change of environment and a change of temperature – and that’s unsettling for your sensitive baby.
  • Extend the bedtime routine: Nicole explains: ‘if the average baby needs between 15 and 30 minutes, your sensitive baby might need 30 to 40 minutes, and a sensitive toddler even longer.’ Try and spend some time doing gentle play in the room he sleeps in before starting the bedtime routine.
  • Try white noise: ‘These children are often sensitive to noise, so it’s a good idea to use white noise throughout the night to help him block out other sounds,’ says Nicole.
  • Try swaddling: If he’s less than four months old, swaddling might help. If he’s too old to be swaddled, try and stick to familiar fabrics: if he’s used to cotton sheets, he’ll be upset if you switch to flannel ones. 

How dramatic is your baby when there’s a change? 

How dramatic is your baby when there's a change?

If you answered mostly A, you have a dramatic baby – he’ll express himself intensely, whenever he feels something deeply. You can find tips on how to keep him calm before bedtime below.

If you answered mostly B, you have a tell-it-like-it-is baby – he’ll express himself, but not so strongly. You might find some of these tips useful.

If you answered mostly C, you have an easy-going baby. Lucky you!

Tips to help your dramatic baby sleep better:

  • Learn to sign ‘I love you’ and ‘good night’ at and teach it to your baby. Before you turn off the light, using sign language will give your dramatic baby a quieter way of expressing himself.
  • Open a picture book and start reading story: this will keep you calm and lure him into wanting to look at the pictures and hear your voice.
  • Cuddling can help, as it raises his levels of the hormones oxytocin, which reduces stress.
  • Stay with him: if he gets worked up once you’ve put him down, stay with him in the room as he’ll find this reassuring. 

Does your baby sleep like clockwork? 

How unpredictable is your baby?

If you answered mostly A you have a crackerjack baby – it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll do anything and his internal clock seems to change daily. Hopefully you will find these tips helpful for getting him into a more established sleep routine.

If you answered mostly B, you have a good-odds baby, he’ll mostly be predictable, but will have the odd blip now and again. The tips below might help.

If you answered mostly C, you have a predictable baby – he’ll eat, sleep and wet his nappy around the same time every day. The dream!

Tips to help your crackerjack baby sleep better:

  • Give him lots of exposure to natural light and fresh air during the day, in particular, get him outside in the morning. Keep him away from the bright lights of the television, your phone and any computer screens.
  • Make a schedule and stick to it: Sleep expert Nicole says, ‘the more unpredictable your baby is, the more important it is that you stick to a schedule. That sounds counter-intuitive, but the truth is that the more irregular you are, the more irregular your baby will become.’
  • Encourage your little one to be as active as they can during the day so they feel tired by the evening.
  • Ensure his bedroom is a good temperature – around 18 degrees.
  • If you are breastfeeding, cut out all caffeine for a couple of weeks and see if that helps.
  • Don’t stress: instead of worrying about why your baby isn’t sleeping, concentrate on giving him regular opportunities to rest.

Does your baby need everything to be the same in order to get to sleep?

How flexible is your baby?

If you answered mostly A, you have a knows-his-own –mind baby, they like routine and having things the way that suits them. Some of the tips below might help you develop a more flexible sleep routine.

If you answered mostly B, you have an adaptable baby, they prefer routine, but deal with change pretty well. You might still find some of the tips below useful.

If you answered mostly C, you have a social baby. The dream! They’ll happily adjust to new people and places, so you can leave them with a babysitter and enjoy an evening out without worrying (although that’s definitely easier said than done).

Tip to help your routine orientated baby sleep better:

  • When you change his sheets and sleep bag, take the clean ones into bed with you the night before so they smell familiar when you use them in the cot. This will reassure and relax your baby.  
  • Consistency is key: “Your baby is probably a very good sleeper – as long as he’s in his own home, with his normal routine and the normal people around him” says Nicole. The problems start when this routine is disrupted. The key thing to remember is your baby needs consistency. Give him a clear bedtime routine, and a shorter version of this routine every naptime.
  • When going on holiday, try and keep things as normal as possible by taking the same sheets with you, playing the same white noise or using the same sleep bag. It’s a good idea to put him down for naps in his travel cot before you go too, so he gets used to sleeping in it.
  • Ban helpers at bedtime! Even the arrival of his Dad, who he knows well, but who will bring new smells and a change of temperature can disturb him.

Is your baby’s curious nature affecting his sleep?

How curious is your baby?

If you answered mostly A, you’ve guessed it, you have a curious baby! Curious babies are interested in everything and everyone and they’ll fight sleep because they don’t want to miss out! The tips below should help.

If you answered mostly B, you have a sussed baby – he takes stuff in, but isn’t as bothered by it. The tips below might help you keep distractions to a minimum at bedtime.

If you answered mostly C, you have a calm baby who just goes with the flow! The tips below might not be for you, but will be interesting to read anyway!

Tips to help your curious baby sleep better:

  • Lose the night light. If your baby struggles with separation anxiety, leave the door open slightly – this will be less distracting.
  • Remove as many stimuli as possible: if you want him to sleep in the pram, hide the hanging toys and cover the opening with a thin, breathable shade.
  • If you’re trying to get him to nap at nursery, ask staff to try and put him down at the same time each day. It’s also worth looking for a nursery where all the children have nap time at the same time, so he’s not distracted by the noises of his friends playing.
  • Keep the bedroom for sleeping. “When you’re at home, keep your baby’s bedroom a place for sleep, and not for playing in, so he doesn’t associate it with playtime.”
  • A soothing head stroke will work wonders: as he lies in his cot, gently stroke his head about 100 times. Count softly as you’re doing it – the combination of touch and a soft soothing voice will help focus his busy mind!