22 May 2014
You’ve finally got your baby into a reasonable sleeping routine, and your evenings are your own… but now, you’re going away for the night - or perhaps just out for the day - and someone else will have to get baby to sleep. What do you do?
It is important to have baby in a set feed and sleep routine, babies thrive on this and only have certain lengths of wake windows. Once you have your routine, leaving baby with someone else can be very nerve wracking - for you and for baby. Babies pick up on their mother’s feelings of nervousness, and this can affect their mood.
Whoever you are leaving baby with, ensure you leave a detailed note behind for them. Don’t just tell them what time baby usually naps, but how you put her down, whether there are special cue words you use, a special lullaby you sing, a comforter that they sleep with etc
Try to spend time with your chosen caregiver before leaving your baby with them. The more familiar the person seems to baby, the easier they will find it when left with them. It’s also important to bear in mind though, that often Mum lurking about on the sidelines while someone else is trying to get baby to sleep can make matters worse - if baby knows you are there and can hear your voice, he will wonder why you are not the one holding and soothing him. Spend time with the caregiver as a group, but perhaps consider leaving the house at nap time to allow the new carer to try it alone. Often once you leave they will get on better without the distraction of being able to see you.
If your baby is decidedly “spirited” and finds it difficult to fall asleep, it can be daunting to leave that task with someone else. In this sort of situation, it’s worth just taking a deep breath and trying to “go with the flow” as much as possible. It’s nap time but baby is showing no sign of sleeping? Ok, we’ll lay on this blanket quietly together and cuddle for a while instead. Often when we get stressed about baby not going down on time, this just adds to the problem - if we can let go of our attachment to a set bed time, baby will often calm down significantly, and perhaps end up falling asleep any way.
Judy Clark is a leading baby sleep expert and the founder of Babywinkz.com. She is also a forum expert for Dr Joanna Helcke's pregnancy and postnatal fitness programme.