We all wake up at night – it’s natural. But psychologist Liora Kempler from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research (bumptobabysleep.com.au) says we’re usually not aware of it. For babies, it’s different.
‘As a newborn, the circadian rhythm is underdeveloped, so their body clock is unable to distinguish between day and night,’ Liora says. ‘Also, their tiny bellies don’t hold much food, so they need to feed more frequently than adults.’
Here are some tips from the experts on how you and bub can get the rest you both need...
1. Grow with your baby
Liora says a newborn and a young baby have different needs to an older baby. ‘With a newborn, recreating the womb with white noise, a nice cosy swaddle, the smell of Mum and some rhythmic patting or rocking will help baby feel secure and fall asleep,’ she explains. ‘But in most cases, it’s not necessary to do this. As the baby gets older, and as they become more familiar with their sleep environment, the sleep cues can be either reduced or replaced.’
2. Make rest a priority
Paediatrician Dr Harriet Hiscock from the Sleep Health Foundation says that it’s important for your own wellbeing to make sleep and rest a priority. ‘If the house is a mess or is not perfect that doesn’t matter, because actually, when your baby goes down for a rest, that’s the time when you should try and rest as well,’ she says. ‘Don’t stress if you don’t sleep – you just have to rest, put your feet up for that 40 minutes when bub is asleep.’
3. Consistency is important
A regular pre-bed routine at night might be just the tonic. ‘For the most part, once your baby is four to six months, having an enjoyable pre-bed routine such as a bath, milk, book, bed makes bedtime enjoyable and predictable for them,’ Liora explains.
4. Go with the flow
How you are able to help your baby return to sleep depends on their age, personality and the time of day. ‘In the early days with a newborn, just go with the flow as much as possible, as a lack of predictability can be very difficult to manage,’ Liora says. After that, it really depends on your own lifestyle choice.
5. Share the love
According to Liora, where possible parents and carers should share feeds so that Mum can have a longer block of sleep. For breastfed babies, it may be possible to express milk for someone else to give overnight. ‘If parents are able to achieve approximately three hours of consolidated sleep, then most of the brain rest needs will be met.’
6. It gets better!
Don’t worry, it won’t last forever. Liora says that in most cases, if the baby doesn’t rely on a parental cue for sleep onset, they will be able to consolidate their sleep on their own by the time they’re between six to 12 months. ‘However, about 30 per cent of babies find self-soothing more difficult – parents may wish to seek help from services such as Tresillian, Karitane or specialist psychology services,’ she says.