Practical advice for new parents

10 Tips for getting your baby to sleep

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Every new parent knows the trials and tribulations that come with having to adjust to 'baby time'. Meaningful sleep is often measured in minutes rather than hours, and you witness, first-hand, hours of the night you haven't seen since you were footloose and carefree (which, if you're reading this, was probably a lifetime ago).

When it comes to getting your baby to go to sleep you're not going to win the battle every night, but here are some tips to hopefully help you win your fair share:

Set the mood

Even adults can find it difficult to sleep in an environment that's not conducive to relaxing and sleeping, and it's no different for a baby. Make sure the baby is sleeping in a calm, quiet, soothing environment. Pay attention to things like the temperature (both the room and the sheets in the bed), lighting, the clothes your baby wears, clean diapers etc., and eliminate any other distractions that might keep the baby awake.

Learn to control background noise

This is not just relating to the place where the baby will actually sleep, but in the place where the baby will make the transition from being awake to sleeping. So if your baby needs cradling and rocking to sleep, make sure that you do it in an environment that is quiet and peaceful with as few distractions as possible. Ensure that everyone in the house knows the rules (quiet at all times) when it's time for baby to go to sleep and try to foresee any sudden noises that might startle your baby (TV advertisements that are louder than normal programs or telephone ring volume, for examples).

Set the time

As hard as it might be, particularly in these busy times for parents, try to get into the routine of putting your baby to sleep at the same time each evening. It doesn't have to be exact, but make any variations a relatively short window of time, say give or take half an hour. This also goes for waking times and nap times during the day. Of course, it's impossible to force sleep on to a baby (or anyone) when they're not sleepy, and our busy schedules don't always accommodate such plans but, where possible, try to stick to set times of the day and night for naps, sleeping and waking.

Have a cooling down period

Chances are you'll want to spend as much time playing with, and entertaining your baby right up until he/she goes to bed at night. This can particularly be the case with fathers if they have to work and only have a few hours with the baby each evening. However much you want to cram as much into the day with your baby as possible, give the infant some 'downtime' just prior to bedtime each night. Try not to stimulate or excite the baby for, say, a half hour before bedtime to give the infant the chance to wind down and let his/her mind relax a little.

Have patience - change your own pace and expectations

Quite often it's not the baby that's taking too long to go to sleep, but rather the parent wanting it to happen sooner rather than later. It's only natural that with so many other demands on our time we want the 'going to sleep' process to happen quickly each evening so we can get on with other things, but some nights it will come quickly, and others it won't. Don't set your expectations such that if it takes a bit longer than usual to get your baby to sleep you end up feeling stressed or even angry. Approach it in the sense that you'll be there for how ever long it takes, and try to treat it as special time with your baby - because you'll never get those hours back again. Ever.