How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

12 Nov 2015 Posted by: Ann Guindi

Ann Guindi from Parenting Peace shares essential tips to help your baby sleep by explaining her PEACE method

P- Preparation, E- Environment, A-Attachment, C- Calm baby and calm self and E- Expectations


Preparation is key. A normal bedtime routine should take about half an hour and should be the same every single night, even when on holiday where possible.In order for babies to sleep they need exactly what we as adults need - a calm body and a calm environment.

Suggested bedtime routine :

  • No over stimulation 2 hours before bedtime - avoid any computers or screens of any sort
  • Bath no bubbles just plain water with no toys and avoid two in a bath - keep functional for best results
  • Lighting - Avoid harsh, bright lighting. Instead use soft, red, yellow or orange night lighting
  • Massage with oil to calm and rehydrate the skin
  • Story - same story every night and only one, not several
  • Feed - breast or bottle - wait until they are fast asleep
  • Music with white noise/ Alpha sounds (60 beats per minute)

It is important to accept that babies sleep cycles only last for about 45 minutes compared to 90 minutes in adults. On average newborn babies will have 5-6 sleep cycles in a night. It also takes about 12 weeks for babies to know the difference between night and day, as it takes melatonin (sleep hormone) levels that long to be established.


To understand the baby's world, it is important to understand the environment that babies are conditioned to in pregnancy compared to what we impose on our babies after birth. It is no surprise that babies have difficulty in sleeping after they are born.

In utero:

  • It is dark -and sleep/wake cycle is shared with the mother through her hormones
  • Warmth from being submerged in the amniotic fluid
  • Constantly fed with all their nutritional requirements 24/7 through the umbilical cord
  • Comforted both by being in close contact with mother, almost constantly rocked by the movement and reassured by hearing the heartbeat
  • Impaired smell
  • Naked
  • Curled up in the foetal position and feeling safe

Then after birth:

  • Bright lights (daytime) and no ability to recognise night from day
  • Exposed to cold air
  • Fed on demand - babies have to experience hunger for the first time ever
  • Often placed alone in a cot without any movement, with lots of noises they are unfamiliar
  • Many new and unfamiliar smells
  • Clothed in fabrics that may irritate or cause them discomfort
  • Made to lay flat on their back


How can we replicate the environment of the baby in utero by using the senses?

1. Lighting

Adjust bright lighting to softer lighting 2 hours before bedtime - turn down the lights. Avoid artificial lights especially the LED energy saving bulbs which give off high white light. In children's bedrooms use soft red lighting. Day time naps should be taken in daylight with the curtains open as babies need natural light to build their natural body clock. To boost this try and get outside everyday into natural daylight as this will keep encourage better night time sleep.

2. Sound

Babies are used to hearing your heartbeat and the sounds of all your body systems. Contrary to what most parents think babies like some noise while sleeping having a quite environment is counterproductive for sleep. It could in fact hinder sleep as it is so alien to babies. As mentioned previously, use CDs with white noise or music with a beat of 60 beats per minute to mimic the mother's heartbeat. Many will turn off the music once the baby/ child is asleep but leave it play throughout the night so it can help your baby back into another sleep cycle.

3. Scent and Touch

The most comforting smell for a baby is their mother's scent. I always recommend mothers condition their baby to an object that can be a comfort to their baby in their absence. This could be a muslin, a piece of clothing, blanket or special toy.

  • Begin to get your baby/toddler used to their transitional object by having it with them at special times for example story time or snuggle time on the sofa. Have it with them when feeding and when tucking your child in at night.
  • It will take about a month in order for an attachment to be made so don't be tempted to give up after a week.
  • Allow some overlap between the conditioning and your presence being taken away. Don't try and do it before your child is ready.
  • Don't ever wash the comforter as it has the scent that your child will want and is familiar to them. This is exactly what brings them the comfort they need. They don't care about it being dirty or smelly. I made the mistake of washing my own son's comfort blanket, we had tears and tantrums plus he had to be re-conditioned again.
  • Always have two comforters as if you lose one it can be difficult for both parent and child.

Another soothing scent that works well is lavender. This can be used in the bath or as a massage oil (diluted in a carrier oil like almond/sunflower). I used this with my children and it really calms and soothes a baby. It can also be placed in your child's bedroom circulated with an aromatherapy fan. Lavender is a proven method of calming and soothing the body. This also needs to be conditioned and will take about 4 weeks so don't give up too early.

4. Sight

Your baby will feel most secure and comforted when they can see you.

5. Touch

There is nothing more soothing to your baby that being held and feeling your touch. But I realise that you cannot hold your baby 24/7 as when you were pregnant with them. However, this is what your baby expects and there are ways to replicate this if you truly want to meet the needs of your baby. Its known as baby wearing. This can be achieved by the use of a baby sling. There are many on the market but the better ones are made of soft material which is kinder for both you and baby to wear. Your baby should also be able to be in a 'M' shape position 'froglike' with the hips flexed and the back in a 'C' shape. This is like being back in utero in a position that babies feel comfortable in. Many babies can sleep very well when held by a sling and it also leaves your arms free to do other daily tasks. Many cultures to this naturally, it is just frowned upon in western culture for fear of spoiling the baby.

Babies are most comfortable in natural cloths and these are also the safest fabrics to use in the prevention of cot death. There are so many clothes on the market now for newborns that simply are not comfortable to wear. I always suggest sleep suits for babies in the first 3 months for both comfort and safety.

NOTE: Scientists from the Infant Sleep Information Source (ISIS) suggest that taking naps in a sling reduces the risk of cot death.


Attachment parenting focuses on the nurturing connection that parents can develop with their children. That nurturing connection is viewed as the ideal way to raise secure, independent, and empathetic children.This section will be controversial especially amongst my health visiting colleagues.

For an attachment based model for sleep then you can apply the following methods. If you are unable to carry your baby for naps, then swaddling can be a great alterative. Babies want to feel safe and contained as it reminds them of when they were in the womb. I suggest that you follow the following safety advice:

  • Only use a blanket or swaddle wrap if it is made of natural fibres, for example cotton or wool
  • Begin swaddling before 10 weeks old and stop once your baby can roll over around 4 months old
  • Make sure your baby is able to move their legs into a froglike position loose enough over the hips with room to allow them to do this
  • Also make sure that the chest area is loose enough to breath with ease
  • Never cover a baby's head when swaddling as they can overheat
  • Do not swaddle if your baby has a temperature or is unwell in any way
  • Be careful not to miss your baby's feeding cues if you are breastfeeding. So avoid starting before breastfeeding is well established


Bed Sharing

Bed sharing is not for everyone but health professionals must accept that it happens and can be a life saver for many families. I do not recommend bed sharing for bottle fed babies as they sleep differently and are safer placed in a cot. However, it can really help breastfeeding mothers as long as it is done safely. It can help with assisting and prolonging breastfeeding as mother's can respond to the baby's early cues for breastfeeding without them being missed as baby is right there beside them.

Please follow these safety rules:

  • Only share a bed with a breastfeeding baby, bottle fed babies need their own space.
  • Baby should be at the same level as mother's breast not her head.
  • Do not use either pillows or duvets - only natural fibres -cotton/wool to cover baby
  • Never sleep with your baby if you are over tired (at least 5 hours sleep is required.)
  • Mother should always sleep between her partner and the baby. The baby should never sleep in the middle of the bed to prevent the father rolling over the baby. Breastfeeding mother's are light sleepers and respond quickly to their baby's needs.
  • Care should be taken so that baby does not roll onto the floor (Bed should be against the wall). Best practice is to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
  • · Mother should sleep on her side and form a 'C' shape around her baby like a protective barrier.
  • · Mother should have long hair tied back and any nightwear should avoid any ties or loose strings to prevent risk of strangulation.
  • · Always sleep on a flat surface (no memory foam) and never sleep on a sofa or other soft surface.
  • · Both parents should not have consumed any alcohol or any recreational or prescribed drugs.
  • · Both parents should be non smokers and more importantly mother should not have smoked in pregnancy.

In the cases of where sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death has occurred these rules were not adhered to and have resulted in the tragic death of babies.

If you want to be near your baby and are bottle feeding then you can do so with the use of a side -car crib or indeed if you are nervous about sharing your bed with your breastfeeding baby.

NOTE: Bed sharing should only be practiced with breastfeeding mothers' as breastfeeding mother's are more in tune with their babies.


Many parents get confused about bed sharing and co-sleeping. Co - sleeping simply means sharing a room with your child but they are sleeping in their own bed. This can work very well for very anxious children who like to be near their parent. Many cultures adopt these approaches to parenting yet it is western cultures there appears to be more incidences of cot death. Many eastern cultures feel that the western culture is rather detached in our parenting style.

Calm Baby and Calm Self

Up to now I have been concentrating on how to calm a baby. However, in order to have a calm baby it requires a calm mother. I think we can learn a lot from other cultures where the mother does little, only look after the baby for the first 4-5 weeks. I love this approach to family life, we simply need time to bond with our baby and heal from the delivery especially if it has been a difficult experience. Unfortunately many young mothers are living away from their extended family and there is very little support around for the mother to master the skill of breastfeeding let alone feed and look after herself.

I always advise mother's to arrange for a family member to come and stay after the birth of a baby. It is important that mother's are looked after too. Many mother's that I have visited as a health visitor are exhausted and not being looked after enough to be able to care for a baby. They have little time to wash, dress, eat or even drink, let alone keep up with household chores. No wonder so many new mother's are stressed after childbirth and 'cortisol' (stress hormone) levels are high. If cortisol levels are high babies pick up on this. But cortisol levels need to be low in order to secrete 'melatonin' (sleep hormone). Many new mothers have difficulty in sleeping and suffer badly from sleep deprivation. It is so important to make up this lost sleep in the day when your baby is sleeping in order to bring stress levels down.

Do whatever it is that you need to do to recharge your batteries. Whether it is a long soak in the bath, a coffee with friends or a night out with your partner for a meal or cinema. I cannot stress enough how this will enable you to meet not only your needs but the needs of your baby also.


Many parents are simply not prepared for sleep deprivation after the birth of a baby. We all need sleep to function that is why we try and 'fit' the baby into our world in order to cope with daily life. But in my opinion we are just setting ourselves up for failure. Babies are simply not equipped to sleep through the night until well into their fourth month and beyond in many cases. The reality is that very few babies sleep through the night. By sleeping through the night I mean a stretch of 5 hours unbroken sleep.

Just to reassure you here some average figures of babies who sleep through:

Newborns - 0%

3 months - 58%

4 months - 54%

6-9 months - 16%

9-12 months - 40%

1-2 years - 50%

over 2 years no figures

Society puts so much pressure on new mothers. Well meaning people will be quick to jump in with how well their baby sleeps and what that parent 'should do' to make their baby sleep through the night. No wonder new mothers avoid going out, they simply can't cope with all the well meaning advice on how to parent their child.

Parenting is so individual and is based on our values, beliefs and upbringing; what is right for one parent will be wrong for another. Every baby is unique and each will have their own temperament and personality, it is so important that we accept and recognise this in our interactions with our children. I believe that every parent will find their own style of parenting that is right for them and their baby and this should be respected and not judged.

Ann Guindi has over 20 years of experience of working with parents and children. Ann runs Parenting Peace and is an attachment based sleep consultant Join Ann at her Sleep Workshop 10am-12pm on 14th November. limited places. To secure your place please call or e-mail Ann on the following number 07586243624

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