Every baby is different, whether your baby refuses to nap because of serious FOMO (fear of missing out), likes to be up at the crack of dawn, or doesn't quite grasp the concept of bedtime, you'll find that the secret to cracking their sleep is having and keeping a strategic bedtime routine.
Discover what type of napper you've got and how to get her to sleep well in her own way. Read on for your bespoke plan...
The No Napper
Whether you push her in a buggy or rock her for hours, this baby is not keen on missing out. She’s a party animal who insists on being the life and soul. And many of you have one – more than 50% of you struggle to get your baby to nap, with a quarter resorting to drives in the car to settle her. The signs are often there from as young as two weeks old, as you find she can last several hours between naps.
While she’s tiny, she’ll eventually crash out but, by around eight weeks, it can be a problem. ‘When her daytime naps reduce slightly, at around two months, your baby may be keen to stay awake for longer, despite being overtired,’ says baby sleep expert Tina Southwood.
A poor napper often ends up overtired. Then, by the time you try to get her down, she’s harder to settle. ‘Learn to read your baby’s sleep signals, which could be anything from nose rubbing and ear pulling, to putting her hands up to her head or turning away from you,’ says Tina. ‘The moment you spot it, put her in the pram for a stroll around the park or stroke her head – whatever it takes to help her nod off.’
The Early Waker
Whatever time you put her down in the evening, this tot is determined to be up with the lark, so wakes you at an indecent hour. Sound familiar? Nearly 20% of you say your baby gets you up before 6am. She seems convinced that this is when her day should begin (it isn’t, but you’ve already tried telling her).
‘It’s often kick-started by the “five month sleep regression”,’ says Tina. ‘Your baby may be waking up hungry if she’s about ready to start weaning, or might simply be taking more notice of the world around her, and can’t wait to start her day.’
Early waking can be a hard habit to break. If you’ve tried all the usual techniques, such as blackout blinds, late-night feeds (or a snack like a banana for an older baby), and leaving her to settle for a few minutes, it’s time to tackle her natural sleep rhythm. Try taking her for an early afternoon walk, while it’s bright outside. Researchers found that babies who sleep well at night are exposed to twice as much light between noon and 4pm as poor sleepers.
Light helps babies to establish their circadian rhythm (natural sleep cycle) – so the old-fashioned trick of letting babies nap in a pram in the garden might be worth a try, too.
Whether breast- or bottle-fed, this baby uses the night to catch up on her feeds. You, on the other hand, are desperate for a solid chunk of sleep. This problem often starts because your baby is hungry during a growth spurt – there’s one at around four or five months that can set your baby back sleep-wise. But her habits should improve after weaning, although 30% of you report that your baby’s still waking at one year old.
If she’s not settling, it’s time to halt the milk habit, otherwise it will also interfere with her enjoyment of solids during the day.
If your baby’s been eating solid food for more than a month, she won’t need milk at night. ‘Gradually cut down on night feeds – giving her slightly less milk at each feed, offering increasingly shorter breastfeeds or reducing the amount of formula in each bottle by an ounce a night,’ says Tina. If that doesn’t work, try a different approach by sending your partner in to settle her. She’ll soon understand that, while she can have a cuddle with daddy, her milky nights are numbered.
The Night Owl
Unlike other babies, this one doesn’t believe in grown-up time. Rather than going to sleep, she’d much prefer to hang out with you downstairs, thank you very much. This is something experienced by many mums, with over a quarter of you still trying to get your babies to sleep by 8pm.
At around eight months, when separation anxiety kicks in, it can be a tricky cycle to break. This is partly because your baby will have grown used to being over-stimulated, then crashing out, rather than having a proper bedtime.
Try inching her bedtime earlier. ‘Getting her down just five minutes sooner each night will bring bedtime forward by an hour in less than two weeks,’ says Tina. Also, watch her naps. ‘If she’s under 10 months, make sure her final nap of the day is no longer than 45 minutes, so she’s tired enough at bedtime,’ she says.
If she’s older than that, don’t let her snooze past 4pm.
This baby likes nothing more than snoozing in a sling, tightly squashed against you – the closer (and more uncomfortable for you), the better. While this is sweet, it soon gets a bit difficult, especially when the transfer to her own bed becomes impossible – something many of you relate to.
However fast asleep she seems, she knows exactly when she’s being deposited in her cot. ‘I used to have to rock my baby for half an hour before gradually lying her down,’ says one mum. ‘Most nights, she’d wake up just as I crept away and I’d have to do the whole thing again.’
Again, although this may be a problem from day one, it often surfaces around eight months, as separation anxiety starts kicking in.
Try warming the mattress of your baby’s Moses basket or cot with a warm hot water bottle – this makes it feel similar to lying on you. ‘But ensure you never overheat your baby – remember to remove the hot water bottle, and always check the sheet isn’t too hot before putting your baby down,’ says Tina. ‘I also like wheat bags, which can be warmed, then placed on your baby’s tummy when you’re settling her. The gentle pressure helps make her feel secure.’