The early days with a baby are tough — there’s no denying it. And getting used to a whole new way of life on very little sleep doesn’t make it any easier. But there’s lots of help and advice at hand from those who’ve been there.
Sleep is up there as one of the top things that new parents worry about. It’s a double whammy, too, because the more problems you have with your baby’s sleep, the less sleep you’re getting yourself. And then the more tired you are, the less able you feel to cope with all the demands of a newborn.
Fortunately, there are lots of tips and tricks you can try to help your baby sleep better and in turn, get a bit more shut eye yourself.
The Mumsnet forums are full of hot tips and helpful information from parents who have been there before you and remember exactly what it’s like to be sleep-deprived. As well as age-old advice however, you should also make use of the latest gadgets available to help. From mobiles to induce a dreamy state of mind, to nightlights that glow gently – there are a lot of baby sleep aids to choose from.
Clever buys like the Nanit Pro Camera — the only smart baby monitor with computer vision technology — offer solutions to both give you peace of mind, and through its app, expert tips and personalised sleep plans to help your baby drop off more easily (meaning the entire family gets more rest).
Sleep problems solved
As well as one of the best screen images we’ve seen on a video monitor, the Nanit Pro Camera also offers an app with sleep-tracking so that you can see how long your baby is sleeping for and how often she stirs in the night; clever breathing-motion monitoring (no sensors, electronics or radar needed!) with an alarm that alerts you if no motion is detected for more than a few seconds; and the ability to share insights about your baby’s sleep and cute pictures and videos with family and friends. The heat map video that shows your baby’s sleep patterns throughout the night is a particularly genius piece of technology, too.
The Nanit Pro Camera also has an adjustable nightlight, adjustable volume, white noise and nature sounds, two-way communication so you can talk to your baby from another room, and is compatible with Alexa.
With very good reason, the Nanit Pro Camera is one of the latest winners of a Mumsnet Rated award, with 89% of users who tested the monitor agreeing that they would recommend it to others. So we’ve teamed up with Nanit to bring new parents essential sleep advice, that we hope will help everyone sleep a little easier.
Here are 14 easy sleep tips for new parents to help you and your little one have a restful night…
1. Use a baby monitor for better sleep
A good baby monitor allows you to relax and rest assured that if your baby needs you, you’ll know straight away. One that includes video and other extras means you can check in on your baby during the night (from your device) or when they’re napping without the risk of waking them.
“I really liked the highlights that the Nanit Pro Camera would give me each morning of when she woke and slept in the night. It was reassuring to see how brief her night wakings are now and how easily she goes back to sleep. For a little baby, the Nanit Pro would be really useful for figuring out your baby’s sleep patterns and thus good for planning how to transition your individual child into sleeping through the night.”
2. Skip household chores
You can feel as though you need to keep everything uber-clean when you have a baby but in truth, there’s a lot you can let go, too.
As long as their bottles and dummies are sterilised and they aren’t crawling around anywhere truly filthy, there’s no need to go dusting lampshades or scrubbing the bathroom daily. And ironing can be basically obliterated for a while in favour of a bit of judicial flattening and smoothing as you hang it out.
‘Good enough’ is absolutely fine when you have a baby — and if anyone visiting passes a comment, thank them profusely and hand them the floor mop. (Or ask them to hire a house cleaner, thank you very much!)
“Just do the basics: dishwasher/washing up, a load of washing every day, quick hoover and wipe round every so often. This time will go quickly so do the things with your baby you want to do whether that’s sitting and having lots of naptime cuddles or a baby group, ignore the housework – it’ll still be there when they’re older.”
3. Try a dream feed at bedtime
No one likes going to bed on an empty stomach. Newborns will naturally wake fairly regularly in the night and you do just have to get through it. But you can try introducing a dream feed. A dream feed is basically a quiet feed, just as you’re going to bed in the dark, that refills their tummy and hopefully gets them to sleep a little longer before their next feed. It doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s important that you do what suits you and your baby but this one is worth a try. Keep their room dark, quiet, and calm, and you should reap the rewards.
“We always did a dream feed with both of ours, the trick is to rouse them just enough so that they are not wide awake. We’d speedily change their nappy (this woke them up enough) then feed them and they’d fall asleep while being fed, gentle wind then into the moses basket. They both slept until about 5/6am after a dream feed by the age of 12 weeks.”
4. Sleep when your baby sleeps
Yes, we know you’ve probably heard it from a hundred well-meaning relatives already. We also know it can be near enough impossible at times, but when able to, try and make the most of some extra shut-eye when your baby sleeps.
We also appreciate that the problem is, usually just as you drop off, your baby starts calling for you. A smart monitor like the Nanit Pro Camera can help because the insights it gives you into when and how your baby sleeps allows you to better predict when they will go down easily — and how long you’re likely to get to sleep yourself. And if you hear her stir you can switch on the nature sounds or let her hear your reassuring voice (through two-way audio) without entering the room and waking her fully.
“It’s fantastic. The picture quality is brilliant and it’s so useful to have the sleep insights. It stops that wondering how long they’ve been asleep for.”
5. Keep your baby close to you at night
Best practice, advised by the NHS, is to have your baby her own cot, crib or Moses basket but in the same room as you for at least the first six months. It’s not only easier for you to lean over to grab them for a feed in the night, but also means they’re safer. And when you know your baby is safe, you sleep a bit easier yourself. You may also find your baby settles back to sleep more easily at night if they wake and can hear and smell you.
“Make sure the baby has a safe sleep space – and commit to using it, no matter how tired you are. Placed on back, in a sleep sack, nothing else in the crib. Ideally in your room, one foot away from furniture and three feet from windows.”
6. Try swaddling to help your baby drop off
Lots of newborns find the world a bit too ‘big’ in the early days, having spent 40 weeks tucked up nice and tight in the womb. Their newborn ‘startle’ reflex means their arms often jerk them awake just as they’re dropping off, so being safely swaddled with their arms tucked into their bodies can help them sleep more soundly — and make it easier for you to get them off to sleep and get more undisturbed sleep yourself.
When choosing a swaddle, it’s important to go for a ‘hip healthy’ option, like the Nanit Swaddle. According to the NCT, the idea is to wrap them gently but firmly, so they feel snug without restricting their legs from falling into a natural frog-like position.
“As tiny newborns mine slept so much better being swaddled. We then progressed to grobags after a few months.” BakedBeeeen
7. Ask for help from family and friends
If grandparents, aunties and uncles or good friends offer to help, LET THEM!
Whether it’s taking the baby out so you can catch up on sleep or filling your freezer with things you can bung in the oven when you’re too exhausted to cook, folk offer to help because they want to, but they might not always know what to offer.
Keep people involved by telling them what you’d appreciate most and being honest about how it’s going. It’s perfectly ok to say, “Actually I had a dreadful night and feel like death warmed up” — there’s no point being British about it.
One way to help keep family and friends involved is to share updates by text or social media on your baby’s milestones and what they’re up to. The Nanit Pro baby monitor allows you to share video clips of your baby’s night-time antics as well as heat maps that show their movements throughout the night. The Nanit app also allows you to add users and control who sees what, meaning grandparents can feel connected to their grandchildren even if they’re not in the same house. That might be just the catalyst someone needs to turn up on your doorstep at 8am with a takeaway coffee and the offer of taking the baby out for a couple of hours in the pram.
“Yes definitely. It is a great piece of it. The quality of the picture is amazing. I really like the app features. Being able to see how he has slept over night and day naps is great.”
8. Consider your own ‘sleep hygiene’
It’s very easy to become obsessed with what you can do to improve your baby’s sleep, but don’t forget to look after your own sleep habits, too.
Caffeine has a half-life of around eight hours so try to keep to decaf after lunch, or definitely from mid-afternoon. Try to get some fresh air and exercise into the day, don’t eat too late at night and keep your bedroom dark, a comfortable temperature and, most of all, quiet.
“Things that help me is to try and do at least a 30 minutes brisk walk every day, get my 10,000 steps in, not having any alcohol (although I sacrifice that at the weekend), no caffeine after dinner including much chocolate and I swear taking multi vitamins for women have helped as well. I use a sleep spray on my headboard and read before I turn the light off even if it’s for only 5 minutes.”
9. Be aware of rampaging hormones
If you’re feeling a bit weepy, ragey, bewildered, or just completely out of control, remember that in the days after birth your body is suffering from a major hormonal crash. Around 80% of women suffer with the baby blues in the first weeks after birth, and it is completely normal so try not to worry.
That said, if you’re feeling dreadful, do always mention it to your midwife or health visitor so they can keep an eye on things. In some cases, the baby blues can turn out to actually be the beginnings of postnatal depression, which you should never soldier on with alone. It’s common in new mums too — between 10% to 20% of women will experience it after birth, and there’s lots of help out there so just remember that ‘normal’ doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.
“Everyone told me days two through five would be the worst but I cried a lot from week two for a good week and have been fine since, I think everyone is different though. Just don’t struggle on alone.”
10. Share night time baby duties
If you have a partner, you definitely shouldn’t be doing all the night wakes alone. Yes, even if your partner has a difficult job and you’re on maternity leave.
Sleep deprivation isn’t a method of torture for nothing. It’s true, if you’re breastfeeding, most of the feeds will be down to you, but your partner can help by doing any night time changes or taking the baby and settling them back to sleep as soon as you’ve finished feeding.
You might even be able to start expressing milk so that your partner can do the first feed of the night to let you get a decent few hours of sleep before the next feed. If you’re formula feeding then it’s all up for grabs and your partner should definitely be helping.
“We alternate the night, and did from day 1 (well in the early days we did half a night each). It means we each alternate between a good night sleep (with ear plugs if necessary), and a disrupted night. It means neither of have ever really been tired. Him working doesn’t give him the monopoly on sleep.”
11. Play white noise
Once upon a time, parents used to set the tumble dryer or Hoover on, or pop their baby in their car seat and head off for a drive to get them off to sleep.
Thankfully, nowadays we all have white noise at the touch of a button and it’s brilliant at ‘fuzzing’ babies’ brains to allow them to switch off and drift off to sleep. It’s easy to download a white noise app on your phone but if you don’t want to leave the phone by your baby’s crib, you can buy various nursery accessories that include white noise as well as lullaby and nature sounds.
The Nanit Pro Camera includes soothing nature sounds as well as white noise, so you can remotely start them to help your baby drop off. And if you’re struggling with sleep, you might like to give it a go yourself!
“The fact the Nanit Pro plays white noise all night at a fully adjustable volume is great. Their other sounds are great as well, but white noise is an essential for us. It’s a really “nice” white noise as well if that makes sense! Not crackling and intrusive.”
12. Start a bedtime routine (but don’t stress about it)
People will repeatedly ask if your baby ‘is in a bedtime routine’. Try not to let it stress you out. Babies really don’t have much routine in the early days at all and trying to impose one on them will only end in tears for you both.
However, starting to let them see a bit of a pattern around bedtime won’t do any harm and just knowing what you’re doing when you’re exhausted can help too.
A bedtime routine doesn’t need to be a big deal — it’s just about giving your baby some cues that it’s time to go to sleep. So, whatever time of the evening it starts, a routine might be: a bath, a story, into the cot and pop a lullaby on their mobile. After a while they will start to recognise the cues and know that bedtime is coming. Eventually they’ll be old enough to start making the pattern into more of a routine at a certain time of the evening.
Just think, one day they’ll be upstairs asleep by 7pm and you’ll be downstairs on the sofa with a drink!
“At 3 months I started introducing a bedtime routine of bath, bottle, bed but not at a set time – her feeds weren’t the same time everyday so I’d just start bath time routine about 45 minutes before her bottle was due (sometimes would be 6pm, sometimes 8pm) just to get her used to knowing when it was ‘bedtime’. As she got older and more predictable I started doing it at a set time everyday so she’s 9 months now and I start bath time at 6:15pm then in bed for 7pm.”
13. Do it your way
Some new mums like to rest, relax and keep everything very low key in the early days. For others, staying sane is about getting out and about, getting fresh air and having human interaction with new mum friends. Others still need to ‘hang onto’ a bit of their old selves and make sure they still see plenty of their friends, keep in touch with work and just retain a bit of ‘normal.’ Whatever coping feels like for you, do that.
“Also, just be really, really kind to yourself – whatever that looks like to you. There’s no one size fits all – I remember being endlessly told to rest and made to feel almost bad for getting out and about really early on and a lot but for me that was a brilliant coping mechanism. Other people go to bed for six weeks, ban visitors and that’s exactly the right thing for them. There’s no right and wrong in this, even though there’s a huge industry and a lot of social pressure to feel like you’re doing it ‘correctly’ from day 1.”
14. Try to retain perspective
Whoever said of being a new parent “the days are long but the years are short” was only half right — it’s the nights that are really long!
It’s very easy to lose perspective at 3am on the fourth wake of the night, but tell yourself “this too will pass.” It’s also helpful to keep a log of your baby’s sleep patterns and how many times they wake in the night because you may well find things are slowly improving without you noticing.
The Nanit app automatically keeps track of how much your baby slept, when they woke up and even video clips of night-time wakes so you can see what woke them and whether they settled themselves alone. You don’t need to write anything down, it’s all there for you in the morning so you don’t have to remember if you got up at 1am or 2am to feed because it’s right there in the app! You also get a super-sweet morning wakeup video of baby’s snuggliest moments.
“We’ve found the night summaries really helpful. On sleep deprived nights I often lose track of how many times we’ve been up so it was really useful that the app kept a record of this without us having to do anything. I also paid for the additional features to allow us to view the video history. We found it useful to be able to re-wind the footage on occasion to see what (if anything) had woken our baby up.”