Teach your baby the difference between night and day - six simple strategies

Published: 16th July 2009
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One of the biggest challenges a new baby brings to a family is lack of sleep. Even a baby who sleeps well will only sleep for short periods of time throughout the day and night.



It's very common for new babies to be born with their body clocks the wrong way around. While still in the womb, your baby may have been rocked to sleep during the day by your movements and more active when you were resting at night. So your baby's longest stretch of sleep may be in the middle of the day.



There is evidence to show that a young baby can start to distinguish between night and day from as young as two weeks with a little gentle guidance. Here are six simple strategies that work.



1 - During the day, let natural light into the house as much as is possible. Take your baby out for walks in the fresh air. Even if he's sleeping, he will be stimulated by the light and feel of the air against his skin. Daylight has been proven to aid night sleep for babies and adults.



2 - When your baby is awake (for a very short time in the early weeks) interact with him, talk to him, stroke his skin and place your face near his so he can see you. At this age, there's no need for any other stimulation other than being close to his family. Just being held is stimulation for an infant.



3 - Night time should be dark and quiet. Use a night light when feeding your baby and don't engage with him too much. After giving him a feed and a cuddle, put him straight back to bed. This will set him up for healthy sleeping habits in the next few months. Only change his nappy if you really need to and if you do, keep the light dimmed and your voice low.



4 - Your baby will know it's time to sleep if you introduce sleep cues. In the early days, this won't mean much to your baby. But after a few months, he will understand that you are following the 'pre-sleep' routine and this will really help him to settle easily.



A bedtime routine may include a bath, sleep suit, sleep sack, feed and cuddle before bed.



For nap time, a little face wash, nappy change, sleeping bag and feed will let your baby know he's going for a sleep.



You could also have a lullaby CD that plays while you're getting him ready for bed.



Follow the same routine in the same order every night and your baby will very quickly learn that it's time for sleep.



5 - Sleep props really help your baby know it's sleep time. White noise works because the rhythmical sound is familiar after the noise your baby was used to in the womb. Silence can be alarming for babies and white noise can be calming and reassuring.



A baby comforter that you can take everywhere with you and bring out at sleep time is also a fantastic sleep cue.



Hold it close to you before and after your baby is born so that it smells of you. Try one that you can attach to the cot so it's close to your baby in the early months, but safely out of the way.



Later, you can detach it and give to him for cuddles. And when you feel it is safe, you can leave it with him at sleep times too. Baby comforters have been proven to help babies sleep through the night from an early age.



A sleeping bag or baby sleep sack also helps if you use it for every sleep time. It's snug, warm and safe and can become an essential part of your baby's sleep routine.



6 - Create a place for sleep. In the first few weeks your baby will probably fall asleep anywhere and everywhere. He will feel most safe when with you and probably enjoy sleeping snuggled up against your skin.



But you should decide on where you want him to sleep at night and during the day as early as possible and start putting him down to sleep there so that it becomes a familiar, safe place for him. It doesn't have to be every sleep time at first. But gradually get him used to falling asleep in the same place every night and nap time.



If you set up good habits from the start, it will make sleep time easy for everyone. It's much harder to later correct bad habits.



One of the most common pieces of advice given to new mums is to sleep when your baby sleeps. With everything that needs to be done, this may seem impossible and simplistic. But it really does help. If you're not well rested, you won't enjoy the time with your baby when he's awake and ready to play. In the early days, if you have a sleeping baby, you should be sleeping too.





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Lucy Fitzgerald is a Director at Sleepytot where they develop and source award winning products to help babies sleep through the night. Visit Sleepytot to claim your FREE baby white noise CD, Sounds of the Sea.

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