For babies aged newborn to 3 months, you can get your baby to sleep using a settling technique called ‘hands-on settling’. This involves you offering comfort in the form of patting of rocking while your baby remains in bed. Before you begin this technique, start by:
- Introducing a routine where your baby is fed after she wakes. Try to avoid feeding her before you put her to bed as she may begin to associate feeding with sleep time – with the result that if she wakes from a light sleep she may want to feed again before she’ll go back to sleep.
- Keeping an eye for signs of tiredness.
- Prepare her for sleep. Make sure that she is fed, has a clean nappy, and is in comfortable loose clothing. Have a little quiet time before bed.
- Putting her into bed awake. You want her to learn how to self-settle and she can only do this if she is awake when you put her to bed.
Once she’s ready for bed:
- Wrap your baby (if applicable) and place her on her back with her feet at the bottom of the cot. Tuck her in firmly.
- If she’s relaxed and calm, leave her room and give her the chance to go to sleep on her own.
- If your baby cries and needs help to settle, try to avoid picking her up and instead offer her comfort in her bed by gently patting her, rocking her body, rocking her cot, or stroking her face and head.
- Gradually reduce these comfort techniques as she calms and relaxes, and once she’s settled (but before she falls asleep) leave her room and let her fall sleep on her own.
- Some babies find quiet background noise relaxing -this could be low volume music or the ‘white noise’ of a fan or even the radio between stations. Sometimes too much quiet can actually be unsettling and impractical to maintain – particularly if you have another child in the house.
- If you can’t get your baby to stop crying, pick her up for a few moments to comfort her. Once she has settled, tuck her back into bed and retry the hands-on techniques.
- Give the technique a chance to work. Whatever method you choose when settling your baby, give it enough time to work. Avoid chopping and changing your strategies because that, on its own, may be unsettling for your baby. Continue to try to settle for approx. 30 minutes, but if your baby doesn’t fall asleep in that time, try taking her for a walk in the pram, giving her a massage or a relaxation bath. And then start again.
- Learn how to properly wrap your baby for sleep
- Learn the best patting technique for settling baby
- Learn how to settle baby quickly and quietly
Regardless of age, the goal is always to encourage her to put herself to sleep. Don’t offer help (patting/ stroking/ rocking) unless she is unsettled.
Find more related articles and information on baby sleep
- Best baby sleep advice tips and advice
- Baby safety – baby bedding
- Baby safety – cots and baby mattress
- Co-sleeping with baby
- Sleep Apnoea in babies
This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot – New Zealand’s parenting resource for newborns and baby.