No matter whether you're a new parent or on child number 5, there's one thing all parents have in common and that is wanting to ensure a good night's sleep!
Here at The Postnatal Doula this is something I am often asked to help with; my clients are sometimes surprised at the difference the small changes I suggest make to both their babies and themselves. So I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the suggestions and tips for making your baby's sleeping environment as good as can be!
In medical terms, the lead up to and routine around your child's betime is called 'sleep hygeine'. For parents, the terminology is probably something more along the lines of "please, please let them sleep tonight!" or "I hope this new technique really works!"
Becoming a new parent is overwhelming for anyone, and the last thing you want to do is add more stress or worry to the situation; but lack of sleep for either you or your infant is exactly the kind of thing that can make matters worse. Sleep deprivation can make the best of us irritable, disoriented, it can affect your mental health and generally leave you feeling discombobulated (I love that word!) So it is important that we minimise the risk of our child not sleeping well the best way we can; to ensure your child's health and wellbeing is cared for, and to ensure that a good night's sleep is also had by the rest of the family!
So, based on the Great Ormonds Street Hospital's recommendation of between 12 - 16 hours sleep for infants upto 12 months old (within a 24 hour period), here are my top tips for ensuring the bedroom is a sleepy, safe environment for your baby.
First things first - daytime stimulation
Making sure your baby gets plenty of stimulation during the day is the best way to help them establish a healthy Circadian Rhythm. Young infants do need several naps during the day, but you can experiment to find a nap 'timetable' that makes your baby tired enough to get to sleep at night, without being overtired.
Ambience - light, noise, temperature
Light - some children may find that a nightlight can help them to feel calm and safe, while others may sleep better in total darkness.
Noise - obviously it's a good idea not to have music or the TV blaring, but also think about warning other children to play quietly. If you're singing a lullaby or reading then use hushed tones, and ensure you don't use any garish toy music to help them settle.
Temperature - it's not just the room temperature you need to keep in mind, you also need to be mindful of the amount of clothing your baby is wearing, as well as their blankets, especially during the Summertime.
But bear in mind - all of the above will depend on the needs of each individual baby (and any other children who might be sharing the room).
Time - it's going to take longer than 5 minutes
Make sure you set aside adequeate time to start the bedtime routine, including bathing, dressing, getting the room ready (see 'ambience' above!) final feed and then soothing your baby to sleep using your preferred method; whether that be reading a book, singing a lullaby or just sitting quietly with them until they fall asleep by themselves. If you do try to rush for any reason, your baby will feel your tension, which in turn may cause them to feel anxious and unsettled, meaning you may have to start all over again - yep, you've just doubled your sleep routine time unnecessarily!
Please be aware; sleep deprivation can be an effect of other underlying issues, such as Sleep Apnoea, so please make sure if you are worried about anything that you speak to your Doctor. And remember - although as a Postnatal Doula I am happy to share any advice that my training and experience as a Mother allows, there is no magic formula as such - just try and see what works best for you and your family.
If you'd like further advice, or you're considering hiring a Postnatal Doula to help you with the next steps in your wonderful journey of parenthood, please do Get In Touch as I'd love to help!