I would love to have a magic formula that gets every baby to sleep well all the time but unfortunately all babies are different and it usually a combination of things that help little ones develop healthy sleep habits. I would like to share with you my top tips for you to try with your little one to help them sleep better.
1) Have a predictable, consistent and positive bedtime routine
Babies and children thrive on routine. They will soon learn that a warm bath followed by milk, story and cuddles means that it is soon time to settle down to sleep. Try and do exactly the same thing in the same order every single night. The overall length of the bedtime routine does not need to be long (30-45 minutes is perfect), it is the consistency that is more important.
2) Keep it calm
Have 5-10 minutes calm down time after tea before you head up to start the bedtime routine. This change in pace will help your little one recognise that it is the end of the day. Dim the lights, put the toys away, turn off the TV and do some calm activities together. Now is not the time for a tickle fight!
3) Go for an early bedtime
Many children get tired and cranky at the end of the day. If you aim to get them into bed before they are overtired, you are much more likely to have a calm, gentle bedtime routine and avoid them getting hyper and difficult to settle. Try moving your bedtime forward by 15 minutes and see if it makes a difference.
4) Keep it dark
Melatonin is released when it starts getting dark and is a natural hormone that helps our body know when it is time to sleep. Bright light stops melatonin release so try to avoid any screens (TV, phones, iPad, games) for 1-2 hours before bedtime (this applies to grown-ups too!!). Try to keep the bedroom completely dark with a black out blind. Keeping the bedroom totally dark may also help to prevent early waking in the morning. If you do need to use a nightlight, use one which emits red light as this won’t interfere with the release of melatonin.
5) Exercise and time outdoors
Plenty of exposure to natural daylight helps set your circadian rhythm which is your body clock controlling your wake-sleep cycle. Try to get your little one outside in the fresh air as much as possible. Little ones also need plenty of opportunity to exercise. For younger babies this could include tummy time, practicing rolling or crawling round an obstacle course in the living room. For older children, playing and running around at the park, going for a nature walk or splashing in puddles are all great ways to spend some time outdoors.
6) Don’t skip naps
If your little one is under 2.5yrs, daytime naps will help to prevent overtiredness which will make bedtime less of a battle. Look out for early sleep cues such as yawning, fussing or having a glazed expression and try to put your little one down for a nap before they come overtired. In general, babies under 8 months needs 3 naps, under 15 months 2 naps and up to 2.5 years 1 nap in the middle of the day. Prioritise naps even if they are on the move in the pushchair, in a sling or in the car seat.
7) Be consistent
Be consistent at bedtime, naptime and when they wake in the night. Little ones become confused and unsettled when your response changes. They love routine and consistency!