If you’re a new parent, you have probably experienced the difficulty of putting your baby to bed. Oftentimes, he’ll just lie down in his bassinet and stare at you with his big eyes as if waiting for you to help him sleep.
However, don’t always give in and let him learn how to settle himself to sleep, especially when you have a 3-month-old. Give him enough time and space to self-soothe so he can learn how to sleep on his own. Still, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Sometimes, it’s not your little one that has a problem. In fact, YOU might be the reason why he can’t sleep on his own. Fortunately, it’s human to make mistakes and there are ways you can set them right. So, if you want to help your baby self-settle, here are 15 common parenting mistakes you should avoid and correct.
15 Common Mistakes New Parents Make That Prevent Babies from Self Settling
- Ignoring Common Signs of Tiredness
Most parents ignore (or worse, don’t know) the signs of baby tiredness. Doing so can lead to baby sleep problems such as overtiredness—a period where your baby’s body is past the point of being asleep.
As such, it’s advisable to place your little one in his crib if he starts showing signs such as yawning, crying, or staring at a distance among others.
- Putting Baby Into Bed While Drowsy
Many parenting blogs and experts advise parents to put their babies to bed while drowsy. As it supposedly helps them sleep easier at night.
However, this actually leads to unhealthy sleep associations which actually makes it harder for your little one to fall asleep on his own.
- Holding Baby Until He Falls Asleep
Many parents rely on rocking or swinging motions so they can put their babies to sleep. After all, these rhythmic actions remind your little ones of the time they spent inside their mum’s body. These ultimately make them feel relaxed and able to doze off easily.
However, holding your baby until he falls asleep is actually a bad habit. Over time, he/she more likely to rely and depend on you to put him to sleep, leaving him with no skill and knowledge about self-settling.
- Turning the Aircon Temperature Up
The constant blazing, hot temperatures during the summer months in Australia can urge any parent to turn on the air conditioning.
It’s important to know, though, that your baby lacks enough body fat to keep himself warm. This results in him having trouble self-settling.
To avoid these baby sleep problems, you should keep the aircon temperature between 18° to 22° Celcius. You can also give your little one a nice, cozy blanket for maximum comfort which ultimately allows him to sleep easily.
Tip: Having trouble keeping your baby’s bed warm? Try placing hot towels to warm the sheets but make sure they’re not soaking wet!
- Giving Your Baby a Cold Bath
During the hot summer days, this seems to be perfectly acceptable as the cold water can relieve his discomfort. However, if you want to teach your little one how to sleep on his own, you should stick to warm baths.
These have a similar sensation of being in his mum’s womb, ultimately comforting him. Furthermore, your baby’s body temperature can also be regulated through warm baths which helps him relax.
- Waking Baby Up to Breastfeed
Since breastmilk is easily digested by your newborn, he often wakes up in the middle of the night to request another feeding. Do note that this is just normal as night nursing’s are essential during your baby’s first weeks to provide adequate nutrition.
But once he has established a good feeding pattern, you can stop waking baby to nurse in order to let him set a sleeping pattern for himself.
- Taking Caffeine When You’re Breastfeeding
For most parents, coffee is a must to get them through all the sleepless nights. However, if you’re a new mum who regularly nurses your little one, it’s a must to cut down your caffeine intake.
This might be hard to do but do remember that small amounts of caffeine can be passed down through breast milk. As a result, your baby will have a hard time self-settling since he’s stimulated and fussy.
Tip: Limit your coffee intake to not more than 300 milligrams. Be wary of other foods too as they can contain caffeine as well.
- Letting Baby Play Before Bedtime
As playing can stimulate your baby, avoid playtime just before bedtime in order to minimise problems in your baby falling asleep and self-settling.
Instead, limit playtime during the day as this can lengthen his awake time and even help him sleep longer periods at night.
- Leaving the Baby Room in a Mess
With so many things to attend to as a new parent, you might have a hard time keeping your house clean and tidy all the time. However, a messy room can disorient anyone, especially your little one and can make it harder for him to fall asleep easily.
That’s why it’s a must to clean your baby’s room regularly and re-organise his things. He’ll appreciate the neatness as he can feel safe and comfortable to sleep on his own.
- Watching the TV During Bedtime
Televisions emit blue light which is proven to have bad effects in your sleep, including your baby’s sleep. It can boost attention, mood, and reaction times. And while other kinds of light naturally suppress melatonin (a hormone that helps your body to know when it’s time to sleep), blue light can repress it more powerfully. As a result, your baby will have a harder time falling asleep.
To resolve this problem, avoid using television (and your phones!) just before and during bedtime.
- Turning the Lights Up When Changing Nappies
You probably remember the countless times when your baby wakes up due to a soiled nappy. And you probably also recall that after keeping the lights on, your little one is having trouble going back to sleep.
This is mainly due to the fact that light sources can overstimulate him and make it harder for your baby to fall asleep.
- Neglecting Oral Care
Most parents don’t think about their baby’s oral health until it’s too late to do anything. For one, teething can show as early as 3 months which can cause swollen and tender gums, lots of drool, and immense pain. Overall, these discomforts can spark changes in your newborn’s sleeping patterns which can even result in overtiredness.
To help your baby self-settle and properly fall asleep again, you should relieve his teething pain by rubbing his gums or adding cold pressure.
Tip: If your baby exhibits crankiness or fussiness, you can try over-the-counter medication to calm him down and help him fall asleep. However, be sure to consult a doctor first before administering it to your child.
- Stuffing Baby’s Bed with Unnecessary Items
All your baby really need in his bed is a fitted sheet and a blanket to keep him warm. These will ultimately help him self-settle and doze off for longer periods at night.
Avoid putting pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, and other unnecessary bedding as these can cause suffocation and choking. It can even lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
Did You Know? According to a research conducted by the American Academy of Paediatrics, stomach sleeping increases the risk of SIDS by 1.7 to 12.9%. They recommend that parents should put babies to sleep on their backs to lower the risk.
- Sticking to a Baby Bassinet
Due to SIDS and other parenting concerns, it’s perfectly acceptable to co-sleep with your baby by putting a bassinet just beside your bed. In fact, room-sharing minimises the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.
However, do know the right time when you should move your infant to a bigger bed. Generally, you can put him to a crib by 3 months old. Doing so allows him to move around better in his own bed which eventually leads to a good night’s rest.
- Attending Immediately to Baby’s Cries
Most parents panic when their babies make a little sound during the middle of the night. After all, it’s just parenting instinct thinking that he might be in pain or need a feed.
However, avoid picking him up every time he makes noises at night. This makes him depend on you whenever he needs someone to calm him down, which eventually leads to him not learning how to self-settle.
General Guidelines You Can Follow to Help Your Baby Self-Settle
Now that you have a basic idea about what you’re doing wrong that prevents your baby from sleeping better, you might be wondering about ways you can help him self-settle.
The baby sleep experts at Nurture Parenting, presents these general guidelines to help your baby self-settle and achieve a good night’s rest.
- Put Baby to Bed When He’s Fully Awake
Like previously stated above, putting your baby to bed when he’s already drowsy actually does the opposite job. As such, it’s best to put your baby to bed when he’s fully awake. There are various ways to do this but no matter which way you choose to get your baby to sleep, the key is minimising stimulation and signalling his body that it’s time to sleep.
- Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine
However, making your baby feel drowsy can only do so much. It’s still best to create a sleep-wake schedule that he can easily follow. After all, babies respond well to consistency and structure.
In general, implement this routine: feed, change nappies, playtime, sleep.
It’s acceptable to adjust a little when it comes to your baby’s sleeping and feeding times. After all, your baby’s sleep-wake cycle varies depending on his age. However, the key to establishing a good sleeping routine is all about consistency.
Tip: If your little one’s still having difficulties sleeping at night, try gradually moving his nap time earlier in order to let his body adjust to night sleeping times.
- Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
Another important part in establishing good sleeping habits is creating a comfortable sleep environment.
Start by letting baby sleep on his back. This would allow him to sleep better and longer at night because he can properly breathe in air, compared to stomach sleeping. Doing so can also minimise the risk of SIDS.
As much as possible, you should also co-sleep with your baby, especially during his early weeks and months. This allows you to attend to any needs he might have in the middle of the night such as feeding and diapering.
Always keep your baby’s room quiet, dimly lit, and at a slightly cool temperature. You should also keep bedding at a minimum to avoid further risk of SIDS. Overall, by doing all these things, you’ll be giving him a sleep environment where he’s safe and secure enough to settle on his own.
Tip: Co-sleeping is sharing the room with your baby and not sharing the bed.
Teaching your baby how to self-settle is important in order to help him calm down and go to sleep on his own. However, you might be committing these parenting mistakes which prevents your little one from self settling. Fortunately, these mistakes can be avoided and corrected, leading to a better and longer sleep for your newborn.
Nurture Parenting, a company in Australia that offers a holistic approach to baby sleep through The Nurture Sleep Program that is designed to take babies from sleepless to slumber.
Nurture Parenting is recognised as Australia’s baby sleep expert. Headed by Karen Faulkner, a Baby and Toddler Sleep Consultant, the company offers The Nurture Sleep Program that helps babies and children on sleep training. This is a tried and tested approach that has already transformed the lives of families through its exclusive baby sleep methods that help baby self-settle and promote blissful sleep.