8 biggest sleep mistakes new parents make

Avoid these common sleep blunders in your baby’s early months and everyone will enjoy more restful days!

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Think that simply giving bubba a relaxing warm bath, then swaddling him and placing him in his cot will give him (and you) a full night’s sleep?

Think again. Your little one didn’t come with an instruction manual, and most of the time, you’re left to figure things out on your own.

Sleepless nights and extreme fatigue are familiar to many new parents – sometimes, your peewee just doesn’t want to sleep. But did you know that there may be things you are unwittingly doing that are making bedtime harder?

Here are some of the most common sleep mistakes that new parents make and expert advice on how to rectify them.

1. Inconsistency

Do you rock your baby to sleep? Or place him in a yao lan or bouncer? “On other days, maybe he’s brought to your bed out of desperation,” points out sleep expert and parenting coach Zoe Chu of SG Supernanny. The problem here is that your baby becomes confused with the method of falling asleep, making it even more difficult for him to drop off. “Find a consistent manner that works for you and your baby, then stick to it,” Chu advises. “He needs to learn that he can self-settle on his own without anyone’s help.” Your child will thrive on falling asleep in the same environment. So, stick to a structured routine for bedtime each night – perhaps a bath, story and then bedtime.

2. Relying on props

Another problem is when your baby relies on something like a lovey, or a pacifier to fall asleep. Pamela Lee, mum to Aiden, 2, recalls how Aiden could only fall asleep with his pacifier. “He would fall asleep with it, and we would remove it after he sleeps. Of course, when he woke up in the middle of the might, he would scream for it.”

In the end Lee decided it was best not to give it to her mini-me after he had fallen asleep the first time. “It was a painful few days and we let him cry, but he finally learnt that he would not be able to have it if he wakes up in the middle of the night, and started sleeping through,” Lee says.

“If you immediately go in to pick the baby up, you’re robbing him of the chance to self-settle on his own.”

3. Picking baby up too quickly

It’s easy to feel stressed out and anxious when your munchkin suddenly cries out in the middle of the night. But know that it’s completely normal for babies to cry a little in between their sleep cycles. “If you immediately go in to pick the baby up, you’re robbing him of the chance to self-settle on his own, because your baby would keep thinking that he needs someone’s help to soothe him back to sleep,” says Chu.

The same goes for naps. If bubba has only napped for 30 minutes and he cries out, he is probably going through a partial arousal. He’s not done napping yet and still wants to continue his nap. “If the parent assumes that the cries means he wants attention and wants to be picked up, that’s when the baby tends to catnap, and he’ll be unable to lengthen his naps,” Chu explains.

4. Rushing bubba to bed

The clock is ticking as you edge closer to your baby’s bedtime. You’re feeling stressed with every minute that passes. In the meantime, your little one is still all bright-eyed and full of energy. You decide that there’s no time to run a bath, or read a book. You hastily draw the black-out curtains and try to place him in his cot. Of course, he’s having none of that.

“If parents rush baby to bed, then you may get a baby who will cry and protest more because they might not be ready for bed yet, or they don’t know what is expected of them,” explains Chu. “The bedtime routine should be relaxing and pleasant to help increase melatonin – it should be at least 20 to 30 minutes long to allow them to get ready for bed.”