How to sleep train a baby
Spend time learning to sleep train your baby to get the best start in life for your gorgeous little bundle
During the first exciting and bewildering days and weeks of your baby's life, training them into a sleep pattern might seem as likely as winning the lottery.
Don't give up. A routine will seem more realistic as each day passes, and you'll thank yourself for your hard work. Follow our guide to set them on the right track from day one.
At 0-3 months
• Babies sleep for up to 18 hours a day but rarely more than three to four at a time.
• Be led by your baby. Some get fractious, some stare into space, some rub their eyes or touch their ears. You'll soon learn their sleepy cues.
• You can already show them the difference between day and night. During the day, keep the light on and noise levels normal. At night, use a night-light and lower the volume.
• Starting a bedtime routine is the first step towards baby sleep training. A warm bath, baby massage and a feed are good.
• Total quiet can be disconcerting after months of hearing blood whooshing through your placenta. Put a fan in their room (pointing away from them, so they don't get cold). The similar rhythmic noise will be comforting.
• If they drop off after a few minutes during a night feed, wake them and start again. A full tummy means a longer sleep.
At 3-6 months
• Babies sleep for 13-15 hours a day. That usually includes three to five daytime naps. A pattern starts to emerge. By three to four months many babies are sleeping through the night.
• Start putting them down awake. If you rock or feed them to sleep, they'll expect that treatment if they wake naturally in the night – even if they no longer need night feeds. They might grumble at first but be strong. Pop in every 5-15 minutes to reassure them, but try to resist picking them up again.
• You could soothe them with a voice-activated light-show toy. Set the timer to project lights and shapes onto the ceiling, and play soft music as they go to sleep. It restarts if your baby cries in the night.
• Baby might start teething now which can disrupt their sleep so keep some paracetamol handy. Put a clean finger on the gum where the tooth's coming through and apply gentle pressure. This will ease the pain until the medicine kicks in. Always read the label of any medication, but as a guide you can give a baby from 3 months of age 2.5ml of infant paracetamol, 120mg/5ml suspension, up to four times in 24 hours. It is fine to use a sugar-free infant teething gel containing a mild antiseptic alongside that.
At 6-12 months
• Babies sleep 14-15 hours a day (depending on how active they are). They usually take two or three daytime naps, dropping to two as they approach a year old.
• Developmental milestones such as rolling over, sitting and standing can upset sleep patterns. Stick to your routine and they'll soon get back to normal.
• Cutting back on daytime naps to try to make baby sleep longer at night can have the opposite effect. An overtired baby means a worse night.
• We all naturally wake at night. But if your baby is struggling to get back to sleep, try the finger trick. Don't speak or lift them. With minimal pressure, gently run your finger in a straight line from their forehead down to the tip of their nose. Keep repeating. Press down slightly more firmly between the eyebrows, just above the bridge. There's a relaxation point there. This will spark their curiosity so they'll stop grizzling, but following your finger will make them almost close their eyes – try it! They'll soon be soothed and drift off.
By Alison Palmer