By Penny Middleton (D.dip ACM ARCM)
A majority of new parents experience most of their problems at bedtime when it’s time to put the baby to sleep. Many new born babies get restless at bedtime, and do not like to be separated from their parents for long periods. There is a wealth of advice regarding baby sleep problems available to parents, with varying quality; the main issue is that what works for one family may not work for the next. One rule of thumb is to remember that when it comes to baby sleep problems, the more specific the advice, the less likely it is to apply to your own baby.
I have put together some pointers to help both baby and parent get a peaceful night’s sleep. Due to the general nature of these points, they should be applicable to most families.
Try to settle into a relaxed routine at bedtime, with a set pattern that baby can learn. This should be fun, with time set aside for little rhymes and songs for baby whilst getting ready for bed. Babies love routine and feel secure, happy and reassured with a familiar pattern to bedtime.
Routine is important for the whole family, not just your baby. As a parent it is important to have some time to yourself in the evenings, to relax or catch up on things. However, don’t fret if the routine doesn’t work out one day, and don’t be tempted to change anything… Simply start again the next day! This is the only way that a settled routine can be established, and it may take weeks, or even months. Perseverance is key.
Don’t expose your baby to anything too lively or energetic that will stimulate or excite them right before bedtime.
Set out your evening’s activities in the same order each night, where practical. Feeding time, bath time, play time and bedtime is an order that works well for most families.
Always try to keep things calm and soothing before bed. New born babies need food, warmth, safety and comfort. It sounds obvious, but try to ensure that your baby doesn’t need anything before you attempt to settle them; otherwise you will inevitably be tending to them again very soon.
Try to create a soothing ambiance in the room when settling baby. Lights should be dim (lamps or nightlights are better than main lights) and any background sounds should be relaxing and soothing. A CD of lullabies or songs for babies can be great for creating the perfect bedtime atmosphere. Songs should be of slow tempo, preferably natural, acoustic sounds and the volume low.
You should try not to pick up your baby the moment they start to cry in the night. It is better to check on them and see if they might be able to settle themselves; after all, this is what you are eventually working towards.
Contrary to some advice however, if your baby really doesn’t want to settle it’s perfectly OK to pick them up. Soothe them for as long as is necessary, but it’s important to resist the temptation to play with or entertain them. Try to soothe and resettle.
If baby still won’t settle, don’t be tempted to bring your baby in to see everyone else in an attempt to comfort them. This will likely result in your baby becoming over excited when they see what they are missing out on by being in bed!
Let your baby get used to being in their own cot. The more time a new born baby spends in the environment of their cot, the safer and happier they will be in it, even when left alone to sleep.
Regardless of the room ambience prior to settling your baby, playing a CD of sleep songs for babies is one of the most effective ways to get baby off to sleep. There are several good quality CDs available which contain calming songs for babies. Natural, acoustic sounds such as twinkling harps and pianos, calming voices, and slow tempo is great for creating a soporific effect on your baby.
Be wary however, as there are many lullaby CDs available which are not at all suitable for bedtime; such music can have the opposite effect. Avoid any obviously electronic sounds, and impact instruments like drums and other types of percussion. Complex arrangements are also not recommended, as these can over-excite your baby’s cognitive processes, creating activity in the brain. Bass sounds are great, so long as they are warm and natural, with minimum staccato. Try to find a CD of lullabies and songs for babies that works for you; more and more families are turning to baby songs and bedtime lullabies as a cure for their baby’s sleeping problems.
As a professional music therapist, the baby lullaby CDs that I have found most effective for the widest range families is My Lullaby CD by Quality Children’s Music (QC Music). My Lullaby CD uses 100% acoustic instruments, with twinkling harps, simple arrangements and a really well thought-out track list containing some delightful lullabies and songs for babies. The vocals, by singer Sara Mullet, are absolutely beautiful; very reminiscent of Julie Andrews and incredibly soothing and motherly. As an extra benefit, their lullabies and baby songs use a range of Mozart Therapy techniques to provide learning benefits which assist with your baby’s development.
I have recommended My Lullaby CD to many families with baby sleep problems, and a quite astounding percentage find the CDs completely effective within a couple of weeks. However, simply playing the CD from time to time will not have the desired effect. When played regularly, specialist sleep songs for babies have a cumulative effect; in order to enjoy the full benefits of such lullaby CDs, baby must get used to hearing the songs and lullabies as a staple part of his or her bedtime routine. In addition, you should stay close enough to create a sense of security, without distracting baby from sleep.
As a final point, always remember that every baby is unique; there are no hard and fast rules. Where possible, follow your parental instincts and try to do what feels right for your baby!
Although there are several quality lullaby CDs available on the internet, there are also many which are completely unsuitable for baby at bedtime. Professionally, I have consistently found QC Music’s My Lullaby CD to be the best and most effective CD of bedtime lullabies and sleep songs for babies. Many of my families have already benefited from this excellent product, with hopefully many more to come. It has become an indispensable part of my music therapy courses, an essential part of baby’s bedtime routine for thousands of families in the UK, and i am proud to offer my professional endorsement.
Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of QC Music’s My Lullaby CD can do so at the QC Music Ebid store at: http://personalised-lullabies-and-sleep-songs-for-babies.ebid.net/. The CD is personalised with baby’s name, which is also sung in the songs. If they do not have a CD available with your baby’s name, they may be able to record one especially. If not, they also sell generic, non-personalised CDs containing the same delightful lullabies and songs for babies!