You've done your preparations: you've worked out what sleep pattern you want to aim towards, you've made your baby's room cosy and inviting, and you've got friends and relatives on standby to give you the help you need. Now you really are ready to tackle your baby's sleeping habits. Just remember: you could be only a few days away from a really good night's sleep!
Night-time is for sleeping
The first thing you need to do if you want your baby to sleep well at night is to teach him that night-time is for sleeping. It may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how many new parents overlook this.
It's easy to understand how this blurring of day and night arises. If you have no real experience of babies and your newborn insists at 2am that he wants to play, you may think this is what you, as a parent, should do. The problem is that after a few nights your baby will be looking forward to his early-hours play session, and will be waking up in anticipation of it.
Steps to success
Fortunately, it shouldn't take long to teach him that night-time is for sleeping.
1. Keep night feeds and nappy changes functional: use only low lighting, try not to talk to your baby (if you do have to talk, keep your voice flat and low) and don't make eye contact with him.
2. Do not begin any 'daytime' activity once you have fed and changed him; instead, put him straight back into his bed.
3. If he tries to engage you in play, resettle him using your chosen method.
By contrast, stimulate and engage your baby as much as possible during the day. This will not only give him the message that days are for socializing, fun and learning, but will also encourage him to be awake more during the day, which in turn will mean he is more tired by the evening.
Defining daytime naps
It is helpful if you can draw a distinction between night sleep and daytime naps. Try:
- Putting your baby to sleep in his carrycot during the day, rather than in his cot or Moses basket.
- Drawing the curtains at night only.