As any parent will tell you, sleep is the all-important ingredient to a successful family recipe.
This goes for not only for you, but also for your baby and toddler.
Your child’s sleep patterns will alter with each stage, but having a guide on what to do and what not to do will help you to manage and balance the changes, without tipping the scales.
Read our A-to-Z Guide for all the helpful tips and hints about sleep.
The A to Z of baby sleep
A is for advice
Don’t forget to take advantage of all the help and assistance out there – books, magazines, classes, support groups, and online forums are all available. Make sure you know the ins and outs so you can identify well meant but misguided advice when you hear it.
B is for bouncers
Different bouncers come with music, vibration, or with mobiles and toys attached. Some parents find the soothing motion of a bouncer works wonders for their baby. But remember it is not safe for a baby or child to sleep unattended in a bouncer.
C is for co-sleeping
Sharing your bed with baby has always been around. It is very popular with nursing mothers since it allows mums to avoid getting up out of bed to feed baby. Co-sleeping also allows parents to enjoy night time closeness with their child. Be aware of the dangers and implement necessary safety precautions though.
D is for dummies
Some mothers let their baby fall asleep sucking on a dummy. This may mean they won’t be able to fall asleep without one in the long run. Some sleep experts call this a “negative sleep association.” Some parents think it is a natural and pleasant way for a baby to fall asleep.
E is for experience
You can’t be expected to know it all as soon as your baby is born. Experience is a great teacher and you will soon know what to do and when. Trust your instincts and learn from your baby along the way.
F is for frustrated
Don’t be. Try not to be stressed or angry either. It’s a fact that your baby will be waking you up so learn to relax about night waking in the first two or three months. It doesn’t last forever and soon your baby will be sleeping peacefully all night long.
G is for guidelines
The Safe Sleeping Guidelines were introduced by SIDS and Kids in 1990 and from 1989-2010 the rate of SIDS decreased by 80 per cent. The campaign provides up-to-date information about the evidence to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleeping accidents. There are six Safe Sleeping Guidelines to follow to reduce the risk.
H is for hammocks
Hammocks are a centuries old tradition of soothing babies to sleep in a secure environment. A hammock’s womb-like feel creates a restful and nurturing sleep environment that enables baby to sleep on their back, which is key in the prevention of SIDS. It also promotes longer sleep duration and helps soothe colicky babies. Other health benefits include guarding against infant acid reflux as the baby’s head is slightly elevated when sleeping.
I is for individual
Your little bundle of joy is unique so don’t be put off or disheartened by stories of other babies sleeping longer or better. All babies are individuals and will find their own patterns and what works best for them. Just go with the flow.
J is for joint responsibilities
Don’t feel you need to do it all yourself. Your other half is there to help and share the workload. They also need to know how and when to put baby to sleep so let them do their fair share as well.
K is for knowledge
You don’t have to know everything from the start. Follow the advice of other mums (including your own!) and also read books and watch video clips for hints and suggestions on getting your baby to sleep easily and soundly through the night.
L is for lullabies
Simple, repetitive, predictable music – like lullabies – is good for putting baby to sleep. You can also buy tapes that are created especially for bedtime. Don’t forget to take these with you when you are away from home.
M is for massage
Baby massage reduces stress hormones and releases good hormones that make your child feel relaxed –and drowsy.
N is for naps
Sleep research has found that the length and the quality of naps affect nighttime sleep. Naps need to happen when your baby is tired, before they become overtired, which can lead to napping too late in the day. Napping too late won’t help your baby when it comes to nighttime sleep. Don’t forget to nap as well while you have the chance!
O is for overtired
There is nothing like an overtired baby – wide eyed, hyped up, and overexcited. It isn’t always possible, but it’s obviously better to avoid this situation. Plan your day to be home with baby ready for bed at nap and night times. Learn to recognise your baby’s tired signs.
P is for patterns
Babies have tiny tummies and wake when they are hungry, and sleep when they are tired, have full bellies and clean nappies. This pattern is different for all babies and you might find your baby’s wake/sleep pattern varies as they grow.
Q is for quiet time
Don’t excite babies with boisterous games or activities just before bedtime. You want your baby to relax and unwind and start to feel sleepy. Baths are good for relaxing, as are stories and cuddles. It’s a special time for bonding in a peaceful way so your baby goes to bed secure and happy.
R is for routine
A newborn baby sleeps 16 to 18 hours per day over six to seven sleep periods. Form a routine so baby knows the difference between day naps and night sleep. A nightly bath, pyjamas, and a dark and quiet room can do this. Naps could be in a different room which may be lighter and noisier.
S is for sleeping through the night
The scientific definition of sleeping through the night is five hours – not what most parents think of as a full night’s sleep. Often it takes a full year (or even two) to settle into a full night’s sleep.
T is for tired
Not the parents but the baby. Get used to your baby’s sleep signals (quieting down, losing interest in things, vacant stare, fussing etc.) so you can put them in the crib or cot as soon as they are tired.
U is for unbelievable
The feeling you get when baby sleeps through the night for the first time is magical.
V is for variety
There are many different tried and true methods of getting babies to sleep; you need to try some and see which one works best for you and baby. There are no hard and fast rules here.
W is for white noise
The sound of a radio not tuned to a station is similar to the sound a baby hears inside the womb and helps many babies to relax and fall asleep more easily.
X is for experts
Take advantage of the many books, websites and professionals that are available to help you get your baby a good night’s sleep.
Y is for yawn
Something you will be doing plenty of but also a sign of tiredness for baby.
Z is for zeds
What all parents dream of getting more of!