Your newborn baby has just spent approximately 9 months cosily and securely bundled up inside you. Suddenly, your baby finds itself in a new world and it has to adjust to a totally different environment. It shouldn’t come as any surprise then, if your baby wants to stay close to you as much as possible in the first few months. People often all this the “fourth trimester”. After all, your familiar smell will be comforting. Your movements will feel comforting. Of course, milk is comforting too. Getting your baby used to sleeping on their own in their crib, moses basket or cot can be tricky. So here are my top tips:
1. Start early
The earlier you start, the easier it will be for your baby to get used to sleeping in a Moses basket or crib. A Moses basket or crib is the safest place for your baby in your room for at least the first 6 months. Co-sleeping is deemed less safe than independent sleeping as it increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It can also increase the chance of a baby getting accidentally injured, for example, by rolling off the bed. If you do choose to co-sleep please be aware of the risk factors that can make co-sleeping dangerous for your child before deciding whether or not to co-sleep:
- Do not co-sleep if either you or your partner are smokers (even if you don’t smoke in bed).
- Do not co-sleep if you have recently drunk alcohol.
- Do not co-sleep if you have taken medication or drugs that make you sleep more heavily.
- Do not co-sleep if your baby was born premature (before 37 weeks).
- Do not co-sleep if your baby had a low birth weight (under 2.5kg or 5.5lb).
Some professionals recommend that babies should remain in their parent’s room for the first 12 months. But, for some parents this isn’t a practical option, as a baby will outgrow their crib or Moses basket and many cots are too large to fit into a parents’ bedroom. I chose to keep each of my children in my room for the first 6 months. By that time, they were able to turn easily in their cots and I felt personally much more comfortable about leaving them at night in their own room.
2. Smaller is better for young babies
If you have a tiny newborn and you try putting them in a large cot, they might not feel that sense of cosiness which makes them feel secure. Babies often want to feel cocooned, just like they were when they lived inside mum! So, it may be worth putting your baby to sleep in a Moses basket or crib for the youngest babies and then move them to a cot at around 4-6 months.
3. Add your scent
Babies know and love your scent. It is familiar and gives them a sense of security. So you might consider sleeping with one of their sleep bags, muslin or cellular blanket so that it adopts your scent. Something as simple as this can make their moses basket or crib feel so much more appealing to your baby. Read more about how the sense of smell can influence your baby’s sleep here.
4. Learn to swaddle
The youngest babies love to be bundled up and swaddled as it makes them feel safe and secure. Swaddling is a great way to recreate the womb-like environment. But remember that all babies are different. Whilst my younger child loved that bundled up feeling, my older child used to break free from any swaddling. Always make sure you swaddle correctly by gently wrapping your baby in a light breathable blanket whilst allowing their legs to move into their natural frog-like position.
Some important don’ts when it comes to swaddling:
- Don’t swaddle your baby too tightly as this can cause hip problems.
- Don’t allow your baby to get overheated so avoid using thick blankets and keep an eye on the room temperature.
- Don’t swaddle your baby once they have learnt how to roll over as this can increase their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
To learn more about safe swaddling read my blog here.
5. Use nap times to get your baby used to their sleep environment
When your baby is very young they will need frequent naps throughout the day. One way to get your baby used to their moses basket, crib or cot at night is to start by putting them their for at least some of their daytime naps. This will help your baby gradually get used to their sleep environment and make it feel less daunting at nighttime.
6. Transition from crib to cot in stages
When you feel it’s time for your child to move from a crib to a cot, it can help to do this in stages. First, introduce play time in their big cot so that they gradually get used to their cot and their bedroom even if they are sleeping in your room during the night. Add some special toys and encourage them to have some tummy time and play time in their cot. Then, start doing the bedtime routine in their bedroom every night to encourage that sense of familiarity. When it’s time to make the final transition from crib to cot, your child will already be familiar with their new surroundings and will adjust to their new routine more easily.
I hope that these tips will help your baby sleep better and become less reliant on you. If your baby is 6 months old and you are struggling with their sleep, Sleep Superstars provides sleep welfare packages for a fraction of the cost of a traditional baby sleep consultant. Our sleep packages are tailored to your child and your preferences so that you receive a sleep plan and resource pack with only the information that is relevant to your family. To find out how it works see here or read our testimonials.