8 baby sleep tips for first-time mums

By By Franki Hobson | Presented by Dyson from Honey Nine

If the old saying “sleeps like a baby” has you scratching your head with confusion because, well, your baby and sleep are simply not friends, relax.

9Honey Mums chatted to Jo Whelan, a qualified Infant Health Practitioner, Sleep Consultant and Director of Babywhisperer.com.au. She has more than 20 years of experience in developing age-appropriate sleep programs that lull even the widest eyed-babies to sleep.

If you’re after some tried-and-tested sleep tricks to help your baby sleep (and catch some much-needed z’s yourself) here are eight of Jo Whelan’s best.

1. Make strategic nappy changes

Want your baby to sleep better? It pays to be more strategic when it comes to nappy changing.

“Change baby’s nappy right before bed,” said Jo. “This will help avoid waking them during the night.” Jo also suggests changing baby in between day feeds to “stimulate them to wake and continue feeding. At night, keep them swaddled and in their sleep environment to avoid stimulating and waking.”

2. Give your bub a massage  

A little calming and relaxing massage goes a long way.

“Make sure the environment is warm,” said Jo. “Wrap baby in a warm towel (from the dryer) and warm the oil in your hands. It’s not so much the massage that is important, but rather the tender, caring and touch from a parent.

“Babies love to be in close proximity to mum and dad.”

3. Be mindful when transferring

It’s a sad fact but some babies transfer easy and others just wake!

“Some babies are just more wakeful than others,” said Jo. “My tip is to always have the sleep environment ready to go and make the transfer as quick and quiet as possible. Sometimes it’s easier to leave them parked in the pram in a safe, close space, so as not to disturb a sleep cycle.”

4. Keep the nursery air regulated

Anyone who has ever lived in a city semi-terrace circa 1920s will be all too familiar with rising damp, mould and the cold. But even if you live in a modern home, dust, cold – or heat – can be an issue.

So, what’s the best sleep environment for your baby?

“Ideally, an ambient temperature of 18 degrees,” said Jo. “Also, some children are allergic to dust mites, so keep the environment clean and identify in draft entry points – and block them.” The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Purifier cools your home through its fan functionality, while the purifier captures 99.95% of fine particles, eliminating allergens and pollutants from the air.

5. Get the lighting situation down pat

Ah, the light bulb moment!

Jo says you don’t need to switch off every light in the house to create total darkness just because baby needs a nap. “Babies are more than capable of protecting their own sleep,” said Jo. “Plus, you don’t want to set yourself up for a baby who can only sleep in a dark environment. This will not be what happens at childcare later down the track, so maintain normality.”

6. Feed at the right times

Should you feed baby just before a nap – or does the adult’s ‘3-hour rule’ apply to babies too?

“Always feed baby when they first wake, and not more frequently than 2 hourly – unless it is a cluster feed to make up for a long overnight stint,” said Jo. “Remember the guide – feed, play, sleep. Don’t get into the habit of feeding to sleep.”

7. Have weather-appropriate bedding

Newborns and babies seem to have their own wardrobe rules and requirements, from sleeping bags, sleep suits and wraps – so what’s best?

“I like muslin wraps to swaddle newborns, then, when baby can roll from their back to their tummy, transition baby to a sleeping bag.” The key is to keep them super snug – like in the womb. Babies have spent nine months confined in a tight space, so tucking them in securely gives them a sense of security.”

If you are using sheets, go for weather appropriate bedding – summer lightweight cotton or bamboo which breathes easily, and a warmer blanket for winter.

It is not recommended to use doona’s for babies under 12 months. If you are concerned about bedding and your baby’s room temperature, use a fan or heater to regulate the temperature.

8. Keep noise to a minimum

Every new parent has an overly enthusiastic friend or family member who thinks it’s a great idea to rile up baby just before bed, so be prepared.

“Newborn babies can get very overwhelmed by excessive noise and activity,” Jo explains. “Protect them a little in the early days. But after their newborn period, it’s ok to maintain normal household noise when they sleep.

“You should be able to have a normal conversation, put the washing machine on and even vacuum the house whilst they are asleep. Oh and of course flush the toilet, too! Tiptoeing around the house will just set yourself up for failure.