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Leaving a warm, quiet, dark and cosy womb for the ever-changing temperature of a noisy, bright world can be a shock to tiny systems. While some babies transition easily and eat and sleep beautifully from the get go, others can take longer to adapt, but either way, all infants go through periods where they are unsettled.
Bounty Parents spoke to midwife Megan Baker about the easiest ways to settle your baby in the first three months.
If you have a crying, unsettled but otherwise healthy baby there are a few basic things to check first of all, says Megan. “This checklist becomes second nature before too long, which makes it easier to quickly rule out what the issue may be.”
Baby crying checklist:
Once you run through the list above, your baby might be settled but if not there are number of other ways to soothe them into a happier state, or to prepare them for sleep.
Scroll down for Settling routine for baby’s bedtime…
Once your baby is breastfed, bathed, fed again and ready for bed, here are the easiest ways to settle your bub for sleep.
Babies spend nine months gently jiggling around as mum-to-be moves about, so it makes sense that this can calm a disgruntled bub earthside. “Depending the time of day and if you’re trying to get your baby ready for a nap or their night-time sleep, you can cuddle them close and rock them in your arms, or swaddle them (see below) and pop them in a stroller for a gentle rock or a walk outside,” says midwife Megan. A change of scenery – air, temperature and light – is sometimes enough of a distraction to help them settle, she adds.
Before putting them down to sleep, rhythmic rocking, patting, swaying and quiet singing are great methods to incorporate into your little one’s sleeptime routine.
Wrapping or swaddling a baby has gained popularity in recent years and while you can opt for a simple sheet of muslin or a lightweight blanket, there are lots of excellent purpose-made swaddles on the market that eliminate the hit and miss nature of wrapping. “Swaddling Bub makes them feel safe and secure,” says Megan. “And prevents them from waking up and/or scaring themselves when the Moro or startle reflex occurs.”
Sleeping bags mean no kicking off blankets in the night, and arms can be swaddled inside to help Baby feel safe.
Back in the ‘olden days’, babies were parked up in front of washing machines as the whooshing noise of the water was reminiscent of the sounds of the womb. Today, you can buy gadgets that makes sssshhh noises, apps that do the same, or you can shush your baby yourself. Combine this with a secure, snuggly swaddle or cosy sleeping bag and you could be on to a winner.
Babies settle and sleep well in a completely dark room so blackout blinds are the go if there is any light peeking through. “Infants find the darkness calming and it helps with the production of melatonin, which helps us sleep,” say the midwife. For this reason, it’s also good to have a night light that’ll prevent Mum or Dad from bumping into things when the baby wakes in the night.
Another simple checklist to run through when helping a baby settle is the five Ss – which incorporate some of what we’re talked about here.
Swaddle your baby like a little burrito, and sit down with them on your lap – their feet towards your body. Move your baby onto their side, with their head supported in your open hands. Shush long and loud close to their ears. Offer a clean finger to suck, if they’re still unsettled, and gently sway your legs from side to side. Bingo!
A baby monitor is a precious item! Oftentimes, babies stir and settle themselves without the need to parents intervention. “Seeing or hearing Baby can reassure parents that they don’t need to dash in as soon as they hear the first sounds of crying,” says Megan.
When you do have to go in to settle them – and it’s too soon after a feed for them to be hungry – keep the lights low, avoid eye contact (as it can be stimulating) and try rhythmic, gentle pats on their tummy, or shushing noises to soothe them.
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