1. Keep night time quiet

It’s no secret that babies are creatures of habit who thrive on routine – and the same applies at bedtime. “A bedtime routine allows the body to unwind so the release of melatonin coincides with sleep and makes sure your baby is calm enough to nod off,” explains infant sleep consultant Katie Palmer (infantsleepconsultant.co.uk). “It helps them to differentiate between day and night as well as creating a period of intimacy between parent and child.”

2. Start good sleep habits early

Those first few days of parenthood go by in a haze of feeds, nappy changes and naps, and the days and nights will be blurred into one for your baby – and for you. However, if you can establish even a simple routine at bedtime from those early days, you’ll both be thankful later on. “During this time, it can be almost as important for parent as baby to establish a routine before the ‘bedtime sleep’. This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant; a bath and change into clean PJs, having the pre-sleep feed in a dimly lit room, saying good night to the baby. All of these, if continued, will eventually be associated with going to sleep,” says Dr Kiren Sahota, family medicine consultant at HealthBay. 

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3. Try not to feed to sleep

 If you get into the habit of rocking or feeding your baby to sleep, your baby can start to rely on that in order to be able to fall asleep. Fine at 7pm, but not so fine at 3am. “Parents need to be aware that many sleep aids can turn into a negative sleep prop that their child becomes reliant on,” explains Katie. “Use white noise (for young babies) and a comforter (for babies over 6 months), but as much as possible you want to encourage your baby to settle without help.” She adds, “Offer a feed but try not to feed to sleep. You may want to do a feed in two stages, offering some before bath and a top up before bed.”

4. Establish a sleep phrase

There are many simple cues you can use to let your baby know it’s time to sleep. “It could be always playing the same music during the bedtime routine or singing the same song/reading the same story,” says Katie. “I would recommend a sleep-time phrase that you say as you put your baby down. Then, if they are unsettled during the night you can repeat the same phrase to reassure and let them know it’s still sleep time,” suggests Katie. Try something simple like ‘Time to go to sleep, I love you.’

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5. Unwind with baby massage

Anyone who has ever experienced the joy of a contented nap after a baby massage class will know the soothing power that massage can have on infants. So why not introduce some of that chilled-out vibe into your bedtime routine? “A massage with warm oil can help soothe younger babies and help relax them,” says Dr Kiren. “Alternatively, a warm bath with lavender oil along with quiet play is ideal.”

6. Make night and day sleeps different

“Ideally, keep daytime naps slightly more lit so your baby can differentiate between day naps and the night sleep,” says Dr Kiren. “Try to keep daytime naps to the recommended length for the baby’s age and try not to let a baby nap after 5pm. All of these things can help establish and maintain the sleep rhythm.”

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7. Stock the cot with familiar senses

If your baby wakes alone in the dark, they can take comfort from familiar sights and smells. “During the first few months, some find that having something in the cot that smells like mum is good at settling babies at night,” suggests Dr Kiren. “Moreover, putting a cuddly toy in the cot that has been used in the sleep time routine from the beginning can help.”

8. Ensure your baby is warm and full

Just like adults, babies sleep best on a full stomach and when they are cosy. “Sleeping bags can prove helpful as they can keep the baby warm, as well as limit movement from kicking, which can wake them up,” says Dr Kiren. She adds, “The most important thing is to make sure that the baby has been well fed, either with milk, or even something like porridge if they are older, so they don’t get hungry in the middle of the night.”  

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