While many parents dream of the time when their babies and children have learnt how to self-settle and can go to bed each night happily and ready for sleep, the key is that this skill is learnt. This means that it won't happen overnight, and that most babies require some help learning to settle easily into sleep.
Putting baby to sleep when they're tired!
Being able to know when your baby is tired is the first step to helping to settle them into sleep! As you may already know, an under or over tired baby is a lot harder to get to sleep! For some babies, this window of time can pass very quickly so becoming alert to their individual tired signs will help. For further help at learning your baby's tired signs, check out this article we've written.
Many experts suggest trying to put your baby to bed drowsy but awake. This means your baby has the chance to associate falling asleep with being in bed. They argue that if your baby has this sleep association, they might be more likely to self-settle when they wakes in their bed in the night. Below we have some tips to help you settle your baby into sleep in their own bed.
Many parents who have used the Cocoonababy, find that their babies settle well due to the feeling of comfort and the nest mimicking the environment of the womb. However for some babies, they may still need some help falling or staying asleep. These tips will also help babies sleeping on flat mattresses or after transitioning from the the Cocoonababy Nest.
One of the most common settling techniques is with gentle, rhythmic patting. Lay your baby down, roll them half onto their side, facing away from you. Holding them steady on their shoulder with one hand, gently pat them on their bottom with your other hand. Many parents try to mimic the rhythm of their heartbeat as a similar and reassuring feel from when baby was in the womb. As your baby begins to get sleepy, make sure you gently roll them back onto their back. This is the best way for babies to safely sleep. If your baby doesn't like being patted, or you don't like rolling them to the side, gently patting the mattress beside baby, can have the same soothing effect.
A similar technique to soothe your unsettled baby is to gently place your hand on their tummy or hands and make small circular movements until they become sleepy.
Some babies find having their face gently stroked quite soothing, often between their eyes, down along the bridge of their nose.
White noise is an increasingly popular choice for babies to help create a routine around sleep and to also help soothe during distressed or unsettled times. This may mean making gentle 'shh' noises or even downloading an app or playing a white noise track from Spotify. Some experts suggest turning the volume up initially while baby is crying and then turning it down to a quiet background noise once asleep.
Finally, if baby is really distressed remember you can always pick them up and give them a cuddle and a gentle rock back and forth to calm them down or to help them fall asleep and try again next time!
Child sleep research suggests that following small routines leading into bedtime also helps babies to settle into sleep more easily. Many adults follow the same nightly routines before going to bed, so it is not surprising, that our babies and children also find some routine helpful for falling asleep faster. For some ideas on routines, have a read of our guide here. Once you have established a bedtime routine, make sure it doesn't take too long as babies are most difficult to put to sleep when they are overtired!
Remember that in the early newborn months of a baby's life, their days and nights are often a fairly irregular pattern of sleeping, feeding and building close connections to their parents. As time progresses, they do develop their own routine where you may notice them waking at a similar time each night. However, during these newborn days, periods of crying, showing signs of discomfort or being unsettled are common so don't feel disheartened on the bad days!