Settling and sleep are words that new mums can become obsessed with. The Neonatal Unit at the Royal Brisbane Hospital has this advice:
Babies often need to help to learn good sleep habits. It is not necessarily something they will do naturally but once they’ve been taught they will be able to fall asleep on their own and resettle themselves when they wake prematurely or between sleep cycles. They may even be able to sleep for longer periods, both day and night.
A good sleep routine helps your baby maintain good health, growth and development. It protects their immune system which reduces the chance of them becoming sick and it also makes them more settled, happier and easier to manage during the day.
There are two states of sleep: 1) R.E.M (rapid eye movement) sleep or ‘light sleep and 2) non R.E.M sleep or ‘deep sleep’.
A sleep cycle includes time spent going through both light and deep sleep. Typically, adult cycles last 90 minutes, young babies last 20 to 40 minutes and older babies and children last 60 minutes. Brief awakenings occur between these cycles so it’s important that babies learn how to resettle themselves back to sleep.
If your baby is only sleeping 20 to 40 minutes during the day it will usually cause them to become irritable and unhappy. You can improve your baby’s sleeping habits by:
- Avoiding over-heating them – reduce clothing if necessary and avoid restrictive wrapping methods
- Avoiding over stimulating them before sleep time.
- Preventing over-tiredness. Up to 3 months of age the average awake time is during feeding is 60-90 minutes. This lengthens as they grow older. Infants can sleep up to 17 hours a day.
It’s important to recognise your baby’s signs of tiredness and to immediately start preparing them for bed. Typical signs of tiredness include: yawning and rubbing eyes, heavy eyelids or staring, grizzling or crying, sucking, jerky movements, clenched fists or grimacing and frowning. As soon as you observe any of these signs begin your sleep routine – check their nappy, lay them in bed on their back with their feet touching the end of the cot, cover with their sheets with their hands out and then leave them on their own so they have a chance to settle on their own. Most babies will take a little time to settle.
If your baby is still crying after 2 to 3 minutes try the following:
- Comfort them by giving a gentle pat, rock or stroke while still in their cot.
- Only pat or rock them until they’re quiet and THEN STOP. Continue again if they cry but stop as soon as they calm down. This process allows your baby to go to sleep on their own but you are assisting them by helping them to relax and allowing sleep to come.
- When settling or re-settling your baby, avoid eye contact with them and stand out of their line of vision.
- Offer a dummy if used
- Comfort them until they’re quiet and then leave the room for 3 to 5 mins
- This process may need to be repeated a few times before your baby settles.
- Try to remain consistent – if your baby is still not settled after 10-15 minutes, pick them up to calm them down and then reposition in their cot and repeat the settling routine.
- If they wake up before 2 hours resettle again.