Newborns are prone to a startle reflex, which causes their arms to fling into their face and wake them. To reduce the chance of this happening, and recreate a cosy, womb-like environment, swaddling can really help. There are many different swaddling methods – entire books have been written on the subject! – so you may want to practise a few methods before finding which works best for your baby. Alternatively, invest in a wrap with Velcro or press studs, which will prove harder for baby to escape from. Stop wrapping once the startle reflex disappears, or when baby learns to roll onto her tum.
From white noise, such as a radio stuck between stations or a blaring fan, to more traditional lullabies, research shows that tunes really can help babies nod off. You could always sing to your baby – they love the sound of your voice and don't care if you are tone deaf.
Eye rubbing, yawning and refusing eye contact are all signs that baby is ready for bed. If you miss the cues then that particular window of sleep could pass you by completely, resulting in an over-tired, double-grumpy baby and probable pain for mum and dad. Newborns will generally become overtired after being awake for 90 minutes, and this increases to one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours at 3-6 months and 2-3 hours up to a year old.
Giving baby an opportunity to wind down and prepare for bed is important. Reduce stimulation by taking her away from TVs, windows and noise, closing blinds and hiding toys. Opt for soft lighting and speak softly while having some quiet time together in her room. A story and a gentle rock or cuddle should help baby become more relaxed, which will lead to the next logical step -- sleep. Regularly following the same pattern should help her recognize this!
Some mums swear by giving baby one last feed at around 10-11 p.m., or whenever it is they're going to bed themselves. Sometimes called a 'dream feed', food is subtly offered while baby is still sleeping, keeping her full and happy until a more respectable hour (in theory!).
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