Establishing a sleep routine for your baby

Is your baby a good sleeper? It’s one of the most common questions new parents seem to get asked isn’t it? Are they good for you? This generally means do they sleep well? People are obsessed with the sleep questions, and the amount your child sleeps appears to have a direct correlation with how ‘good’ they are perceived to be.

If you are interested in learning more about what happens when you don’t have children who magically fall asleep at 6.30 pm and stay that way for 12 hours, read on!

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Before I knew…

When I was pregnant with my first child, I’m not sure I gave a great deal of thought or consideration to how my baby might sleep. My dad would enjoy reminding me that I didn’t sleep all the way through the night until I was 3 years old, and joked that it was time for payback.

My brother was a good sleeper, so my parents would enjoy telling anyone who would listen that I wasn’t. They’d often remind me of the lengths they had to go to to get me to sleep, which included driving around with me late at night. Whilst I was at the time, under no illusion about their experience, I had no idea how that would have really felt and the impact that had on my parents at the time – my dad never seemed to forget how bad I actually was at sleeping, he would remind me that fortunately I had other qualities, it just happened that sleeping wasn’t one of them.

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When it hit me

These days, I’m a mum of four and I absolutely understand how it feels to be so sleep deprived you can barely speak, how relentless the nights can seem when small people just won’t go to sleep, and how it feels to go for years without having what you may consider good quality sleep.

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture – fact. When you are a parent of a child who feels sleep is for the weak, you literally feel tortured by your own child. The nights like that can feel so long and so lonely and no one ever tells you these things when you are pregnant.

Every child is different

As a mum of four I can tell you that each of them has been totally different when it comes to sleep. How much they slept, what helped them to get to sleep and stay asleep, when they woke, how they napped and what they liked and didn’t like with regards to sleep aids and so on – all different.

Getting your child to sleep is not a one size fits all approach. What works for one may very well not work for another. Like most aspects of parenting, getting your child to sleep and trying to establish a routine around that is one giant experiment.

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You have to try things out, see if they work, tweak them, scrap them and try something else. It’s a process, and the frustrating part of this can be that one approach is unlikely to work with your child indefinitely. As your children grow and develop, their needs will change, their likes and dislikes will alter and you will have to adapt your parenting of bedtime alongside this.

My youngest child, now 5 was the biggest challenge when it came to sleep, although I wouldn’t describe any of my children as ‘good’ sleepers during those baby and toddler years. All of my children struggled to get to sleep on their own as babies and toddlers – whilst many ‘sleep experts’ will tell you children should be able to do this by quite a young age, I don’t think that it is surprising that many cannot, and parents shouldn’t be made to feel that they are somehow useless, or their children have some sort of defect if this doesn’t happen.

It is perfectly normal for a child to want to be cuddled to sleep, repeat after me, that is perfectly NORMAL. My three eldest loved to fall asleep in the car, my youngest loved to fall asleep in the baby carrier nestled in my chest. One liked to be bounced, one liked to be rocked, one liked to sleep in the pushchair – but rarely was I able to just pop them down in their cot and walk away.

Preparing for sleep

Photo by from Pexels

I always had, and still have a bedtime routine for my children. This is a routine we can take anywhere with us. It can flex in terms of time and location but the routine remains the same. Dinner – bath – story – bed. I know many people don’t bath their children every night but for us, part of our routine was always bathtime as that signalled the end of the day.

What happened after that of course wasn’t as simple as everyone went to sleep when they were told, but we continued with the bedtime routine anyway, so we always had that as the constant.

Sleep aids

We tried all sorts of things as sleep aids over the years. My first baby would sleep really well with the vacuum cleaner or hairdryer on, Baby TV was something we used with all four children (if you haven’t tried this I really recommend it, especially if you have a fractious baby), my third baby loved the womb sound setting on his Ewan The Sheep, which helped to settle him in his cot, and we tried multiple white noise apps and rain forest sounds to both help the children settle and keep them asleep.

We tried dummies with all four of the children with little success, my eldest used one for about 6 weeks but looking back I think it helped with teething more than sleep necessarily. None of them liked a dummy, but it’s obviously another thing you can try.

New Baby Sleep Routine Checklist

If you are struggling with getting your baby to sleep, you may find it useful to read Emma’s Diary Baby Sleep Advice, not everything will work for everyone, but at least you can tick off the things you’ve tried and remember you are not alone!

Have you got any sleep stories you’d like to share, or tips that may help other parents? Feel free to share them in a comment below.

Disclaimer: Until your baby is six months old, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in their own cot, in the same room as you, whether it’s during the night or at nap time in the day.

This is a paid partnership with Emma’s Diary.

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