“I’m exhausted. Why won’t my baby sleep?” “My baby was sleeping like a dream, but now he’s waking every half an hour. Where did I go wrong?” “How can I help my baby self-settle?”
Babies are able to soothe themselves to sleep from around the age of three months to six months. Of course, just because they can, doesn’t mean they will!
There’s no denying, it can be overwhelming (and extremely tiring for everyone in the household) when baby won’t settle and struggles with sleep. If only the clever folk would create a magical sleep fairy wand! But until then, here are some tips on helping baby to self-settle and creating a positive sleep routine.
The Importance of Bedtime Routine
Routine is a really effective way of helping your baby to self-settle. Just as you might have a pre-bedtime ritual that involves a warm drink, listening to music, watching television or taking a warm bath or shower, babies benefit from a nighttime routine too.
For baby’s bedtime routine, focus on creating a calming and relaxing environment. By doing this, you can make falling asleep come more naturally to your baby. And, by sticking to a regular regimen, your baby will learn to recognise when it’s time for sleep and should start to self settle more easily.
A bedtime routine might look like this:
- Cuddle or lullaby (or both)
- An extra cuddle and kiss
- Time for bed
Raising Children suggests putting the baby in the cot while they’re drowsy, but still awake. This will help stop the baby from suddenly waking up, realising you’re not there and cracking it!
If you’ve got into the routine of feeding (breast or bottle) baby before bed, you can still do this but maybe do it at the start of the bedtime routine, rather than at the end. This can help assist baby to self-settle, rather than relying on the comfort of your boob or the bottle.
Of course, there are sure to be times when baby won’t self settle. It might be that they’ve had a particularly busy day and are over-stimulated or are just too tired.
If you know your baby has had a big day, it might help them to self settle if you bring their bedtime forward.
Positive Sleep Association to Assist Self-Settling
Positive sleep association refers to what your baby feels he or she needs to fall asleep. So if you breast or bottle-feed your child to sleep, when they wake it’s likely they will need your breast or the bottle to help them fall back to sleep.
However, by introducing positive sleep associations – such as those listed below – you can help your child self settle without needing you. This is joy when they wake in the middle of the night!
Useful positive sleep associations include:
- White noise
- Soothing ‘sleep music’
- A consistent daytime nap ritual (such as a story or song)
- A consistent bedtime ritual (such as the steps mentioned above)
- Comfort blanket
While patting or rubbing baby’s tummy, giving a dummy, humming, shushing or holding baby are also considered positive sleep associations, they all involve you.
The problem is that if baby wakes, they’ll call (read: cry/scream) for you to help them to settle again. So try to use the positive sleep association listed above that don’t involve you.
How Can Swaddling Help to Settle Baby?
In the early days after birth, babies have a startle reflex. This involuntary reaction causes them to throw their arms into the air, often causing them to wake up.
By swaddling a newborn baby, you’re mimicking the confined feeling of being in the womb, helping soothe and settle baby to sleep.
Of course, there are many other benefits to swaddling a newborn including:
- Controls the Moro reflex for a longer sleep session
- Keeps baby warm while their body learns to regulate their body temperature
- Simulates the feeling of being cuddled – so you don’t have to physically cuddle the baby all night long! It’s nice for Mum to get some sleep too!
- Can assist baby in focusing on early-stage breastfeeding by minimising distractions of arms and legs
- Prevents baby from scratching themselves with their fingernails
- It acts as a positive sleep association
How to Safely Swaddle Baby
It’s well-known amongst mums that swaddling can comfort a fussy baby and help baby to self-settle.
That said, it’s important to know the ‘right way’ to wrap up your baby. Sorry, the burrito-style (super tight) is out as that can risk damaging hips. However, you can still help your baby feel comfortable and cosy, without running the risk of developing a physical injury.
You see, swaddling itself isn’t the culprit behind hip dysplasia. It’s the tightness of the technique that causes problems. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute suggests wrapping up your baby loosely enough so that their legs can move and bend up. Doing so provides your baby with the ability to move their legs at will. This allows for proper leg and hip development.
Healthy Hips Australia also recommends positioning baby in a frog position – with the hips bent and the knees apart.
WATCH: the video below from The International Hip Dysplasia Institute shows how to safely swaddle your baby.
If you’ve already got your swaddle method sorted (i.e, the wrap and tuck technique), continue on – just make sure to loosen the bottom part of the blanket enough so that your baby has plenty of room. Watch your baby after swaddling to make sure they can actually move their legs. This may help you to tell if their hips have enough room. If the baby’s keeping its legs stick straight, loosen the wrap a bit more.
To help make things easier, ergoPouch has an awesome range of swaddles that are soft, stretchy, safe and super easy to master!
But What About When Baby Starts to Roll?
When a baby starts to roll, it can be harder to settle them (and keep them asleep!). After all, they’ve got the ability to move, move, move and many babies love to practice this new skill at night.
As soon as your little one can roll, it’s no longer safe to swaddle. A baby that rolls onto their tummy in the cot needs their arms to help lift and position their head sideways for unobstructed breathing.
One option mums have is to use a transition aid, such as the ergoPouch Butterfly Cardi, which helps a baby transition from being swaddled with arms-in, to arms-out sleeping in three simple steps. This is a great little bedtime aid for mums who are looking to safely transition bub out of a swaddle.
How it works:
Step One (Day 1-3): Dress your baby in the Butterfly Cardi over their sleeping bag or Cocoon Swaddle Bag with their arms contained within the fold-over arm pockets for all their sleeps (day & night). Use the press studs to adjust the firmness of the Cardi around the torso. If your baby has a strong startle reflex, start with a tight fit. If your baby has a low startle reflex, you can start with the looser fit.
Step Two (DAY 4-7): Take one arm out of the fold-over pocket for all their sleeps.
Step Three (DAY 8-10): Take their remaining arm out of the pocket for all their sleeps. On the final day, remove the Cardi altogether. Your baby is now sleeping, arms-out. Hooray!
This handy bedtime Cardi is for babies 2-6 months and is cute and cozy to boot. It’s great for both summer and winter, made with organic cotton and super stretchy for an adjustable fit.
Plus, if you buy any ergoPouch product online now, 10% of the proceeds will go to Red Nose. Hurry though, as the Red Nose Campaign only runs until 31st August 2019.
This is a sponsored post for ergoPouch
What to Read Next
Looking for more advice on settling your baby or getting your kids to sleep?
- 17 Tricks to Try When Your Baby Won’t Settle
- 8 Smart Bedtime Products That Promise to Put Your Kids to Sleep
- Baby Sleep Routine at 3, 6 and 12Months
- Easy Bedtime Routines for Kids of All Ages
- Safe Sleeping: The Fact on SIDS