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Good sleeping habits in a baby are important to both you and your baby’s well-being. Often new parents can feel sleep deprived for the first year of their baby’s life or even longer. Creating a safe and secure sleep environment for your baby goes a long way to ensuring such good sleeping habits. The safest place at night for the first 6 months of life is for your baby to sleep on his back, in a crib in your room. If you have a nursery for your baby with a cot set up, then it is a good idea to put the crib in the cot for your baby’s daytime sleeps so that when he comes to move into the cot at 6 months or before, he is already used to the cot and to the room itself. You can use the nursery for changing nappies, dressing, reading books etc from an early age.
Of much concern to parents of a new baby are Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and these steps can help to reduce the risk:
When putting your baby to sleep on his back, ensure the feet are at the foot of the cot so he cannot wriggle down under the covers.
Ensure your baby is not too hot or too cold.
Don’t use quilts or pillows for babies younger than a year.
Please stop smoking as soon as you are pregnant and don’t let anyone smoke near your baby.
If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice.
Don’t let your baby fall asleep with you on the sofa or an adult bed – this can be very unsafe.
Newborn babies sleep as much as they need, and fall asleep when they need to. If your baby wakes up happy and alert, whether he has been asleep for a few minutes or a few hours, he has had enough sleep. Your baby’s sleep pattern will change rapidly over the first 6 months. Even at a very young age, you can help your baby learn the difference between being asleep and being awake but putting him into a crib or pram when asleep and moving him into another room with company when he wakes. This will help him to begin to associate “bed” with sleep – a useful lesson for the future.
Start a bedtime routine from an early age so that he comes to learn that bath, feed, cuddle (and later a story) come before sleep. Be careful what you start in a routine as whatever you do to encourage your baby to sleep in the evening, he will expect the same thing if and when he wakes in the night. If he learns to drift off to sleep alone, he will do the same if he wakes in the night. However, in the early months, babies need feeding during the night for the sake of nutrition and they enjoy the comfort and closeness they get by being with you. But you should make the night time feed as calm and quiet as possible with the lights dimmed, speaking very softly and only changing a nappy if necessary. He will learn the difference between day and night feeding. Sometimes babies can find it too quiet to fall asleep so something like a ticking clock can make a good background sound.