Becoming your own baby whisperer with baby routines
Image: Audiovisual Entertainment by Jim Champion
When your baby won’t sleep it feels like there are so many things to consider. There are literally infinite patterns that babies will adopt for their sleep if they are left to their own devices and countless reasons why they’re not sleeping and so many people willing to tell you how to do it.
Today, I’m not going to give you a prescriptive set of rules. I’m sure you’re sick of that. But I do want to give you one tip today to start to teach you how to be your own baby whisperer.
(Wait a minute. Why is there a picture of a baby watching TV associated with this post? Read on to find out the link between In the Night Garden and baby sleep routines.)
My guiding view about getting babies to sleep is that:
- You have to listen to your instincts and work out what is right for you and your baby; but
- You have to understand the facts and the science behind babies’ sleep patterns to see whether your baby can learn to sleep better.
I guess you could say I don’t believe in “anything goes” but I also don’t believe you can be too rigid. I absolutely believe you know what’s best for your baby and if anyone can be your baby’s ‘baby whisperer’ it’s you!
If I had to say the question that most mothers ask me, it’s “When will my baby sleep through the night?” and the answer varies enormously.
Some babies just do it almost on the stroke of 12 weeks old. They’re definitely not the norm but they do exist.
But for most babies, they need a bit of help. Learning how to sleep on your own and to self-settle is a skill – a learned ability – not something we’re born with. And it make sense – think about the adults you know who still struggle to go to sleep and have to listen to podcasts or MUST drink a cup of tea before bed. Some of these things are harmless rituals but if a person can’t go to sleep without these things (and get very worried when they’ve lost their headphones and can’t listen to This American Life as they doze off) then that starts to be a problem.
Babies are no different. The sleep habits they develop now will influence them throughout their lives.
But don’t worry; they’re not set in stone and you are the best person to help your baby sleep.
It’s never too early to introduce a gentle routine to baby’s day (or more importantly, evening) which gives them a sense of where they are headed. And it’s never too late either. I have had lots of success with toddlers and small children just by tweaking a few things about their bed time ritual.
The importance of routine cannot be underestimated. Even the creator of In the Night Garden, speaking to the Guardian, describes it as one of the reasons why he made the show:
“Bedtime really commands a child’s entire day. Very often children don’t have a proper sense of time. They live with the idea that, at any moment, someone could just take them from what they are doing and send them to bed. It can be a difficult moment: being suddenly alone. So In the Night Garden makes a metaphorical explanation for sleep, which is one of the only things in a child’s life it can’t be accompanied on. That’s why you have the image of Iggle Piggle alone on a boat at the start, floating on a dark swelling ocean that’s a metaphor for sleep.”
Providing a routine to a child’s day helps them feel like sleep is not so sudden or unexpected. They have a chance to see it coming, calm themselves down and even in some cases look forward to it. I have seen routines work wonders for thousands of children. But don’t just take my word for it – one of my clients said:
“Since our BabyBliss home visit, our daughter actually tells us she’s ready for bed and when we finish the evening routine of feeding, bath and book, she lays her head on my shoulder and then leans towards the cot asking to be put in. When we put her down, she flops on the bed and waits for us to do up her zip bag and turn the light out. Exactly the same every night. It’s like magic (especially compared to how bad it was).”
I’m fascinated by baby routines and I’d love to hear about yours. If you’ve had success with using a bed time routine, drop me a line about what worked for you. Write a comment below or leave a comment on our Facebook page.
All the best
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