Your baby and sleep

Sleep is such a big issue in households with a new baby. Here are some ways to ensure baby gets their sleep and you get yours.

In years past, new mothers were told that babies needed a routine in order to sleep.

This was often interpreted as meaning that babies learned to sleep by being put to bed at the same time each night. Which, as any parent can testify, is easier said than done.

These days, researchers tend to talk about rituals rather than routines. The meaning is much the same, but there is less emphasis on keeping to a strict timetable.

Rituals are sets of activities that are performed the same way each time. Because they are a pattern of expected behaviours, rituals are soothing for parent and child and should not be rushed.

Results may not be instant, but over time your baby will learn the order of events that lead to sleep in your household.

Bear in mind that most babies will need two to three sleeps a day of up to two hours each and will wake during the night as part of their normal sleep cycle.

Here are some rituals that might work for you and your baby before bed:

  1. Dinner, bath, nappy.
  2. Short playtime and a feed.
  3. Nappy change and swaddle.
  4. Quiet lullaby or a story.

You might like to combine a few of these ideas to make your own ritual. Through trial and error, you will soon find a ritual that works for you and your child.

Help your baby learn to go to sleep independently by putting them to bed sleepy but still awake. If they learn to go to sleep without you, they are more likely to drop off again after waking during the night.

Most babies will need two to three sleeps a day of up to two hours each and will wake during the night as part of their normal sleep cycle.

Early childhood sleep researchers recommend the R-E-S-T technique to help parents understand how to cater to their child’s specific sleep needs.

Safe sleep

Nothing is more peaceful than a sleeping baby. But did you know that about 130 otherwise healthy babies die in their sleep without warning in Australia every year?

The cause of death in these cases is recorded as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

In 1977, groups of bereaved parents began meeting in cities all around Australia to seek answers about why their babies had died in their sleep.

Those groups joined together to form one national research and advisory body and through this effort the incidence of SIDS has been reduced by 85%.

Today that research charity, Red Nose, is Australia’s leading authority on safe sleeping practices for babies.

Red Nose has formulated six internationally recognised recommendations for safe sleeping. They are:

  • Sleep baby on their back
  • Keep face and head uncovered
  • Keep baby smoke-free before and after birth
  • Maintain a safe sleeping environment night and day
  • Sleep baby in a safe cot in parents’ room
  • Breastfeed baby

A safe sleep environment means placing baby on their back on a firm, well-fitting mattress with their feet at the end of the cot (this will stop them moving down under the covers).

Tuck baby in so that blankets cannot cover their face during the night, or use a sleep suit. Remove all toys, bumpers and comforters from the cot. Use light blankets and dress your baby so that they do not overheat.

Make sure the cot is away from heaters, power points, lights, hanging mobiles and curtain cords.

Learn more about safe sleeping on the Red Nose website.


Published — 16 September 2016 Last updated — 31 July 2019

Want personalised tips and activities?

Complete these short questions to get personalised tips and activities to see how simple and easy it can be.

Get started
01 / 05

What is your relationship with the child?


What best describes your location?


If you had a spare moment, what would you most likely do with the child?


And finally…

Do you speak another language at home apart from English?
Are you of Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander descent?
Does the child need additional support with their development or learning?
Now we know a little more about the content that might interest you we’ve compiled it into a handy page for you.