If you’re the mum to a baby who won’t sleep, we know exactly how you feel! The good news is that Chantal Cohen, certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant, has some expert advice for you.
If your baby won’t sleep, here’s five simple things to check that could be the ‘eureka’ moment you’ve been searching for.
Are you an overtired, overwhelmed parent struggling to get your infant to sleep? Firstly, you are absolutely not alone…
Sleep can be tricky business, but take heart, there are some helpful tips which can rapidly improve your little one’s sleep habits.
1) Remove the Stimulation & Look for the Tired Signs
Whilst I am a big believer in following a fluid routine, I do know that when you are trying to get your little one into a sleep pattern it is important to watch both the clock as well as watching for tired cues. Cues can include pulling of ears, rubbing eyes, losing interest in toys and crying. Some infants don’t show any of these signs so you will need to look carefully, watching for repeated behaviours and make a note so that you and any other caregiver can be aware. The moment tired signs are established it is important to remove your baby from a stimulating environment and place them into their calm bedroom, ready for their wind down routine to sleep. Be sure not to miss the tired cues as you will miss the sleep window and have an over-tired baby on your hands.
2) Don’t over cook them – or freeze them!
Make sure your baby is dressed appropriately for the temperature at sleep times. The ideal temperature range for a sleep environment is between 19-22 degrees. In hot weather, babies can be genuinely uncomfortable. Try to air the bedroom for at least an hour before bedtime as the temperature drops. If you have air conditioning set it to about 21 degrees but try not to leave it on all night, as fresh air is preferable if possible.
A fan can be great to keep the room cool if you don’t have air conditioning, but do not face it directly on the baby. When the temps are high a nappy and a light cotton sleep suit would be the best choice of clothing for your baby, or if they are wrapped, a nappy and little cotton muslin wrap.
Overdressing your baby in warm temperatures can be a high risk for SIDS, so invest in a thermometer and be mindful when choosing sleep time attire.
3) Could they be waking because they are hungry? Full tummies sleep better & longer! Don’t let snacks ruin bedtime!
To ensure that your infant is getting optimum sleep at night, if they are on solids make sure you are not feeding them snack foods late in the afternoon. Instead, consider moving their dinner time a little earlier by fifteen to twenty minutes if they are showing signs of being really hungry. Ensure that they are being fed a hot meal with vegetables, protein and some carbohydrates. These foods combined will ensure your baby is satisfied and full and able to settle and hopefully stay asleep for longer!
4) Make sure their room is a calm, restful environment
Babies can be overstimulated by bright contrasting colours, especially red and black. I recently had a client who had an amazing wall decal in the baby’s room and it was keeping the baby awake as she could see it clearly from where her cot was. That sadly had to come down but her sleep did improve dramatically. Another factor that could be keeping your baby up is the little red light on your baby monitor or fan. Baby’s are genuinely fascinated with such things and these too can overstimulate and distract babies from sleep. Look out for these hidden menaces and remove them as much as possible!
5) Move the monitor away from the cot
Some research has shown that baby monitors can emit microwave waves, and as their channel switches during the night this may also affect how an infant sleeps. Whilst there is not a conclusive study on this to date as a sleep consultant I would always say with it comes to our little people (and trying to get a good nights sleep!) err on the side of caution. Place a wired monitor across the room from the baby, and if you have a video monitor, place it high above the cot, mounted onto the wall or on a shelf. There’s no harm in trying!
6) Be consistent in your approach if baby won’t sleep
Last but not least, having a consistent sleep routine genuinely works wonders. Closing the blinds, putting on a fan (or white noise), changing a nappy and placing in a sleep bag, all the while talking in a hushed voice with a dim light on, will remind your baby that it is time to sleep now. Always try to put your baby down drowsy but awake. The repeated cues of preparation before bed tell your baby what is expected of her well before she is placed in the cot.
Sleep is truly the holy grail of parenthood. If you’ve a little one who’s struggling to find themselves a good nights sleep check off the list tonight! Anything is worth a try when you’re tired and baby won’t sleep.
About the author: Chantal Cohen is a certified sleep consultant and owner of nanny agency ‘Chantal the Nanny‘. As a mother of three small girls and wife to Jeremy, when she’s not baby whispering or singing Wiggles tunes you’ll find her drinking tea and reading on her back verandah. Chantal has over 18 years experience helping new mothers to find their confidence, small children to tie their shoes and encouraging tiny wriggly babies to go to sleep!