QuestionsCategory: SleepCan I really teach a baby to sleep at night?
Sarah Jackson asked 10 months ago

I’m due in the early summer and my sister had real problems that I’d like to avoid if at all possible? Any tips would be appreciated

Riverside Cares Staff replied 10 months ago

The internet and forums is awash with questions surrounding this – Jill Wheatcroft, MD Riverside Cares and Lecturer in Child Health will answer this question

1 Answers
Riverside Cares Staff answered 10 months ago

Hi
 
You cannot teach very young babies to sleep as such, but you can help get them into good habits. Bear in mind that all babies are different, so try not to listen to stories from everyone else, their failures or triumphs. Often it’s a question of trying out different ideas until you find something that suits you and your baby. With new babies it’s a good idea to try and encourage them to fall asleep on their own rather then while being held in your arms however tempting that might be. When they have finished their feed put them down and if the murmur or are awake speak to them in a soothing voice for a few minutes then move away.  
It can also be helpful for babies to learn the difference between day and night. An easy way of managing this is that if your baby is napping during the day leave the curtains open and do not worry about making a bit of noise, just act normally and if that means having a radio on or music playing then continue with that. Obviously you need to be able to hear your child and be mindful to check in on them regularly but do try to avoid getting into a habit of tip toeing around.
Young babies usually wake when they are hungry or wet so the first step is to sort out their physical needs, new babies may feed every 2-3 three hours but the gaps between feeds will gradually get longer as their stomachs get bigger.  Even then, you may find you are feeding every few hours in the evening as they top up for the night, which is entirely normal. 
It’s a good idea to get into a routine in the evening when getting your baby ready for bed. Try putting them down at the similar time each night. Some parents like bathtime to be in the evening and if you baby finds this relaxing then it can be a good step. After the bath give the last feed then put your baby down and read the baby a story.  Then say goodnight and turn off the light. If you are not having bath time then just wash their face and change their nappy. Try and keep the room as dark as possible. You may need a night light so you do not trip over something in the night, but if possible turn this off when it is not needed.
Be realistic at the beginning babies usually wake every few hours but gradually that should extend, bear in mind five to six hours is considered sleeping through the night for a baby. 
Baby mobiles which play soothing music for a while can also be useful, but again it does depend on your baby. Try not to rush in at the first noise your baby makes (which becomes easier when they move baby into a separate room) but wait to see if they will settle or become fully awake.
If they are fully awake they are more likely to take a bigger feed and less likely to wake a few hours later. I’ll come back later to the issue of babies left to cry. 
Do remember every baby is different and what works for some babies may not work for yours. It can also be frustrating that when you do have a good sleeping pattern going, that suddenly changes, it is common for babies at 3-4 months to suddenly start waking a bit more again as they grow and increase their milk requirements.
Once your baby gets to 6 to 9 months if your baby is waking up wanting to play, you may need to become more firm and let them know that night time is for sleeping. You must make sure all their basic needs are met and then you have to decide that the reason they are waking is habit rather than fear or being hungry and of course if they are unwell you must put this process aside and do not use it.
Assuming they are well here are typical steps: When they wake in the night go in but do not pick them up, talk to them and remind them it’s time for sleep. Go in again after 5 minutes (time it you’ll be surprised it is longer than you think), let them know you are there and talk to them briefly and calmly but again do not pick them up. Next time, same procedure but this time leave a 10 minute gap and then a 15 minute gap. Thereafter enter the bedroom at 15 minute intervals, let them know you are around but also that you are not going to play with them. You keep this going with this until they fall asleep. It may be an exhausting process for you but longer term it ends up as far less tiring.  It is very hard to hear your baby cry and to let them continue crying,  but if they have got into the habit of waking up you need to break this habit for them as much as for you. It may take a week or in some cases two but this will normally break the habit. Bear the time scale in mind it may take that long. Obviously if at any stage the baby is wet, cold or hungry or unwell then you need to deal with this, unhesitatingly but once their needs/ they are well again continue establishing the routine ie if baby has been unwell you may need to start the two week cycle again. 
If you would like one to one advice I can be contacted and can work with you individually through our consultancy service
Kind Regards
Jill Wheatcroft
Jill Wheatcroft is a Lecturer in Child Health and is co-founder and Director of Training at Riverside Cares. She can be contacted at info@riversidecares.co.uk  Join our mailing list to hear about other free pop up events, sessions, training sessions and first aid courses http://www.riversidecares.co.uk/events and http://www.riversidecares.co.uk/training/