Few things have a bigger "ahhhhhh" factor than a sleeping baby.
The sight of your little bundle of joy with their arms thrown back above their head in a deep sleep is one of the most satisfying of early parenthood. The safest and most convenient place for your baby to sleep for the first six months is in their own cot in your bedroom.
Midwife Sharon Trotter, breastfeeding consultant and author of 'Breastfeeding: the essential guide' says this is especially important if you're breastfeeding as it is easier to bring your baby into bed with you for feeds. However, it is important to remember that between feeds your baby should be placed back in their own cot, crib or Moses basket.
When it comes to bed time clothes a cotton vest and sleepsuit, plus a thin sheet and blanket should keep your little one snug. Sharon also suggests using a baby sleeping bag soon after birth, which avoids the need for sheets and blankets. She says you should make sure it is not too big and follow the manufacturer's advice on what size, layers of clothes and tog rating to use. Whatever kind of bedding you prefer remember babies should sleep on their back, in the 'feet to foot' position with their feet at the foot of the crib or cot so they can't wriggle down under the covers.
Sharon also stresses that it's important not to let your baby become too hot: "Never cover your baby 's head, even if you think the room is cool. Buy a nursery thermometer to help keep the room at a constant 18 degrees and if it is really hot then your baby may only need to wear a vest."
And health visitor Maggie Fisher says: "Natural soft fibres allow the skin to breathe and prevent harsh fibres irritating your baby's skin." She suggests regularly checking babies by feeling their chest, tummy or base of the neck. "I advise parents to check their baby whenever they themselves feel hot or cold. If the baby feels hot, take a layer off and if the baby feels cool add a layer and check again later."
To help avoid irritation to your baby's skin, pre-wash all new baby clothes and bedding. Remember not to overload your washing machine to ensure thorough rinsing. Comfort Pure fabric conditioner is specially formulated for babies, children and people with sensitive skin. It is dermatologically tested and hypoallergenic and its research is supported by the British Skin Foundation.
No matter how soft and comfortable a baby's bed linen and clothes, some tots will always need a little extra help to nod off. Midwife Sharon says: "Skin-to-skin contact from either a mother or father is vital in the early weeks of life so that a baby learns to feel secure. A warm room with soft lighting will provide a relaxing place where your baby will learn to feel safe and where they will be more likely to settle. In the summer months a blackout curtain or blind can be useful in the light mornings/evenings."
And Maggie adds that for the first few weeks following birth your baby will sleep for around 15 or 16 hours each day. By three months this will have dropped to about 14 hours. She says it's important for parents to learn the signs that mean a baby is tired: "If they start rubbing their eyes, pulling their ear or developing faint dark circles under their eyes try putting them down in their cot or Moses basket. You 'll soon develop a sixth sense about your baby's daily rhythms and patterns and you'll know instinctively when they are ready for a nap."
Some new babies find swaddling comforting and a cue to sleep. Maggie says: "Swaddling is
the art of snugly wrapping a baby for warmth and security. It can also keep babies from being disturbed by their own startle reflex."
"It is used a lot in hospitals by the midwives in the early days of a baby 's life. It creates a slight pressure around your baby's body that given most newborns a sense of security because it mirrors the pressure they would have felt in the womb," she says.
Ensure you don't wrap your baby too tightly and when they start to kick off covers it is usually a sign they no longer appreciate being swaddled!
A new baby won't distinguish between night and day but after the first couple of weeks there are things you can do to teach them that night times are for sleeping.
Says Maggie: "When they are awake and alert during the day, play with them as much as you can. Keep their room and their house light and bright and don't worry about keeping down ordinary daytime noises such as the phone, television or washing machine.
"At night try not to play with them, keep the lights and noise level low and try to avoid spending too much time talking to them."
Don't forget every baby is different and what works well for one might not work for another and routines will still need to be adapted as your baby grows, becomes more active and their sleep patterns change.