It’s developmentally normal for babies to wake during the night for countless reasons. Whether it’s because they’re hungry, hot, cold, lonely, thirsty, have a nappy that needs changing, they’re teething, unwell, going through a leap, a growth spurt, sleep regression, or they just haven’t seen you enough that day.
However, there are several intuitive and gentle ways that you can encourage better sleep for your baby.
Here are our 6 tips to holistically optimise your baby’s sleep:
1. Respect your baby’s individual sleep needs
- Your baby is a unique individual, so don’t compare them to other babies or follow sleep schedules in parenting books as gospel. Every baby has different sleep needs, which are constantly changing as they grow.
- Let your baby guide you. Watch for tired signs, and act on them immediately. A baby can easily become overstimulated and overtired, which can make them difficult to settle (as you’ve most likely already discovered), and can cause more night waking.
2. Ensure that your baby’s tummy is comfortable
- If your baby has started solids, check to see if there are any links between something they’ve eaten and more frequent night wakings. Some foods may cause excess wind or constipation. If you suspect that certain foods are causing discomfort, keep a food diary for two weeks, or speak to your maternal and child health nurse for further advice.
- For the babies over six months and on solids, giving your baby protein foods that contain tryptophan can be beneficial. Tryptophan can be found in foods such as dairy products, eggs, poultry, chickpeas, and fish. It’s needed to make serotonin, which then produces melatonin – the hormone that controls sleep and wake cycles. Read more about it here and how it can make your baby sleep better.
- For breastfeeding mums, look at your own diet to see if anything could be affecting your baby’s sleep, such as caffeine late in the day.
3. Get that little body moving
- Babies of all ages need physical activity and play time every day. That can be tummy time, play time on a mat, bath time, and opportunities for independent play. It will not only wear them out, but will support their healthy development. It also gives them the chance to master new skills like rolling, grasping, sitting, and crawling (which they’ll otherwise practice in bed instead of sleeping!).
- Don’t forget to try to get outdoors every day. The stimulation tires them out, but the sunshine and fresh air has the added bonus of increasing melatonin production.
4. Fill up your baby’s love cup
- A baby who feels loved is calmer, sleeps better (if they haven’t had quality time with you during the day, they just might request it during the night. Sound familiar?), and is more easy going. They crave and need physical touch, so this should be a big part of your special moments of connection. After all, who doesn’t love baby snuggles!
- Read here to discover why it’s important and for some ideas on how to fill your baby’s love cup.
5. Create a positive sleep environment
- Having a positive sleep environment really is the foundation of encouraging healthy sleep habits and by having certain conditions that help your baby feel comfortable, safe and secure, you can help them to be more predisposed to sleep, which will have a positive effect on both daytime naps and bedtime sleep.
- Read here about setting the scene for sweet dreams, from preparing the space and soothing sounds, to swaddling and baby comfort.
6. Develop a calming bedtime routine
- A bedtime routine is key to promoting to optimising your baby’s sleep. It gives your baby all the cues to signal that it’s sleepy time. If you can mostly stick to a consistent ritual, your baby will learn what’s expected each night and for naps.
- A bedtime routine is different for every family. You might like to start with a relaxing bath for your baby, followed by a milk feed, a bedtime story (learn about the importance of reading to your baby here), and a snuggle.