The Art of Sleeping Well (Even If Your Baby Doesn’t…)

Photography: Poppy Peterson Photography

By Georgina Dowden

Sleep training is a hot topic. You might feel that in order to get a good night’s sleep, you need to train your baby to sleep better.

But what if you could train yourself to become a better sleeper instead, thus avoiding the stressful process of trying to force your baby to adopt adult sleeping patterns, which are highly unnatural for them at a biological level.

I’m talking about improving your sleep efficiency – something that will help you to wake up in the morning feeling more rested, regardless of how often your baby wakes.

So, where do you start?

The most logical first step is to set up your sleep environment to make attending to baby through the night as easy as possible. For some people, this is achieved through bed-sharing. For others, it’s having baby on a separate sleep surface in the same room.

Remember: this set-up might not represent where you would ideally like your child to sleep in the future and that’s OK. For now, if it makes life easier for everyone, then you may need to adjust your expectations.

Beyond the practical aspect of where everyone sleeps, here are 6 tips to get you started towards a better night’s sleep:

1) Check your mental health. Even if you have managed to dodge a diagnosis of post-natal depression or anxiety, generalised anxiety can still affect how you sleep. More specifically, it can affect how easily you fall asleep and resettle yourself after waking.
If you have a history of anxiety and feel that intrusive thoughts, or the stress of the day is creeping up on you at night, then it would be worth seeking professional help.

2) Bedtime routine for mum. It’s funny how parents can be so fixated on how important their baby’s bedtime routine is, yet they completely dismiss the idea of having one for themselves. So give it a try and incorporate the following:

  • No screens or work for a least an hour before bed. Ideally, 2 hours.
  • Do something enjoyable that helps to quiet your mind – read a book, or have a bath and reflect.
  • Enjoy a warm drink, devoid of sugar or caffeine.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour – preferably before 10 / 11pm. (Now, yes, I hear you. The evenings are the ONLY time you get to yourself, so I know it’s tempting to stay up until 2am watching Netflix, or working. But you’re not doing yourself any favours by delaying bedtime. It might help to divide your evening up. Schedule a set amount of time for work, and a set amount of time for pleasure. And don’t feel guilty about assigning a few nights a week to just relaxing).

3) If you’re prone to worrying overnight about things that are happening in your life, then before bed, sit down and write them out. You don’t need to go into detail – just a list will do. Ponder each one briefly and then cross them out and tell yourself: “This can be dealt with in the morning.”

We tend to have this bizarre idea that because we made the baby, we should be able to control him. But we can’t. At all. Our baby is a human being, unique and individual.

4) Remove clocks from your bedroom. This includes putting your phone out of reach if you just can’t help yourself. This is really important because more often than not, checking your clock when your baby starts to stir, will activate your brain. If you’re counting wake-ups and timing feeds during the night, you’re just adding to your anxiety, which in turn will initiate the fight or flight response. Once this is activated, you’re going to find it far more difficult to go back to sleep. Remember this: you don’t earn points depending on how many hours it has been between your baby’s wake-ups. No one is keeping score, except for you.

See next page for more tips…

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