You know what time you should get to bed to function the next morning. You also know that staying up late as opposed to waking up early is probably not very productive. Sadly, babies aren’t born with such pearls of wisdom—they need to be taught how to distinguish night from day, and what each means for wakefulness and sleep.
According to baby-sleep expert Mandy Gurney, founder of Millpond Sleep Clinic, broken nights aren’t a permanent parental sentence; newborns do need to wake frequently in the wee hours to feed, but, eventually, their snatches of sleep will consolidate into longer stretches. To help this along, you need to train their little body clocks.
“Spend plenty of time interacting with and stimulating your baby during the day,” advises Mandy. “And, to help set up [their] body clock, take your baby outside for fresh air and daylight every day.”
Mandy asserts that if you keep to these simple tenets, your baby could be clocking up around 10 hours of sleep at night, by three months.
If the weather is less than favourable, at least open the windows to let in natural light and fresh air.
Also, don’t tiptoe around during daytime naps, but keep things quieter for nighttime. Babies will learn to associate activity with the daylight hours, and soothing rest with evening.
If your baby’s sleep space is pierced by light at night, perhaps by street lights, think about putting up blackout blinds.
And when your baby wakes for night feeds, cuddle plenty, but avoid stimulating interaction. Keep things low-key (aka boring!).
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of routine. Cue your little one for sleep with the same series of rituals every evening.
“A bedtime routine should start with a short, warm bath, which will help stimulate the sleep hormone melatonin,” explains Mandy. “After the bath, wrap your baby in a towel and take them straight to the bedroom, where the lights should be dimmed. Dress him for ‘bed’ with minimal stimulation. Although your baby won’t appreciate the difference between night-wear and day-wear, he will understand the routine of being put into fresh clothes before bed. Stick to the same routine every night and you’ll help your baby understand that a bath and being quietly dressed means it’s nearly time for night-time sleep.”