Tips on how to deal with an uneased newborn.

It’s very common to worry when you’re trying to soothe a crying baby, but crying is normal, in fact, it’s your baby’s way of communicating with you.

Why do babies cry?

Babies can cry for several reasons including being hungry, cold, tired or simply because they need some attention. Commonly, babies cry for around two hours every day.

In the first six months after birth, newborns will wake at night for food to stimulate growth and development. Normally they won’t sleep through the night until they’re further developed and mature.

Signs of being tried

Similarity to children and even adults, babies show sign of being tried by rubbing their eyes, yawning, grizzling, fussing, frowning and of course, crying. By responding to these signs early, it can help them to have a better and longer sleep.

How to settle them

There are many things that can help settle your baby, including:

Making sure they’re well fed and get proper sleep

The first and most important step is to make sure your baby is properly fed and well-rested. Keeping a diary or record of their eating and sleep patterns can help you with this. Newborns need lots of sleep and can get tired after only being awake for one and a half hours.

Comfort them

There are several ways you can comfort your newborn to soothe them.

  1. Hold them. Holding your baby in your arms with skin-to-skin contact can ease them back to sleep. Try using a rhythmic pattern of patting and rocking them or even softly talking to them. It isn’t until they’re further developed that babies can start self-soothing, so it’s okay to pick them up.
  2. Wrap your baby. Often, covering your child in a soft material to act like a hug can help them settle. Make sure they’re not too hot, their head isn’t covered, and their arms are above waist level before wrapping them. Please note: if your child has started showing signs of rolling over do not wrap them.

Developing a routine

In the first few months after your child’s birth, it’s crucial to be flexible and do what your baby needs.

Where possible developing somewhat of a routine such as food, play and sleep. During the day the routine could simply include:

  1. Check and change their nappy if needed.
  2. Provide your baby with a good feed to sustain them for some time.
  3. Have some playtime together and enjoy some cuddles.
  4. Put them back to sleep.

At night time, it’s important to avoid playtime and instead focus on trying to get them back to sleep.  Perhaps your routine could simply be rocking them back to sleep with a song.

Helping your baby distinguish the difference between day and night in your routine can also improve their sleep. At night time, try keeping it as dark as possible with dim lighting, soft-tones and try re-settling them as quickly as possible.

Other tips to try:

  1. A dummy: Sometimes the sucking rhythm from a dummy can help settle your baby if you’ve already fed them.
  2. A lukewarm bath: If you’re struggling to get your baby to settle, a warm, soothing bath can help them calm.

If nothing is working book an appointment with your GP or doctor to discuss possible treatments.

A sleep study done either at home, or in a dedicated sleep unit such as St John of God in Murdoch will be able to determine whether a sleep disorder is present.

Sleep disorders are common, affecting about one third of all school-aged children.

Young children’s sleep disorders will likely affect the household’s sleep quality and overall energy levels.

Lack of good quality sleep in children or adolescents may impact growth, school performance, memory, mood and behaviour.

How do I know my child has a sleep disorder?

– Difficulty settling into sleep at a reasonable bedtime

– Waking often during the night (older than two years) or excessive restlessness

– Tired upon waking

– Loud snoring, gasping or difficulty breathing

– Morning headaches

A sleep study in a dedicated sleep unit such as St John of God in Murdoch will be able to determine whether a sleep disorder is present.

What are the most common sleep disorders?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome:

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can cause snoring or breathing difficulties by blocking airways.

An Ear Nose and Throat specialist can perform a surgical procedure to remove these.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) / Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD):

RLS describes discomfort such as tingling or prickling in the legs close to bedtime.

Movement in the legs relieves this temporarily and as such, sufferers will have an irresistible urge to move or walk.

PLMD is a similar movement of the legs but occurs during sleep.

Massaging the legs, a hot bath or an iron level test may help.


Parasomnias describe a group of psychological symptoms such as sleep walking or talking, nightmares, or sleep terrors.

This is generally not a concern unless these are a risk to the child’s safety, ongoing or very disruptive.

How much sleep do kids need?

Newborns to 3 months: 14-17 hours

Infants to 12 months: 12-15 hours

1 – 2 years: 11-14 hours

3-5 years: 10-13 hours

6-13 years: 9-11 hours

14-17 years: 8-10 hours

Top tips for kids sleep

From St John of God Murdoch Sleep Medicine and Paediatric specialist Dr Annie O’Donnell

1. Keep regular times for sleeping and waking to regulate the body’s clock

2. Create a bedtime routine that is relaxing, avoiding anything stressful

3. Make the room dark, cool and quiet. If there is noise out of your control, try white noise such as a fan or calming music

4. Invest in some supportive and comfortable bedding

5. Limit daytime naps for older children

6. Get some sunlight in the morning and avoid bright lights at night.

7. No devices or blue light within one hour of bedtime.

8. Ensure kids are getting plenty of physical activity, particularly early in the day.

9. Avoid stimulants such as sugar before bedtime.

10. Don’t let kids go to bed too full or too hungry. Keep mealtimes at least two hours before bed.

What is a sleep study?

Clinical Operations Manager from Murdoch Sleep Unit Simon Kemp said a sleep study (polysomnogram) is an overnight test that monitors sleep and breathing.

“The sleep test uses non-invasive sensors and a routine digital video correlate results with images. There are no needles and no extra medication is given.”

“Most people worry that their night’s sleep won’t be the same as at home, but a sleep unit can usually gather enough sleep data to make a diagnosis.”

Mr Kemp said patients arrive in the late afternoon with one parent or carer.

“Kids are able to bring along any personal items from home and one adult must stay with the child for the duration of the evening,” he says.

“After settling into your private room, small sensors are attached to the skin of the head, chest, finger and legs, enabling precise monitoring of your child’s sleep.”

“These are attached to state of the art equipment that monitors oxygen levels, breathing, brainwave activity, eye and leg movements and heart rate during sleep.”

“A continuous recording of your child’s sleep is created and provides a precise diagnosis of sleep disorders.”

Results of the polysomnogram are then sent to your referring doctor and a treatment plan is put in place.

You have a beautiful new baby but instead of feeling elated you are feeling exhausted, irritable with your partner and maybe even a little resentful towards your new baby. Or perhaps you have an older baby or toddler and you’ve been struggling with their sleep for a very long time.

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue for parents of babies, with recent research showing one in four new Mums are getting just three hours or less of sleep a night. What’s more, one in five admit they have experienced severe depression or post-natal depression when their babies weren’t sleeping well, according to a study by Galaxy Research.

There is an plethora of information on baby sleep and routine, and so much of it is conflicting. It’s no wonder parents are overwhelmed, confused and exhausted. Our babies are exhausted too – “caught” in the same sleep deprived cycle as their parents.

The common perception has been for a long time that baby sleep is complex. However, when we strip it all back, sleep is an inherently primal and essential human function for our babies. Our babies NEED sleep, they WANT sleep and they CAN sleep. There is no baby on this earth who hates sleep.

Here’s the thing – it is not just about the going to sleep process. That is where so much attention is focused but that is only one piece in the bigger pie. Baby sleep requires a holistic approach and all the “foundations” need to be in place before a baby will sleep well.

Here are 5 fundamental guidelines for you to implement with your baby. The key is to stay consistent at all times. If you aren’t consistent, we can’t expect consistency from your baby.

Our babies NEED sleep, they WANT sleep and they CAN sleep.

1. Establish your baby’s daytime and nighttime to be aligned with their 24-hour body clock.

This means having a consistent bed-time at night and get-up time in the morning Your baby’s circadian rhythms (and ours too as adults) is regulated by night and day. Their daytime consists of naps when they are tired, interspersed with periods of awake time. For night time, their body clock wants to be having one long continuous stretch of sleep for 12 to 13 hours (with or without feeds dependent on age). The ideal bedtime for babies is 6pm (6.30pm for toddlers), meaning their get-up time to start the day the next morning falls somewhere between 6am and 7am. Establishing these timings consistently will help your baby’s natural body clock fall into place. Be mindful also that your baby’s day naps don’t finish too late in the afternoon, otherwise this will impact the 6pm bedtime.

2. When at home, always put your baby to sleep in one location – i.e. the cot or bassinet.

Avoid putting your baby down for sleep in multiple locations throughout the house such as on a lounge, on a bed, in a pram, in a baby swing. Your baby should always sleep in their bassinet or cot for all sleeps day and night. By doing this, your baby will form a strong sleep association with their own sleep space (just as we have a consistent sleep location – i.e. our bed)

Baby sleep requires a holistic approach and all the “foundations” need to be in place before a baby will sleep well.

3. Respond to tired signs.

Learn to recognise your baby’s tired signs during the day. Common tired signs include becoming irritable / grizzly, rubbing their eyes, yawning, arm and leg movements becoming jerky and rigid. Babies tire very quickly. If they are kept up for too long, they become overtired and over-stimulated very quickly and this makes it very difficult for them to fall asleep. If this is happening every day (and so often it is) then a baby will constantly be in an overtired cycle and will never sleep well.

4.Create the optimum sleep environment

Your baby’s cot / bassinet area should be free of musical toys, hanging mobiles, play mirrors etc as these all equate to noise, colour and movement. These are strong stimuli and distractions and not conducive at all to good sleep. Don’t be lured by the promise on the packaging that they will help soothe your baby to sleep. They won’t!

Ensure a safe sleep space for your baby – so no bedding, blankets, soft toys in the cot or bassinet. Just the mattress with the fitted sheet and that is all.Make sure your baby is cool and lightly dressed in summertime and in warm/hot climates in general. Likewise, in wintertime and cooler weather (including the lead-in to winter), your baby needs to be dressed warmly and also the room temp needs to be adequately warm too.  A baby who is not warm enough won’t sleep well.

5.Help your baby to acquire the self-settling skill.

Each time you put your baby down to sleep, allow them some time and space to self-settle. Go into them as needed to provide hands on comfort (such as patting) or pick them up for a quick cuddle, but also try and stay out of the room for periods if you can, to allow them time to put themselves to sleep.

For more information on baby sleep concerns visit www.dreamstartbaby.com.au