1. Take Advantage of Natural Remedies
Sleep is more a state of being rather than a skill that can be learned. When the conditions are right sleep easily overcomes our babies, taking them to a restful place where their minds and bodies can grow and rejuvenate. Here are a few natural methods and remedies that can help make the process of falling to sleep a little easier:
Regulate the temperature: Melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep, naturally increases as core body temperature drops, thus triggering sleep. Research shows that babies (and adults) sleep best when the room temperature is between 68-70F or 20-21C. A lower room temperature is protective against SIDS.
So, open a window and welcome fresh air, dial the central heating back a notch and cool your bedroom as part of your baby’s bedtime rhythm. But, remember, this doesn’t mean your baby should be cold! It’s important to make sure that babies stay warm throughout the night. My son was, and still is, a ninja when it comes to kicking off the covers so as a baby we used superfine merino pajamas and sleep sacks – I can’t recommend them highly enough!
Tart Cherry Juice: this tip is more for toddlers and children rather than babies. Tart cherries contain naturally occurring melatonin which has been shown to improve sleep. The ruby red color is due to proanthocyanidins, which can help increase the availability of tryptophan, an important precursor to serotonin, which also encourages sleep.
The juice is also shown to inhibit an enzyme – indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase – that degrades tryptophan, a known predictor of insomnia. You can find tart cherry juice here and this is a super helpful article by Genevieve of Mama Natural for some practical tips on recipes for giving tart cherry juice to kids.
A touch of lavender: Lavender is well known for its ability to relieve anxiety, soothe restlessness and aid sleep. But, essential oils need to be used with care, especially with babies and young children and should NEVER be given orally.
For babies and young children, adding a couple of drops of lavender to an oil diffuser when you start your bedtime routine can be a great idea to ease into relaxation. Make sure to find a pure, therapeutic grade oil.
2. Listen to Nobody But Your Baby and Breastfeed to Sleep
As a new mother, I remember searching online (ironically after my son had nursed to sleep) about whether breastfeeding to sleep was a “bad” sleep association. I’d find countless articles condemning the practice; the claim being that babies must be put down “drowsy but awake”. Some “experts” went so far as to suggest that if a baby fell asleep at the breast, to wake him up and then expect him to fall asleep on his own.
Having nursed my son to sleep over five thousand times (and counting) I can honestly say that nursing is the most natural, relaxing and instinctive way to help our babies find sleep. It is normal, healthy and developmentally appropriate. It is a superpower that Mother Nature gave us to help our babies sleep.