Everything you need to know about sleep in your baby’s first year
Sleep. Probably THE most talked about element of parenthood, with parents of young children constantly obsessing about nap lengths, night wakings, bedtime routines and early wake ups! We’ll bet that even before your little one arrived, parents who had been there and got the t-shirt warned you to start catching up on sleep whilst you still had the chance!
We get it. Nobody functions well when they’re sleep deprived and if sleep is an issue in your house, it can affect your mental wellbeing, your health, your work and your relationships.
That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive sleep handbook jam-packed with expert advice from our trusted team of sleep consultants to help you understand your little one’s sleep during their first year.
All of our experts are available to contact for more information, whether you want to ask a simple question, book an online consultation or invite someone to work with you at home. If you don’t find what you need here, be sure to reach out to any of our sleep experts, who will be happy to help you and your family.
The Early Days: Understanding Newborn Sleep
Those early newborn days are often a mixture of long, sleepy cuddles with your tiny new bundle and frantic periods of helplessly trying to soothe their cries. It can be hard to know what they need and what they want, and this is often when sleep feels very challenging.
“After birth, babies suddenly feel the cold, they understand touch (particularly if hands are cold), they have unfamiliar smells and sounds, lights which they have never experienced before and they have primal brains as the frontal cortex and other areas of their brain have not yet developed,” explains The Eco Midwife. “This is why their brains are immature, and they cry because they experience sensations which make them feel unhappy to have their needs met by their caregivers.”
If settling your newborn at any point during the night or day is a challenge for you, the Eco Midwife has a list of 8 tips to settle your baby during the postpartum period period.
Some items to help along the way include:
- A bedside cot or cot suitable for your bedroom
You may have spent time excitedly preparing your baby’s new nursery, but extensive research recommends it is safest to have your baby sleep in your room next to you for the first six months of their life.
- A Monitor
Always useful during nap time if you are in a different area of the house. We love the Owlet Monitor Duo which goes above and beyond a camera monitor. An incredibly clever piece of tech – your baby’s heart rate, oxygen levels and sleep trends can be tracked straight to your phone in real time via a lightweight Smart Sock which wraps gently around their ankle during periods of sleep. During our testing, this provided total reassurance when baby was asleep and it was great to be able to relax in the knowledge that if the Smart Sock were to detect anything outside the norm, it notifies you immediately.
- A white noise machine
Some babies find it tricky to settle when it’s quiet, but are lulled by the womb-like sounds of white noise. With older babies and children, the opposite can be true and sudden noises outside or around the house can disturb their sleep. White noise provides a constant, reassuring sound that blocks out external noise and can lead to peaceful sleep. There are many white noise machines on the market, but The Daddy Sleep Consultant recommends having one that can be plugged in and left on all night so you don’t have to keep switching it back on again! The Marpac Hushh white noise machine is a bloss favourite because, not only can it be plugged in and left on all night, it also has a portable option with a handy hook to attach to the pram when you’re on the go.
Whether you are for or against dummies, designs have changed significantly in recent years so you may wish to consider an orthodontic approved dummy, which the Enchanted Nanny, Danielle Manton-Kelly considers a God-send! You can read about Danielle’s pros and cons for dummy use in this helpful article.
Understanding the science behind newborn sleep and what is possible for very young babies developmentally can help you establish realistic expectations of what is ‘normal’ and achievable for them. The Daddy Sleep Consultant talks you through this in his article, ‘Everything you need to know about your newborn’s sleep’, which focuses on a newborn’s sleep cycle, awake windows and how this changes as they reach the 3-4 month mark.
Establishing routines in the early months
Sleep consultant Sally, from Mini Sleepers, says that it can be useful to introduce good sleep routines even during the very early months to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits from the get-go. Although it can take babies 12 weeks or more to develop a circadian rhythm, there are things that you can do to help this along.
“During awake times, try to make sure your baby gets exposure to lots of daylight. This can be outdoors (make sure it’s indirect sunlight) or indoors (open the curtains up when waking your baby in the morning and from naps),” says Sally. “Don’t put pressure on yourself to be outdoors daily or for long periods of time. 15-20 minutes will suffice and fresh air and daylight will be good for you as well.”
The 4 month Sleep Regression
The 4 month sleep regression is the period around the 4 month mark where everything you thought you understood about your baby’s sleep goes out the window! But what actually is a sleep regression?
“Sleep regression is a term used to describe a disturbance in your baby’s sleep pattern. Usually characterised by regular waking throughout the night and difficulty transitioning between sleep cycles,” says sleep consultant, Rebecca Ashton.
There are many schools of thought about this development milestone, including what to call it! Sleep consultant Sarah Patel calls it a sleep PROgression and has put together a helpful guide to help you through this tricky time.
“Personally I like to use the term ‘sleep transition’,” suggests Alissa Pemberton. “This is really what it is. Our baby is transitioning from one way of sleeping, through a period of rapid development, to another way of sleeping. It doesn’t have to be a negative experience, and with consistency and understanding, you can help your baby to sail through these periods as easily as possible.”
If your baby is around the 4 month mark and is beginning to roll, is starting to sit with some support or is reaching out for objects, then any one of these things could trigger a change in their sleep. For more information, check out Alissa’s and Rebecca’s articles to understand more about what is going on developmentally and how you can help your baby through it.
Joanne Lozman also has some useful information about how other developmental milestones can affect your little one’s sleep too – things like getting teeth through, learning to talk and learning to walk. Unfortunately these regressions are not limited to the 4 month mark, but they are a sign your baby is making some huge leaps in their development!
Let’s talk about naps!
From how long and how often a baby should nap, to what babies should wear when they do, day time naps can be just as difficult to navigate as the nights!
Here are some common questions we hear on the bloss chat forum about naps, and some articles written by our experts with all the answers.
“My baby is taking chronic short naps!”
The Fox and the Moon Sleep consultants advise on what to do if your little one’s naps are frequently shorter than 30 minutes and therefore not getting the chance to have restorative sleep.
“What should my baby or toddler wear for their daytime nap?”
The Daddy Sleep Consultant shares his tips on how to make your little one comfortable for their day time nap to ensure optimal sleep.
“How can I extend my little one’s nap time?”
Joanne Lozman has some good advice for extending your little one’s nap time so that they can connect their sleep cycles by themselves.
“What are the optimal timings for my baby’s nap?”
Oliva, from the Dream House Sleep Consultancy, has put together this handy video explaining everything you need to know about nap times for your baby according to their age.
“When should I transition my baby from 2 naps to 1?”
Helping your baby transition from 3 naps to 2, and then from 2 down to 1 until they’re no longer napping at all (sob!) is something many parents struggle with. The Daddy Sleep Consultant has put together this comprehensive article about nap transitions that covers everything you need to know about nap transitions from 4 months to 4 years!
‘Sleep Training’ and the quest for independent sleep
As with anything baby related, there are many opinions and schools of thought about how to encourage your baby to sleep through the night and at what age this is possible or realistic. ‘Sleep training’ has received mixed press over the years, and many parents are left feeling confused about what sleep training actually involves, whether it works and what the alternatives might be.
“Sleep training means to train your baby to sleep,” says sleep consultant, Heidi Skudder. “Falling asleep on their own and being able to settle back to sleep throughout the night by themselves.”
Heidi answers all the questions you might have about sleep training, in her article The Truth about Sleep Training and has rave reviews from our very own Binky Felstead, who called on Heidi’s support to help with little Wolfie.
As with any milestone, teaching your baby to sleep independently can involve quite a few tricks of the trade, and Alissa Pemberton has several of them up her sleeve, which she covers here. From offering your little one close contact for reassurance, to getting babies used to their sleep space during the day, and even accepting that there will almost certainly be a few bumps in the road, Alissa has some top advice to help your find an independent sleep strategy that works for you and your little one.
If you are undertaking any element of sleep training, or trying to encourage your little one to settle in their own sleep space, you might want to invest in an adorable cot accessory from Cotterpillar, which not only adds a very sweet personal touch to your child’s nursery, but also provides you with a little comfort when you’re engaged in the back-breaking task of learning over the cot! Check out the Cotterpillar range, and enjoy 15% off any full-priced product with our exclusive bloss discount!
The Lullaby Trust recommends sharing a room with your baby for at least the first 6 months of their life. If you choose to move your baby into their own room after this, you will want to create the perfect environment for them to ensure the best night’s sleep. One element you may not have considered for your baby or little one is a floor bed instead of a cot or toddler bed, which Alissa Pemberton says can be a real game changer for ensuring optimum sleep all round for the whole family.
Our favourite baby and toddler mattresses for healthy, safe sleep are by Naturalmat, as they combine carefully selected natural materials for supreme comfort and breathability, are fire retardant without the need for chemicals, and are treated with an all-natural anti-bed bug and dust mite formula, making them perfect for children with allergies or sensitive skin. Bloss subscribers can receive a 15% discount on their first order with this unique code.
You’ve got this! (But if you haven’t, we’ve got you!)
We know it can be a lot to take in, especially if you’re sleep deprived and struggling to see a way out. But rest assured that our team of qualified and trusted experts are here for YOU whenever you need support – not just during your baby’s first year, but beyond this too.
Keep this guidebook handy so you’ll always have the advice you need and experts at the ready, whenever you need a little helping hand.
You look after your little one, and we’ll look after you.