Search Knowledge Base

Gentle Sleep Solutions for Baby

Back

SLEEP... it's always a hot topic amongst parents so we asked Baby Sleep Consultant Founder and baby sleep expert Emma Purdue to 'pull back the curtains' and share her tips on 'gentle sleep solutions'.

Gentle sleep solutions for babies under 12 months

Sleep is a biological necessity for our babies, just as fundamental as food, love and water. But despite being a necessity, our babies sure do fight us when it comes to falling asleep, and staying asleep. If you’ve ever stayed up into the wee hours of the morning trying to get your baby to finally nod off, you’ll understand what I mean.

I remember wondering how something as simple as sleep could be so difficult for my baby to achieve. She was fed, changed, burped, swaddled, and warm. But not for love or money could I get her to fall asleep.

So we sat up, and I waited, I held her in my arms and waited, hoping she would fall asleep soon so I could get back to bed and do what came so naturally to me at 3am…. sleep!

I’ve since learnt that while sleep is a necessity our babies need our help to achieve good sleep, and sometimes they even need our help to fall asleep.

Newborns

Babies under 4 months old are neurologically very immature, they don’t possess the skills to naturally drift from being upset to calm and then asleep. If your baby is upset at bedtime, or struggling to fall asleep in those early months, try a firm swaddle.

Swaddling is an ancient art, which has transpired through the generations and now we have amazing materials such as merino and new age designs that allow us to swaddle quickly and transfer our babies from their strollers to their cots.

Swaddling helps to trigger your babies calming reflex, this will help you to calm your baby and gently prepare them for sleep.

Once they are swaddled and calm, try rocking, patting, shushing, or pacifiers to help move your newborn from awake to asleep.

Swaddling is not recommended once your baby shows signs they are mastering the skills of rolling over. A swaddle should be firm but not restrictive of airway or hips. An easy trick is to slide 2 fingers between the swaddle and baby to check you don’t have it too firm. Always sleep baby alone on their back with a clear firm safe sleep space.

Remember while sleep is a necessity it's a learnt skill too, so let’s start teaching our newborns the art of falling asleep frequently and without stress.

Young babies

Once we move past the 4 month period, we have finished what we now refer to as the 4th trimester, and our babies are becoming little people... Little smiling, feeding, crying, rolling, pooping people.

Their need for sleep is just a strong, and they might have started to show you some signs they are getting ready to settle themselves to sleep. Especially if you have stuck with the same sleep routine before each nap and bedtime for the last 4 months. This repetition is a powerful settling tool, and leaves our babies feeling content and confident as they know what to expect in your sleep routine.

Now is the age to move from the swaddle to the sleeping bag.

This will ensure that your baby has their hands free if they want to suck their thumb or finger, or hold a cuddly or lovie while they fall asleep. It also allows them the freedom and safety to roll over once they learn.

Not only do sleeping bags provide warmth during sleep no matter which position your child ends up in, they act as another powerful reminder to your baby that it’s sleep time, no matter where they are taking their nap. Pram, home, day care, your Mums house - the sleeping bag means sleep time.

At this age, if you are struggling to settle your baby, try a pick up, followed by what I call a “slow boring cuddle”. The idea of the slow boring cuddle, is not to overwhelm or create stress. You have nowhere to be right now, you are happy to hold baby as long as you need while they calm down and prepare to sleep.

Your cuddle is boring because you’re not panicking and pacing the house, switching holds every 3 seconds. This calmness breeds sleep, whereas panic and manic “settling” produces confusion, stimulation and no sleep!

Wait them out while you cuddle, give them a back rub or pat. Shush them, or sing a quiet song, and know that they are in your arms, their favourite place! At some point they will give way to that wave of tiredness building. At this point, you’ll feel their breathing change and their bodies melt a little into yours. This is the point where I would pop them down for their sleep, and they move effortlessly from calm and ready to sleep, to asleep in their cots. If they get upset, pick them up again, and give them a bit longer this time.

Older babies

As our babies get close to 12 months, they start to fly through the physical developmental leaps. Crawling, standing, walking, these milestones are exciting, and provide hours of entertainment. What isn’t entertaining, is the lack of sleep that follows as your baby prefers to do these new physical activities in their cot, and not sleep.

But don’t panic! Your baby will eventually go back to sleep, I promise!

If your baby has woken mid nap or in the middle of the night, rolling or standing…. not sleeping, your likely feeling a bit stressed out, and might be inclined to try a dozen different approaches in a dozen minutes to try and get back to bed asap.

This chopping and changing usually results in more tears and even more stress for the pair of you. Instead, if your baby is standing, lie him down. If he is up on all 4’s crawling round in circles, lie him down. Lie him down as many times as he needs to understand this is sleep time, not crawl around the cot time. If he gets upset, bring in your slow boring cuddle, and keep calm.

Don’t try to hold him down, just lie him down as many times as needed, and offer the slow boring cuddle as much as needed.

Keep your babies sleeping bag on, as it will ensure that whatever position he does end up falling asleep in, he isn’t cold. It will even help discourage the standing and walking in the cot by making it a little harder!

Remember, sleep is a biological necessity, but it’s also a learnt skill, so it's our job to be there and help our babies on their journey of learning to fall asleep and take naps.

Hopefully these gentle tips have given you some ideas to work on. If you need any more help with your babies sleep book a call with one of our certified sleep consultants.

How to transfer from cot to bed

The transfer from cot to bed is an exciting one. You’ve probably spent a fair few hours on Pinterest looking at big beds, and modern bedroom designs getting ready for the transition.

But what about the practical move from the cot to the bed? There are usually two reasons people make the transfer from cot to bed.

  1. There is a new baby on the way, so the cot is needed for the new baby.
  2. The toddler is out growing their cot and are ready for the big bed.

The key to both situations is preparation, age and consistency.

Preparing your toddler for the transition will help them to understand what is about to happen, and what you expect of them. Prepare them for any boundaries you might have, such as whether you are ok with them getting up in the morning, or if you want them to wait until their sun clock is awake.

You can even prepare them with some role play which is super powerful for toddlers!

Age is important because toddlers don’t have a lot of impulse control before the age of 3 years. This can mean for a lot of toddlers whether their new sibling has arrived or not, they will likely get out of bed a lot if they are much under 3 and have little impulse control. Knowing this, if it is safe to do so, try to keep your toddler in their cot until they are closer to 3 years.

The Merino Kids sleeping bags are beautifully sized and will easily still fit your toddler in their cot at this age.

  • Don’t rush the transition.
  • Consistency is our final point to consider.

As with all things toddler related, toddlers thrive on consistency, and drown with inconsistency. When your expectations and boundaries change daily your toddler cannot keep up, you’ll be frustrated and likely not as happy with your parenting as if you were being consistent.

Have a chat with your partner about what you both expect when it comes to your toddler’s behaviour with moving to the big bed, and then from that minute on, be 99% consistent and reap the rewards!

  • If you don’t accept night visitors, carry your toddler straight back to bed! Always!
  • If you don’t want to sleep with your toddler, when they get sick use a blow up mattress and sleep on their floor, don’t climb into their bed.
  • If you don’t accept early wake ups, get a sleep trainer clock.

When looking at keeping things consistent, is there anything you can keep consistent, despite the new bed?

  • Same bed time routine?
  • Same blanky or soft toy at bed time?
  • Same sleeping bag going from cot - bed? (You don’t have to use sheets and duvets straight away, and lots of 3 year olds are still very wriggly and lose their blankets at night!).

Only you know what works for your family, and what your own limitations are, so set your boundaries, and follow through as a couple.

Have fun with the move to the big bed, it is an exciting transition which can be seamless with a little preparation.

Emma Purdue

Mum and Founder of Baby Sleep Consultants

Need some assistance? Please don't hesitate to contact us for any questions or queries that you may have.

Live Chat

NZ: 0800 12 46 46