When you first come home with your new baby, there are so many new things to learn that it can be quite overwhelming. One priority, however, is to help your baby establish good sleeping habits. For a long time now baby has been sleeping in your womb, which is quite a restful place. The big, wide world is quite different, and it takes time for baby to learn to adapt. But the sooner you can help baby sleeping well, the sooner you can get some much needed rest yourself!
There are probably as many stories about what helps babies to sleep as there are babies – and the reality is that there isn’t one totally successful secret that works with all babies. However it’s very important to find a way to help your baby to transition between being awake and being asleep. Once baby can do this on his own, he will be able to fall asleep much more easily and with a lot less effort from you. Establishing a routine that baby associates with going to sleep. Use the tips below as a starting point, to try and determine the best way to help your baby through transition. And always remember to trust your instincts – it’s amazing how often they’re right.
One useful trick if daddy is around at bedtime, is called “fathering down”. Just before putting the baby to bed, daddy should cradle baby, with baby’s head resting on his daddy’s neck. Daddy should then talk to baby in a gentle voice. A male’s voice is much deeper than a female’s, and many babies find that deepness soothing, and so will transition into sleep more easily.
Another technique is called “wearing down”. No, this doesn’t mean playing with baby until he’s so exhausted that he falls asleep on the floor! The idea is for you place your baby in a sling or carrier – “wear him”, basically – and go about your regular household activities in the lead up to bedtime. This is particularly helpful if baby has been very active and is either too excited to sleep or overtired. Moving about with you helps to rock and soothe baby, and so calm him down in preparation for bedtime.
A more modern option is “driving down”. Most parents have heard of this trick, which basically involves putting your baby in his car seat and driving around for a while until he’s asleep. Unfortunately this is rather inconvenient and uses up petrol, but if you’re desperate, it’s worth a try – it has a very high success rate. When my children were babies, I often used to time driving somewhere or coming home so that it roughly coincided with the start of my baby’s naptime. Then once we were home I’d transfer my baby into his bassinet or crib, and he’d have a lovely long nap. I’ve been known to take the long route home for just this reason!
Although these techniques are generally successful, obviously you don’t want to be obliged to drive around with your baby every night just so he’ll go to sleep. The idea of these techniques is to start out with these more drastic techniques, to help baby learn the feel of going off to sleep, then gradually ease out of them. Replace driving in a car, for example, with being rocked in the bassinet. Always remember that learning to transition into sleep is a big thing for your baby to learn, and it probably won’t happen overnight. With patience and persistence, however, baby will gradually learn how to fall asleep by himself, helping both baby and yourself get a good night’s sleep.