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Putting your baby in his own room can be a stressful time for parents

The FSID recommend that baby should sleep near you at all times (including naps) during the first 6 months of life. It can feel a real wrench to the heart strings, particularly for mums letting baby sleep independently in his/her own bedroom for the first time.

However, you may have noticed that when baby arouses during the night – it wakes you too. And from a few months old babies learn that if they signal wakefulness – parents will respond. We guess the whole idea of baby being near you is just that. Some babies need lot’s of TLC and and at least one if not two feeds during the night until they are 6 months old. And other little angels will sleep through the night from a few weeks old.

We know that the way parents manage these normal nightly arousals is key to consolidating night sleep. Teaching your baby to self settle in the early months will promote a life long habit. That’s why in our book Savvy Sleep we concentrate on informing parents how to gradually teach their baby to self settle during the night.

Many parents contact us when their baby is 7 – 8 months old. They commonly say, “It’s not worth putting him in his own room as he still wakes several times a night. And it means I will have to get up and go into his room”. And yet the very reason baby is waking so many times at night may be due to quick parental response during normal night sleeping arousals. That quick repsonse may well be perpetuating the night waking habit!

We always encourge parents to put baby into his own room as soon as he is 6 months old. Giving baby “space and time” to self settle is key to his learning. Imagine you are a baby and on waking see your parents right next to you. It’s likely that you too would learn to signal awakeness to get a response – particulary if there is some nice sweet breast milk on offer! Or even a dummy.

Learned behaviour can be unlearned.

Before you put baby into his own room for the night let him play and generally familiarize himself with his new bedroom during the day. You may even consider sleeping in baby’s room for a few nights. Although not too many nights as this can create a learned habit too. Dads (or anyone else who knows and loves your baby) are crucial during this period in helping babies self settle without the need for a feed or dummy. The reassurance of a familiar hand on baby’s tummy or back is often enough to guide them back to sleep again. If necessary a little patting or back rubbing. A drink of water and a quick pick up and cuddle if nothing else works.

Wean baby from needing a physical response to just needing a verbal response such as, “it’s sleepy time” without the need for physical contact. Gradually – over a few nights, delay your response to night waking. And if you do need to respond then gradually speed up your response so that you can leave baby reassured but aware that you have left the bedroom. We know that the way a baby falls to sleep is the way he will expect to fall asleep duirng the normal 3 – 6 arousals during the night. So – if parents are present while baby falls asleep – he will wake and expect parents to still be there.

The key to consolidating night sleep is to intervene as little as possible. Trust in your baby’s growing ability to sleep for longer periods. Sleep is a neccessary part of living and that goes for parents too!