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Putting a baby to bed

Your baby's sleep patterns are likely to drive you mad during the early weeks. You'll be woken up at odd times through the night and you're going to be tired and grumpy. It gets better - really! Here's what you need to know to help you get through it.

How new babies sleep

There's no such thing as normal! Some new babies sleep 20 hours a day, others for 10. In the first few weeks it could be feed, sleep, feed, sleep - at will, all day and all night and for as long as necessary. No discipline! Gradually over time the sleep pattern will settle down.

Don't be specially quiet when Baby's sleeping. Sleeping through noise is a speciality, so no need to tiptoe around. In fact, it's better not to, so Baby gets used to sleeping through normal household noise (but don't turn up the sound-system TOO loud). That way they won't be woken up by every loud noise when they're a bit older.

Night and day - from six months

By around six months the sleep pattern is likely to be something like 10 - 12 hours a night plus a few hours napping morning and afternoon. This is the time to start teaching Baby that night is different from day - few things drive parents as bonkers as a baby who doesn't seem to know the difference and wants to be up and doing at 3 am.

So, if it's a night-time feed:

  • keep the lights dim
  • don't talk much and speak quietly
  • no playing
  • don't change the nappy unless you really, really have to
  • the feed will make Baby drowsy - back down straight after finishing

Not too hot, not too cold

Babies can't control their own temperatures very well. They need you to do that for them. It's just as important to stop them getting too hot as too cold. So

  • Keep the bedroom between 16°C and 20°C (61°F and 68°F) - if you're warm enough in a T-shirt, it's warm enough for a sleeping baby.
  • No hats (No hats indoors at ANY time).
  • Only sheets and blankets until a year old - easier to control temperature with layers. At one year old a duvet is fine.
  • Never ever put Baby to sleep in front of the fire, near a radiator or heater or next to a sunny window.
  • Never use a hottie or an electric blanket.

Bedding

  • Don't put Baby to sleep on anything soft - a pillow, cushion, beanbag or waterbed.
  • Don't use cot bumpers once Baby can get up on hands and knees - they can be used as an escape route out of the cot.
  • Watch out for ribbons or bits of string from mobiles - they can tangle up Baby's limbs.

Time for bed

It's bedtime, not playtime - make it easier for yourself and don't mix them up.

  • Dim the lights.
  • Talk softly.
  • A bit of rock-a-bye baby helps settle them down.
  • Always, always - put them to sleep on their back, not tummy.
  • Put Baby in the 'feet to foot' position - feet at the foot of the cot, blankets made up to the shoulders and tucked in to stop wriggling down under the covers.

Don't

  • Let Baby get too hot. Sweating? Too hot.
  • Let anyone smoke in the room where Baby's sleeping.
  • Worry if hands and feet are cooler than the rest of the body if Baby is otherwise happy and well.

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