Follow these simple steps to restore your little one's sleep cycle after the holidays
There is hardly a more challenging time for parents than settling their little ones after boisterous end of year holiday celebrations. After all kinds of festive disruption - like travelling to visit relatives, the excitement over opening Christmas presents, the over-stimulation of family lunches and dinners, having their feeding times thrown off schedule, and the discomfort of sleeping somewhere new - exhausted parents just want to get their kids back into their regular routine. Love To Dream is here to help you get back on track and see your little ones return to the calm and comfort of their home sleep cycle.
There are three important aspects to get your little ones sleeping soundly again: creating an ideal sleep environment, setting an afternoon and evening routine, and how you respond to your baby over the course of the night to help them sleep through it. All these are part of the simple three-step cycle which forms the basis of the routine you want to return to: sleep, feed, and uptime. Your little one sleeps, then you feed them once they wake, then you manage their playtime while awake to set them up for another good sleep. Let’s look at what goes into making this routine stick.
IDEAL SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Where your baby sleeps, and how you set up their sleep space, can make all the difference to the way they fall asleep and stay asleep. But that’s not all: the actual quality of your baby’s sleep is greatly affected by their sleeping space too. And the thing which will most affect that sleep quality is how familiar your little one is with the space around them.
Putting your baby down to sleep in multiple locations around the house, like the lounge room, or in their pram, can become confusing and unsettling for them. This is why, now that you’re home again from the holidays, it’s important to always put your baby down in the same, well-established, safe sleep location, each time they sleep. This creates familiarity, and sends the simple, clear message ‘when I’m put in my bassinet or cot or crib, it’s time to sleep’. It’ll also help give your baby a strong and positive sleep association with their own sleep space, which will continue as they grow.
Your baby’s day will be made up of naps interspersed with periods of uptime. During these uptimes you’ll feed, burp, change, cuddle and play, then get your little one ready for the next nap. This routine is key to helping your baby understand that the day is coming to an end and it will soon be time to sleep. Your baby’s last nap should finish by 4.30pm at the latest, to help ensure they’re tired enough to drift off into a deeper sleep when it’s bedtime.
Once your baby wakes from this last nap at 4.30pm, they’ll have their last period of uptime for the evening. In this uptime, you’ll want to add your baby’s bath time to the routine. This is really helpful at showing your baby that a nice, warm, relaxing bath means the day is starting to wind down, and it’s time to get clean and snugly for bedtime. Try to give them this bath an hour before they’re ready to go to sleep for the evening.
This calm, relaxing bath time should be followed by even more calming activities, to help them continue preparing for sleep. Avoid bright lights, like TVs and phones which can stimulate them, and try to avoid any play or activity that will make your little one excited or hyped up, undoing all your hard work. Try playing relaxing music, or reading a calm story to your baby - it’s just as important to soothe their minds as it is their bodies.
NIGHT TIME ROUTINE
The final aspect to think about when it comes to getting your baby back into their sleep cycle is the night time routine. This covers the next 12 or so hours, and following the advice here will help support your baby in reaching deeper, higher quality stretches of overnight sleep.
Feeding newborns overnight is essential, and most babies will continue with overnight feeds until they are around six months old. Allow your baby to sleep and wake naturally throughout the night for a feed, rather than waking them to a set schedule. Keep in mind, however, that not every wake up overnight means your baby needs a feed. If you hear your little one making a noise or waking up throughout the night, don’t rush over immediately and feed them. This could encourage snack feeding, which results in shorter bursts of lower quality sleep.
Your aim is to space out your baby’s feeds during the night, so they’re taking a full feed when they’re hungry. With a nice full tummy, they can sleep longer! If you do this, their night time feeding and sleeping pattern should naturally fall into place and over time, the periods of uninterrupted sleep will increase, and the feeds will decrease.
To figure out whether you need to feed your baby or not when they wake, take a note of when their last feed was. But more importantly, just wait and listen. They might just be moving from one sleep cycle to the next – and doing so with a slight moan or groan. On the other hand, they might just be cold, or need a nappy change. Once you address this, it’s important you let your baby head back to sleep. Ultimately, you want to encourage them to learn how to settle themselves back to sleep. But while they’re still learning to self-settle, they may need a bit of help, which you can pinpoint as being the case if your baby is waking hourly, or every two hours.
Follow our TOG guide to ensure your baby is reaching a comfortable temperature overnight!
And that’s all there is to it! Follow these simple tips by creating an ideal sleep environment for your little one, managing their afternoon and evening routine, and ensuring their night time routine is calm and relaxing. Pretty soon, the hurried holiday disruptions will be a thing of the past, and your baby will be right back to their familiar sleep cycle - and so will you!