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Tips To Help Your Baby Sleep

Many newborns tend to sleep during the day, and stay awake at night. They do not know the difference between day and night yet. You can teach your baby how to differentiate day and night by behaving differently at these times. In the day, talk to your baby more, play with him, and k​eep the house bright. At night, keep the lights dim, speak softly and calmly in a lower tone of voice. 

Newborns need to be fed every few hours because they have an immature digestive system. As such, they will wake up every few hours as they get hungry and need to be fed. They may also stay awake for an average of two hours before they start getting fretful. Since you are also likely to have a disrupted sleep pattern, it is best to nap when your baby sleeps. As he gets older, his nap time will be reduced. 

Get your husband or someone else to help you with housework, laundry and meals so that you do not have to worry about these chores. It is more important for you, the mother, to be well rested so that you are in a good frame of mind to take care of your baby.​

Put your baby to sleep on his back. This helps to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or “cot death”. Make sure the cot does not have fluffy toys, pillows, cot bumpers or quilts, because very young babies may not know how to turn their faces to avoid accidental suffocation. Newborns do not need pillows, but you could move your baby’s head position each night (right to left, left to right) to prevent him from developing a flat spot on one side of his head. Avoid putting your baby to sleep in cloth cradles as these are unsafe, and are very difficult to wean from.

Routines For Sleep 

One of the best ways to teach your baby to sleep well is to develop a bedtime routine. This means that you do the same things each evening to prepare him for bed. You can start doing this when he is about 6 - 8 weeks old. 

Most parents follow the popular bath - massage - quiet time - feed routine. A nice, warm bath is soothing and most babies easily get in the mood for sleep after one. 

Once the baby is dried and diapered, you can give him a short massage with a little massage oil, cream, or lotion that has been specially formulated for babies. A massage will also help him to calm down and relax. It also helps to promote parent and child bonding. 

After your baby is dressed, you can read, sing, or chat​ with him as he winds down. Then give him his bedtime feed. Put him in the cot when he is drowsy. Keep the lights dim. Let him fall asleep by himself. This is the hard part. Some babies do it naturally, some do it with a little help: sucking their thumb, cuddling a favourite toy, or fingering the edge of a sleep suit. 

You could put on some lullabies or classical music while doing the bedtime routine. Your baby will soon associate that particular piece of music with sleep, and settle down with less fuss when he hears it. This is especially useful when travelling! 

It can be a frustrating process if your baby does not sleep well and wakes up many times throughout the night. You can take turns with your husband or other family members to put the baby to sleep. Make sure that everyone is consistent in the way they put the baby to sleep.​ 

​Infant massage

​Touch is powerful, especially when it is given with love. It is the universal language of love, and one that babies can understand before they can talk. 

Benefits of infant massage 

  • Promotes parent-child bonding. 
  • Calms a fussy baby and helps him release tension, anxiety and irritability. 
  • Helps the baby to relax and fall asleep easily. 
  • Enhances circulation and digestion. 
  • Reduces ‘wind’, colic and digestive problems. 
  • Contributes to healthy weight gain. 
  • Improves the baby’s immune development. 
  • Promotes emotional growth. 

Tips on infant massage 

  • ​​​It is best to do it after a warm bath, before bedtime, when your baby is still alert, but not drowsy. 
  • Lay your baby on a flat surface, like a bed. You can also sit on the floor and make a diamond shape with your legs, your soles facing each other. Place a blanket over your legs to form a “cradle” for the baby to lie in. 
  • Remember to dress the baby in his diaper. 
  • Use a little baby oil or lotion. It makes the massage smoother. Do a patch test first, to make sure that the oil or lotion is not too harsh for your baby’s delicate skin. Do not use pure concentrated essential oils. 
  • Rub the oil or lotion between your palms to warm it up before putting your hands on your baby, so that he does not get a shock if your hands are cold. 
  • Sing, hum or talk softly to your baby as you massage him. He will like that! 

You may attend infant massage workshops to learn more about the techniques of baby massage. Check with the parent craft centres in hospitals for more details of the workshops, read the art​​icle on Services, support groups and helplines (for Baby care)​

Step by step guide for massage 

Express your love with a baby massage while moisturising his delicate skin. For newborns, a massage up to 10 minutes is sufficient, while older babies can enjoy a massage for up to 20 minutes. 

  1. ​​PIace your palms on his head and massage gently down to his chin.   
  2. With your index and middle fingers placed on his forehead, gently draw small circles around his temples.    
  3. Gently make a smile on your baby’s upper lip with your thumbs. Do the same on the lower lip.    
  4. With both hands together at the centre of his chest, gently push out to the sides, following the rib cage, after which, bring them around in a heart-shaped motion to the centre.​ The next three steps are named “I Love You”.    
  5. I: Start under the rib and draw an “I” down to the hip joint.     
  6. Love: Stroke from left to right across your baby’s abdomen, forming the long side of a sideways “L”. Use a short downward stroke on the right side of his stomach to complete the “L”.    
  7. You: Finishing with an upside down “U” stroke up from your baby’s hipbone, on the left side of his stomach. Move your fingers along the top of your baby’s tummy and then down your baby’s right side.    
  8. Use the outside of your hand and make gentle paddling strokes on your baby’s tummy, one hand following the other.     
  9. Starting at the abdomen, gently stroke upwards with your fingertips.    
  10. Hold your hands together around your baby’s arm at his shoulder, then lightly move your hands in opposite directions, from the shoulder to his hand, squeezing gently.    
  11. Massage his left wrist using your thumb or forefinger. Then stroke his palm, uncurling his fingers as you go. Do the same with the right hand.​    
  12. Massage your baby’s ankles, then feet, one at a time. Support his ankle with one hand and use your thumb to massage from heel to toe along the sole.​    
  13. Hold your baby’s leg; move your hands up his leg together, turning in opposite directions, squeezing gently.   ​
  14. ​​​Lay your baby on his stomach. Stroke down your baby’s back from neck to bottom, including the bottom. With your fingertips, lightly massage the muscles on either side of the spine.    

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