Top tips for getting your baby to sleep

All babies are different and some will naturally fall asleep more easily than others, but don't worry if your baby struggles to drop off. There are simple things you can do to help them along to the land of nod.

Establish a routine

You probably get bored of hearing how important it is to have a night-time routine, but research shows a consistent, regular bedtime is associated with better sleep patterns for babies and less frequent night waking. So, have a think about your house at bedtime: Is it chaotic? Is there a lot of noise? Doing the same thing, calmly, every night with your baby will help them establish good sleeping habits that can last for many years to come. Your routine might consist of simple things such as a bath, changing into bedclothes and a story or song with the lights dimmed.

The difference between night and day

Babies begin life with no awareness of time, so it's a good idea to try to teach your baby from the start that night is for sleeping and day for playing. You can do this by keeping the lights low in the evening, not talking too much or keeping your voice quiet and putting your baby down as soon as they're fed or changed. During the day, you can do the opposite; play with your baby, open the curtains and don't worry about noise levels while they're napping.

Temperature control

It's important to make sure your baby is sleeping in a cool room; a comfortable environment for your baby will help them drop off. The recommended room temperature for babies is 18 degrees C. Even if it's very warm, a sheet may be enough cover for your baby, and in winter most babies don't need extra clothes or covers. Remember it's normal for your baby's hands or feet to feel cold but if they're sweating or their tummy feels warm, take off some of the bedding.

Going to bed drowsy

In the early days, it's common for babies to fall asleep while feeding but as your baby grows, and once you've established a soothing bedtime routine, they should become more able to settle themselves to sleep. The key is putting them down when they're nearly asleep so they can finish the process on their own. So, if you've been feeding them to sleep, why not try feeding them to 'nearly asleep'; putting them into their cot drowsy but content. Helping them learn to fall asleep on their own is a useful sleep skill - and may in turn help with night wakings.

Speak to your GP or health visitor for more advice on getting your baby to sleep, or getting into a routine.

References
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2675894/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25325483
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/getting-baby-to-sleep.aspx
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1201415/