How to help settle your baby
There are many different routines and strategies you can implement to try and settle your baby to sleep. Remembering every baby is different, some babies thrive off routine and it works really well for the whole family, and other babies may not settle whether they have a bedtime routine or not. Your routine may differ slightly from a day sleep to a night sleep, but it can contain any or all of the settling techniques discussed below. Every strategy is going to work differently for every child, always persist and do what works best for you and your little one.
As your baby has just spent 9 months tucked up in your safe and warm womb, it is not surprising that they will love anything that replicates the womb or being close to you.
Settling your baby in a dark room using a swaddle, white noise and movement are generally very effective ways to settle them to sleep. Swaddling is a simple strategy to relax your baby and help them feel warm and secure, as well as reducing their startle reflex which can wake them up while they are sleeping. Your midwife in hospital will show you and your partner how to swaddle your baby before you go home. You can buy affordable muslin wraps/swaddles or alternatively use a sleep suit which are easy to use, especially in the night. White noise or meditation music can also be relaxing for bub, or any sounds that are similar to the womb. White noise is defined as a type of noise that is produced by combining sounds of all different frequencies together. While your baby was growing in your womb, they could constantly hear different sounds including your heartbeat and breathing, therefore some babies like background noise playing when it is time to sleep because it is familiar to them. There is evidence to state that white noise can reduce the length of time that it takes for an adult or child to fall asleep, therefore it can help to settle your baby. In the womb, your baby also felt you move frequently even while you were sleeping. In the fourth trimester, babies enjoy movement and it can be a great way to help settle them to sleep. You can move them in your arms, put them in a baby carrier or pram, or use a baby bouncer or bassinet that moves. And lastly, your womb was quite dark for your baby, so often they will settle easier in a room that has dimmed lighting or completely dark. Using blackout blinds over windows can achieve a darker room.
One of the first steps in settling your baby is to reduce stimulation 30 minutes before bedtime. This includes; turning the lights down or off, everyone talking quietly and turning on some gentle music or white noise. Having a bedtime routine or ritual that works for your baby and your family can be vital in getting bub to settle to sleep easily. Also ensure that both parents are aware and do the same routine for your baby to keep consistency at bedtime.
A warm bath or shower is very commonly part of bedtime routines around the world and can help to relax bub before it’s time for bed. It is a great reset after a busy day, and can also be quite calming for parent and baby, especially if you get in the shower or bath with them. After a bath, it is up to you how you want the bedtime routine to look. Often dressing bub into a onesie or sleep suit and reading a book can be a good way to help them wind down. After a book, a breastfeed or bottle-feed followed by a cuddle before placing your baby into bed will make them feel loved and comforted. Once they are in bed, some babies may settle better with a comforter toy to hold or a dummy/ pacifier to suck on. This is up to you and your choice if you want to introduce either of these to help them settle to sleep.
If a bedtime routine isn’t working for you or bub, you may need to implement some further settling techniques to assist them to settle to sleep. It is important to be aware of your baby’s tired signs, and begin their bedtime routine when they are showing early signs so they do not get overtired before you get them into bed.
Other settling techniques you could try, include:
- Place baby in cot when settled but still awake. If they start to cry, try to settle them by patting them in the cot first. You can place bub on their side, firmly patting their back in a rhythmic motion, and once they are relaxed or falling to sleep roll them onto their back before you leave the room
- Before leaving your baby’s room, you can also rock or jiggle the cot slightly to help them further relax and settle
- If the patting technique is not successful and baby escalates, they may need extra cuddles and love which is SO normal. Remember mama, you can never spoil a baby!
- Also having background music such as white noise in their room or making ‘ssshhhhh’ sounds can help them settle
- Offer a top-up feed or dream feed if bub isn’t settling to rule out hunger
- Also ensure your little one has an appropriate amount of clothing on, and they are not too hot or too cold. You could check their temperature for reassurance, to ensure it is within the normal range of 36.5 - 37.5 degrees.
Please note this blog does not provide individualised advice or guidance or replace the need for medical advice.