World Sleep Day Blog Post by guest blogger Julia Kelly
Fact: Babies do sleep
Fiction: They’ll sleep when you want them to.
Sleep is what many parents-to-be worry about and what many new parents yearn for!
Sleep is essential for a baby’s health, growth and development.
Sleep is essential for an adult’s physical health, mental health and general well-being.
Inconveniently, babies are born into this world having no clue whatsoever as to the difference between night and day and are seemingly unaware of a parent’s desire and desperation for a good night’s sleep!
Gradually with a bit of help from parents, and a bit of maturing, they’ll hopefully start to get the idea. It’s not just about the baby though – parents value their own sleep and are generally nicer and more amenable people when they’re not exhausted from night time wakings! But it’s not an easy journey and some little ones are less receptive to the idea than others!
So, what can we as parents do to give our baby the best chance to develop good sleep habits so we can sleep well too and what does baby need?
Right back in the day around the year dot, humans awoke with the sunrise, went hunting or were generally very busy and physically active all day and then went to bed exhausted with the sunset. They didn’t sit around watching the latest box set and ordering their shop online!
A blue sky during the day (blue light) is scientifically proven to suppress melatonin (the body’s natural sleep hormone) and so leads to alertness and wakefulness.
Baby needs to be exposed to daylight – both outdoors and in the home.
Baby needs to be active – have a wriggle and a play – it doesn’t take much to tire a baby out!
Baby needs to be stimulated visually and mentally – out and about there’s plenty to do the trick.
Baby needs to have some daytime sleeps and naps – but not all day!
Getting ready for bedtime:
The bedtime routine needs to be calm and quiet, so baby gets the message that it’s time to sleep. They may not get the message of course, but persevere and be consistent, a routine will eventually sink in.
Baby needs to have a good bedtime routine, for example: Bath, book, breastfeed / bottle and bed.
Baby needs to avoid any TV or screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Baby needs dim lighting, and calm low voices to avoid any over-stimulation. This isn’t a time for play and games.
Baby needs a parent who takes their time over bedtime – baby will sense if you’re in a rush to go and watch TV or send a text.
Back to the ‘Dark Ages’ and pre-electricity – humans judged when it was time for bed by the sunset. The golden colour of the sunset lacks ‘blue light’ and so encourages sleep.
Night time tips:
Baby needs to be settled in their cot when they’re drowsy, so they work out how to nod off themselves. Once baby is settled in their cot, it may take a while for them to drop off to sleep, and will gradually learn to settle themselves back to sleep so don’t be tempted to go in and see them with every little grumble you may hear.
Baby needs peace and quiet and a calm environment – keep the noise as low as possible.
Baby needs no lighting or dim lighting. When baby wakes for a feed at night or a nappy change, don’t whatever you do turn the lights on! You will need to be able to see what you’re doing – but you need a really dim, golden light, (like a Meelight). If you use your phone or turn on the main light your baby and you will be flooded with ‘blue light’ which causes wakefulness – not good! Don’t be tempted to look at your Instagram feed or turn on any screen – that same bad ‘blue light’ will disrupt yours and baby’s sleep and overstimulate the both of you.
Baby needs their room to be at the correct temperature – 16-20 C is recommended.
Baby needs you to work out why they’ve woken up. Just because baby is awake, doesn’t mean they’re hungry. Check for their nappy or if they have wind or a raised temperature, or perhaps they’re teething.
Any final tips?
Stay calm, look after yourself and enjoy the cuddles! Night wakings are normal and they will get less and less as baby gets older.
Julia Kelly is the founder of Meemoobaby, and creator of Meelight, an innovative wearable and dimmable night light, which has made night times easier for thousands of parents. Meelight was developed because of Julia’s personal experience as a mum of three when she struggled to see to feed and care for her babies at night. Meelight solves a very real issue for many parents – how to see enough to do the task in hand, but not so much that they are dazzled and over-stimulated by bright light.