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‘Put your baby down to sleep awake’ is common advice and very frustrating for many parents. It is frustrating because many babies just begin to cry when they are put down awake and it is just easier and shorter if you rock your baby or feed your baby to sleep.
Try to imagine that you are told to go to sleep, 3 minutes after an exciting sports game or in the middle of a birthday party. The chances are that you would battle to fall asleep, just as you do when on a long distance flight abroad. The fact of the matter is that the how and when of sleep are so important that unless they are focused on your baby will not just drop off to sleep.
Your baby is most likely to fall asleep during her natural dip in alertness. Just as you have a natural dip in alertness in the early afternoon, your baby has similar but more frequent dips. We call these periods of time awake times. By watching how long your baby has been awake, you will know when you should put your baby down. Watch for your baby’s signals of tiredness:
- Rubbing eyes
- Looking away
- Sucking her hands in attempt to self sooth
- Busy and irritable
Once the awake time is up, take your baby to her room and enact a bedtime routine to help her go from alert and awake to drowsy and ready for sleep:
- Dim the room Lack of light stimulates the release of melatonin, our sleep hormone, prepping your baby for sleep
- Change her nappy Make sure she is dry and comfortable for sleep
- Swaddle your young baby or wrap your older baby with hands free
- Hold her calmly in your arms and rock her gently humming a lullaby or use white noise
- Rock her until she has a double long blink – in other words she shows you she is really drowsy
- Put her down to sleep Keeping her swaddled and without dipping her head down, lower her into her crib.
If she starts to cry immediately, keep your hand on her and rock her gently or pat her until she settles. If she cries really hard, pick her up and start the process of getting her into a drowsy state all over again.These little tips will work well for most babies. If you still are battling, get hold of our bookSleep Sense which deals with the problems of sleep and babies and toddlers in great detail.
By Meg Faure