One the first things that baby needs to learn is the difference between night and day. Another is when it is time to sleep. There are signals you can give to help baby:
- During the day make feed times lively and talkative – during the night, keep everything dark, quiet and still.
- For daytime naps (a young baby needs one about 2 hours after last waking) put baby in the same place as for night sleeps, and follow a routine of closing curtains, and perhaps reading a story or singing softly.
Whenever it is time for sleep make sure that baby feels comfortable and secure:
- Check the room temperature, and that baby is neither too hot nor too cold. Feel baby’s chest or the back of the head (hands are not a good indicator) – if baby’s body feels hot and sticky, or feels cold, add or remove covers.
- A ‘security’ blanket or toy will comfort baby if he or she wakes – especially if it smells of you, so keep it close to yourself beforehand to give it your scent.
- If the house is too quiet, baby may find this disturbing. Familiar quiet sounds (‘white noise’ from a washing machine, voices in another room) can be reassuring.
- Don’t be tempted to let baby miss a daytime sleep, hoping for a good night – an overtired baby does not sleep well.
- Give baby a brief, happy bath-time that is calming, not stimulating.
- Have nappy, fresh nightclothes and the ‘security’ blanket ready.
- Tuck baby into bed and share a storybook or one or two ‘lullaby’ songs.
- A gentle kiss, tell baby it is time to sleep now, then leave the room at once.
It is important that baby learns to fall asleep by her or himself:
- When he or she seems sleepy but is still awake, put baby into the cot.
After the age of about 4 or 5 months it is alright to let your baby cry him- or herself to sleep, as long as you are sure baby is comfortable:
- Put baby down as usual, pat her or him gently, talk reassuringly for a moment, and say it is time for sleep.
- Leave the room, but wait nearby for 2 to 3 minutes.
- If baby does not settle, go back in, pat and talk as before, and leave again.
- Repeat this – staying out of the room for longer each time – until baby falls asleep.
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