Ten gentle tips to encourage brilliant baby sleep

Baby Sleeping

Here's Eleanor with ten gentle tips for a bedtime routine, and ways to encourage good baby sleep.

Our daughter was seven months old yesterday. She’s ace.

The weeks have rolled by so very quickly, and our little baby’s sleep patterns and preferences have changed often. Every time, we’ve just gone with the flow, tried things we had a gut feel might work, and ridden it out. As every parent will confirm, everything with babies is a phase. It might just be quite a long phase!

I would also like to tell you that at seven months, our baby does not sleep through the night. But she nearly does

Here’s My Ten Tips For Encouraging Sleep:

They worked for us, so I hope they are helpful.

- We started a bedtime routine at 7 weeks. It’s never changed from that day. Ours involves an episode of Baby Jake from CBeebies (at 12 mins long, it is the perfect length for you to scurry around getting bedtime accoutrements ready), a quiet bath, into the bedclothes, and lights off. It’s given her plenty of cues to take when it comes to sleeping time.

- When we started our bedtime routine, we also started putting her to sleep in her moses basket in our room, instead of the living room. This helped a lot. No more flickering TV and parental shuffling helped her settle herself much quicker. It also gave us some limited experience of separation from her, which has definitely helped now she’s in her own room.

- On that subject, I suggest going with your gut when it comes to moving your baby to their own room. We did it when it became obvious that we were the barrier to her peaceful sleep, not the other way round. There’s only so much stumbling about in the dark , trying to find the bottle lid you can do before you disturb the baby!

- We implemented the ‘dream feed’ at about 12 weeks. Bottle or breast (but latterly bottle which she found more soothing), at 10.30pm one of us would creep in, scoop her up and feed her as she slept. It really started to take effect, and quickly she began sleeping in a good chunk.

- When I do night feeds, I have always taken her into another room. Not because my heavy sleeping husband needed me to, but because I found being on a chair with very low lighting and a peaceful atmosphere much more conducive to a good breastfeed. The early weeks were tough for me, with oversupply issues and a windy refluxy baby, and this nocturnal cocoon like room helped us both chill out. I began to enjoy the intense bonding time. I almost miss night feeds now!

- When it comes to soothing your crying or active baby to sleep, you think you know all the tricks. But Dads and other helpers must be allowed to develop their own. Try as you might to stutter “no, what you need to do is” or “you’ll never get her to sleep if you”, do try and let them develop their own magical powers. Our baby loves our ways equally, and although I wasn’t very good at this at first, do try and let your partner give it a go and get the emotional satisfaction of being able to get your baby to sleep too.

- As our daughter hit 5 months or so, the importance of daytime naps to help regulate night-time sleep became really obvious. This point is tricky, it’s taken me till last week to be able to get her to sleep in her cot during the day. But, don’t think you are alone if your baby is a pushchair only sleeper during the day. Once you have a baby you will notice new things – one of the most startling is the legions of women pounding the parks and pavements mid-morning and early afternoon, trundling with purpose.

- If you’re lucky enough to have a car, and double lucky enough to have a baby that likes sleeping in the car, I would suggest using it sparingly – don’t make your baby rely on it for sleep. We’ve resorted to taking her out at 3am once only. However, daytime is a whole new ballgame. Again, go to any supermarket car park just after lunch and walk round. Buy yourself an imaginary glass of wine for every woman you count sitting in her car, engine running, playing with her phone. If you spot one sleeping, mouth open, snoring away, it could be me.

- Lots of parents of kids of every age have a routine. Too often when socializing as a family or solo with baby on my weekday activities, I agree to do something at a time or place which will bugger up my own baby’s routine just to make the location or timings more convenient for others. Learn to say no. Or no, but perhaps we could do this instead. Sometimes, a week’s worth of staying in at lunchtime and practicing cot napping pays more dividends than seeing that mate whose baby is always asleep upstairs for the whole time you’re at hers for lunch!

- On that note, my last tip is to block and tackle when it comes to other mothers. Not physically of course, but emotionally, nothing is more stressful and frankly irritating than the tactless waffle of some new parents. I have been at a group where one such mum’s “well I feel fantastic! Baby X sleeps for 13 hours at a time” boast reduced another mum to tears of frustration instantly. These are the sorts of boasts you need to block, because when tackled on the detail, it turned out the baby in question actually woke for a dream feed at 11. That’s not sleeping through the night. If you have a good sleeper, and at 7 months not many of us do, try not to brag about it. Instead, just tell us how you did it!

Eleanor is a 37 year old PR director and new mum to her baby, born in the spring of 2013. They live in Bristol, along with her husband and dog.

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