Ask an expert: How can I get my baby to sleep?

A GP and new father gives advice on how parents can encourage new babies to sleep better.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 13th April 2018, 5:14 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th April 2018, 2:06 pm
Newborn babies are used to being in the womb
Newborn babies are used to being in the womb

I've just had a baby - what are the best ways to encourage her to sleep well?

Dr Tom York, a GP for both the NHS and the GP-on-demand-app GPDQ, says: "Thankfully, human babies are supposed to sleep for at least 15 hours per day. Unfortunately, this rarely happens at a convenient time, so new parents must adapt quickly into a cycle of multiple daily naps.

"Newborn babies are used to being in the womb, so replicating this environment once they're born can help soothe them. Wombs are warm, dark and compact, with only low-pitched noises getting through. Babies are also used to motion, and many pregnant ladies find their babies are far more active when they're stationary.

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"So, a warm, dark, space with no high-pitched noises and your baby swaddled is an environment they're used to, and will tend to make them feel safe and fall asleep more easily.

"The most important thing is that once asleep, your baby sleeps on her back somewhere safe. But many parents get stuck in a rut where their child will only fall asleep while being held. Try and break the new routine and risk a few tough nights.

"Habits can take a few weeks to form, so it pays to persevere and endure some short-term struggles for the benefit of long-term sanity.

"From about six-weeks-old, your baby should start to get the hang of day and night cycles. The best way to encourage this is to make night feeds quiet and dark and put baby back in bed shortly after. Day feeds should be much more active affairs, with lots of talking, singing and then burping and playing afterwards.

"Another way to encourage night sleeping is routine. Try and get up at about the same time each day, and consider having a night routine such as bath, feed, story, bed.

"Sleeping can sometimes be a concern for parents, heightened by their own sleep deprivation. Generally, your baby should sleep for longer periods the older she gets, although be prepared for periods of regression during teething and growth spurts.

"As long as your baby's developing and growing normally, there's usually no cause for concern.

"However, a sudden change in sleeping pattern should make you consider seeing a doctor, as there may be an infection or something else causing them pain.

"Babies are all different and you'll find your own ways of helping them sleep. As long as the baby's sleeping in a safe environment and mum and dad are staying sane then you're doing fine."