Mummy Confession: I do not cope well with broken sleep. I am probably a grumpier person since having children for this reason.
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My kids have all been horrendous sleepers. My first finally slept through the night at two years old. Yes, you read correctly, two years. Until that point, I was waking somewhere between 2-8 times a night (obviously more often when she was a newbie) and running on a total of around 4 or 5 hours of very broken sleep. By the time she was sleeping through, though, there was another baby, which meant more hours of lost sleep.
With each child, there was always some helpful tool that made it a little easier to get them to sleep. With my first, it was zip up swaddles. The Love to Dream Swaddle and Ergo Cocoon were lifesavers well into the double digit months. It helped to calm her when she was overtired and nothing else was working. My second was a little easier to calm, and usually just needed a pacifier (but the right one took ages to find). My littlest at the moment seems calmed by a series of lullaby like tunes, but very specific ones. He also needs to be held in a very specific way before he will succumb to the land of nod (rocked in my right arm while I hold his hand and elbow still.) Below I list some of the ways I have known to calm babies. They may not work for you or your baby, but anything is worth a shot, right?
Before getting into it though, just a notable thing that these are not a guarantee, but suggestions rather. It is also best if you try these when baby (or toddlers even I’m sure) are showing first signs of tiredness, and not overly tired. It was always harder to calm my baby if he has reached the screaming phase (and it escalates pretty quickly here). I have also listed other resources below for help in settling and sleep which you can also find in the “Pregnancy, Baby and Beyond Resources” Page.
Always use a safe sleeping space for baby which adheres to SIDS safe sleeping guidelines for your baby’s health.
Before you try to get baby to SLEEP, be sure that all of their other needs are met first. Baby won’t calm down well typically if they are hungry, soiled, sick, gassy, constipated or scared. Be sure to take care of “the basics” before trying to calm baby 🙂
Before we start–
Start them early and you may see beautiful habits developing. I know this helps my toddlers, and we even have a routine chart for bedtime on their wall. Establishing a routine helps bubs know when it is time for bed, and they learn fairly early. I’ve created this one for my kids! (Click here to download and print it out)
1. A calming bath
This probably goes hand in hand with a routine. Now, if you baby gets worked up and excited like mine, this may not work. But, typically it seems to soothe babes to have a nice bath and settle down for the night. (And no running around like a headless chook afterwards also helps!)
This can also help with tummy issues, gassy babies and constipation. A nice baby massage after bath time can be beneficial, too!
2. Special smells
Sounds a bit weird, but baby has spent so much time inside, the comforting smells of mum, dad and carers can help soothe baby to sleep. Many times, I have seen parents recommend putting something that smells like mum with baby to sleep. This is a super tip HOWEVER it is against SIDS guidelines and can be a risk for suffocation. There IS a SUPER product that has just come onto the market (2019) called DreamScent Sheets. You put an item of carer scented clothing under the special sheets (following all instructions), and bubs can snuggle with the smell safely nearby. This period of time when bubs has been born is often called The Fourth Trimester. Read about it here.
3. Sleep Swaddles, Sacks, Sleeping Bags and Sleep Suits
It can be a simple muslin wrap, or a one step Velcro or zip up swaddle assistant, but some babies respond better to different ways with these. In the very early days it was the best way to calm that pesky startle reflex that jolted Baby awake at every noise. Some babies prefer to swaddle arms up, and others with arms to their sides.
In the same category are sleeping bags/sacks/wearable blankets/sleep suits. These either have no sleeve or long sleeves and come in a variety of thicknesses. I have found these can run pricey, so if you aren’t keen to spend a ton, check out your local Buy/Sell Facebook Pages! For my overview of swaddles, check out this post. If you’re after a list of swaddles, sleep sacks and sleep suits, check out my comprehensive list here.
4. White Noise or Music…and “shushing”
Believe it or not, there’s an app for that! I am currently utilising my Apple Music free trial to find my babe’s favourite hits. Soft lullaby songs and nature noises seem to be his favourites so far. It even puts my husband to sleep! You can easily find music on Apple Music or YouTube, and once you pinpoint favourites, download a playlist for your convenience. My other less technological ways for accomplishing this include a hairdryer or the oven fan. Apparently the noise is soothing to my baby. And Apple Music has albums with some of these noises, too!
5. Rocking, Patting, Walking, Bouncing
Any movement seems to help. In addition to these, low light and noise may help, or the white noise/music suggestion above. I usually “shush” while doing this one, because it is when baby is most unsettled that we get to this point.
6. Swings, Bouncers, Rock n’ Plays, Car seats, Strollers
When using any of these, please follow the safety instructions and don’t leave the little one alone. I understand these may be the only way babies will sleep at some point, and I was one of them apparently. My parents’ only hope was a swing for my sleep. At the worst points for us, a car trip at 3AM was our last shot. Thank goodness for modern technology!
There is even a piece of technology that helps mums not have to drive the pram around called the Pramrolla! We’ve talked about it in our innovative baby products post here!
Now, before you completely dismiss this, note that there are several methods of Baby wearing. While ring slings and wraps tend to be a bit more complex, they seem to do a great deal for helping comfort a needy baby. If those are just too much for you, try out a soft structured carrier. There are several options for any carrier, and many mothers groups have mums who are near experts at babywearing. This is a great way to get things done while baby sleeps, or to simply have your hands free. The Baby Bjorn Carrier One Outdoors works a treat (and you can check out my thorough overview of it here).
One other idea I read about when first becoming a mum was about the 5 S’s . Check out this school of thought when you may even need some other methods for soothing a sleepy baby!
Notable mentions would also be essential oils and other natural methods, but I cannot give testament to these, because I have never tried them before. Definitely worth looking into! (BUT always make sure you are getting professional advice with these methods as improper use can be harmful, just like anything else)
I hope these suggestions help out in some way! How does your baby prefer to be put to sleep? Do they have a unique way for you to help them sleep?
Need help putting baby down after he has fallen asleep? Check out here for other tips and tricks when it comes to helping baby stay asleep
…and after you get them to sleep, decide what you do with that Window! Here are some suggestions!
Resources for Aussie Mums:
1300 227 434 : Karitane Sleep and Settling Help – Hours vary for phone line. Help on sleep settling for babies.
1300 272 736 : Tresillian Sleep and Settling Help – 7am-11pm Phone line for help on sleep and Settling for babies.