Babies. The guidelines for getting babies into good sleep habits are pretty much the same as for children and adults. Plenty of fresh air, good routines and take away their mobile ‘phones. Sorted.
But seriously folks babies are clever creatures and they pick up on how things are going to be run pretty quickly. Now I am almost certainly going to get pilloried by someone at some time for my approach to babies and I must stress that these are MY opinions and ultimately you must go with your own instincts. Midwives vary, in that some of them give you good advice and some of them feed you the party line.
The most obvious things to make babies cry are being hungry, wet, dirty or windy. These things make me cry too. Let’s assume that they have fed well, have a clean dry bottom and have burped like a builder on Special Brew. Put them in the cot, wrapped appropriately, with the window open, tell them it’s sleep time and leave the room. If they start to cry, give it a good long time before you go back, and when you do, don’t pick them up, tell them it’s sleep time, make lots of reassuring noises and leave again. Be firm. This can be quite hard, but in the long run it pays off and they soon learn that you mean it.
If a child is constantly hungry, it may be that they’re not getting enough from you or their bottle. Boy the Elder was a ridiculously large baby and although he fed well, he was still always hungry. I started supplementing his feeds with thin baby rice, then pureed swede at 5 weeks and he was as happy as a sandboy. Ask your midwife or family for advice if you’re not sure.
Boy the Younger, on the other hand, was small, thin, yellow and had pointy ears. He didn’t sleep, he was jaundiced, he didn’t feed properly, he didn’t stop crying. For the first month I wished I’d never had him (and I can’t tell you how bad that feels). And then I returned to my right mind and took him to see the cranial osteopath. She diagnosed compression at the base of his skull and very tight membranes across the plates of his head. It only took a few sessions before there was a massive improvement in his feeding and sleeping.
Cranial osteopathy is a wonderful thing. During the birth process, babies are stuck upside down in a tight, nasty place for quite a long time and this can cause the plates of the skull and the vertebrae of the spine to compress and tighten. This compression can lead to poor feeding, poor sleep habits and restlessness. Boy the Younger had a permanent headache for three months so it was no wonder he cried all the time and was off his trough.
Boy the Elder simply couldn’t be bothered to be born and at ten days over his due date I was carted off to be induced. After 18 hours of established labour, an emergency C.section was carried out to prevent the pair of us being carried off. He was born with a very pointy head indeed, so he was whipped off to the osteopath within ten days. He was the healthiest, most well behaved baby one could hope for and he was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks. Osteopaths aren’t cheap, but my goodness it’s worth it.
If babies are restless, massage is a wonderful way, not just of relaxing them, but bonding with them as well. There are lots of great books about baby massage and many health centres run classes. Otherwise, a good Aromatherapist will show you how to do it. It also improves circulation, muscle tone, digestion – it soothes the gut if they suffer from wind or colic, and helps to boost the immune system. It can also form a mutually advantageous part of their routine if you get into the habit of doing five or ten minutes of massage after the bath and just before you put them down to sleep. You can also add one drop of lavender essential oil to their bath which helps to promote deep sleep.
I always put my children to sleep in the pram in the garden during the day, summer and winter alike. I remember Sister the First ringing me in November (BTE was born in September) and she remarked on how quiet it was. I told her BTE was asleep in the garden. “No wonder he’s quiet!” she said “he’s got hypothermia!” Oh how we laughed. The only time I brought them in was if it was really torrenting with rain, foggy or snowing. The blankets were on, the hood was up, the apron was secured with the flap up and the pram was turned into the wind. For BTE I had a normal sized pram in which he could lie flat, but for BTY we had renovated my mother’s beautiful 1950’s, coach built, Silver Cross pram which was big enough to hold small parties in.
If you really don’t feel safe putting your baby outside, then put the cot near the window and leave the window wide open to allow the fresh air in. If it gets chilly, pop a hat on them and an extra blanket. They don’t die of cold when you walk them to the shops so they won’t die of cold in their bedroom.
If you can manage to establish routines early on, it is easier to continue these when they start crawling and toddling. I am not a morning person and if I’m woken very early I’m a very bad person indeed. When BTE started escaping from his cot, we put a stairgate over his bedroom door and left a few toys and books where he could get them. He soon realised that I would come and get him, but that no amount of yelling would get me there any earlier. It was rather nice to pad down to his room and see him sitting looking at his books or playing with his toys.
BTY was not so compliant, as he is a morning person (and still bounces about at a revoltingly early hour). I used to leave a drink of water and a piece of bread and butter under his cot and this would keep him quiet until I got up; earlier than I would have liked, but still civilized by most people’s standards.
And one more thing. Don’t put babies in front of the television. Don’t laugh, I know lots of people who have. When I was teaching baby massage classes, I had a mother come to me because her 3 month old baby would not sleep at all during the day. It turned out that she was lying him on a rug in the lounge with the television on all day to keep him amused. We had a conversation, she switched the telly off, put him to sleep outside and bingo. Slept like a …. baby.
- Make sure your baby has fresh air every day
- Try to establish a routine as soon as you can and stick to it
- Have soft lighting in the bedroom
- Have some cuddly ‘wind down’ before going up to bed
- Keep the bedroom cool
- Read even tiny babies a story, tuck them up, then leave the room
- If they won’t stop crying and you’ve eliminated possible health problems , consider massage and/or cranial osteopathy
- Trust your instincts and if you’re not sure, ask someone.
That’s enough about kipping now.