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You're desperate for some rest, but your little one is wide awake. Broken nights are a fact of life for most new parents, but getting a gentle routine in place can help everyone towards some sleep
'Newborn babies are super sleepy and can doze for up to 18 hours over the course of 24,' says Katie Palmer, a children's sleep consultant. 'For the first three weeks, they'll probably want around five or six hours' sleep in the daytime, spread over several naps. They'll only go about one and a half to two hours awake at a time during the day.'
How to help your baby towards a sleep routine
• Wake them at the same time each morning. Open the curtains or turn on a light and engage with your baby to let them know it's time to get up.
• Babies who get their days and nights mixed up tend to do so because they haven't fed enough during the day. Ideally, feed every three or four hours in the daytime – even if it means waking them.
• Introduce a gentle bedtime routine with a bath or wash, night clothes and feed, then put your baby into their cot.
• If they won't sleep, aren't hungry and they're crying, they could have colic. It's most likely to happen in the late afternoon and evening, and symptoms include drawing their legs up and arching their back. Try colic drops and the 'tiger in the tree' pose. Lay your little one, tummy down, along your forearm so their arms and legs dangle either side of your arm and their head is in the palm of your hand. This applies pressure to the tummy and will help ease any pain quickly. At the same time, gently rock them and repeat long 'shhh' noises in a low tone to soothe them.
• Colicky babies tend to be 'sucky' babies, so you might want to offer a dummy to help pacify them.
• To maximise night-time sleep, keep lights low and noise to a minimum.
• During night feeds, it's common for babies to drop off after just a few minutes. You're probably exhausted, and it's tempting to put them straight down. But with only a partially full tummy, they are likely to wake again quickly. Instead, really wake them up – change their nappy, even take their clothes off and re-dress them so they're alert. It might take slightly longer, but they'll take a decent amount of milk that will see them – and you – asleep for longer. Don't worry about your baby being very awake when you start the feed. A tummy full of milk is like a sedative.
By Alison Palmer