We know those first few years with a new baby can be a challenging time for parents, so we've put together some helpful tips and advice.
We've partnered with In the Night Garden, a TV series that has become an integral part of the daily routine for many families across the UK. Popular characters Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka and their friends have a special calming influence on young children, helping them feel relaxed and secure in the welcoming world of the Night Garden.
Below you'll find information on why babies cry and what you should do, help to bond with your baby, how to cope with toddler tantrums, dealing with stress and more.
Whether that's at bedtime, breakfast time or the middle of the night, we've got tips to help you.
Why babies cry
Crying is the most powerful way that a baby can communicate. It's also the only way of letting you know that something's making them unhappy.
A crying baby may be too hot or too cold, hungry, windy, have a full nappy or just need some attention.
What to do
If you can't find what's making your baby cry, see if there's anything else you can do to calm them down, like:
- sing a song
- give them a baby massage
- go for a walk to change the surroundings.
Talk to other parents about how they calm down a crying baby, or visit an online forum like Netmums. Other mums and dads probably all have their own ways of soothing their babies, and their suggestions could work for yours too.
The bonding process can start before your baby's even born by talking to "the bump" even if a name's not been decided.
Creating a stronger bond
Once the baby's born there are a few things you can try to support a stronger bond:
- have lots of skin-to-skin contact - touch and smell are two of the most important senses in the bonding process
- take every chance you can to smile, talk, sing, cuddle and play with your baby
- learn some massage techniques. This could also come in handy when you're trying to calm a crying baby
- make eye contact - this could also help you pick up on your baby's mood.
Look, Say, Sing, Play - Brain-building tips
During your child's earliest years, their brain makes 1 million neural connections every single second. Positive, supportive experiences with parents and other adults are important to their brain development.
But it’s not just about singing or talking at your baby. Brain-building happens when you and your little one are interacting with each other. It’s about taking a cue from them, and reacting to what they’re doing. You could think of it like a game of tennis – going back and forth between the two of you.
We’ve teamed up with Vroom™ to give you some fun and easy tips to help bring even more look, say, sing and play into your daily routine with your baby. Sign up for weekly emails and we’ll send you a new tip, tailored to your child's age.
If you don't think bonding with your baby is going as well as it could there's plenty of help and support available. Talk to your midwife or health visitor, confide in a close friend or family member, or you can even speak to one of our helpline counsellors on 0808 800 5000.
As babies develop into toddlers, they find new ways to test boundaries and express themselves. So when your toddler gets upset, you might find they scream, cry or even kick, hit or bite.
The first time this happens can be upsetting, and if it happens in public it can be embarrassing.
If you can't find an immediate reason (they're hungry, tired or need a little tender loving care), there are things you can try to calm your toddler.
Things to try
- create a distraction using something like a book
- draw their attention to something else happening nearby
- if they're angry, tell them you know how they feel
Things to avoid
- if they're asking for something and you've said no, don't give in
- don't bribe them with sweets
If you're feeling overwhelmed, make sure you take a break - perhaps you could call a friend. You might find it easier to manage when you've had a second to think for yourself.
Sometimes stress can become too hard to handle. But when you're looking after a baby or toddler, it's more important than ever that you can recognise when you need to take action to relieve your stress.
Have a few relaxation techniques you can call on to make sure that child's safety is your number one priority.
Below are a few suggestions, scroll across for more.
Arrange time to rest
Feeling tired or trapped can make stress feel even worse, so see if you can arrange set times when your partner or a family member can take over the baby care and you can have a rest or get some exercise.
Have tricks to deal with stress
Stressful events are going to happen. But if you already have a strategy in place to deal with them, it'll be a real help. Taking deep breaths and counting to 10 is a favourite but you could also go for a walk or get some fresh air.
Put on some music
In fact, music can be one of the best ways to change your mood straight away. So you could make sure that your baby is in a safe place where they can't come to any harm, go into another room and listen to one of your favourites to give yourself a short break.
Ask a friend or neighbour for help
See if a neighbour can pop round to give you a little support (and understanding!) or give a friend a ring. And, remember, NSPCC counsellors are also only a phone call away on 0808 800 5000.
See what others do
Talk to other people about how they handle stressful situations. They might have a solution that could work for you too. Remember, it's okay to experience stress and frustration, you're not alone. It's all part of bringing up children.
Every baby will have different sleep patterns, and parents can find it stressful at times. Trying some simple techniques may help ease you both into a routine.
Mandy Gurney, Founder of Millpond Children's Sleep Clinic and consultant to In the Night Garden, shares her top 5 sleeping tips for babies.
It’s important to help your baby tell the difference between day and night. Try:
- keeping your baby involved in your usual activities during the day
- going out for fresh air as daylight helps to set babies' body clocks
- keeping things dark and quiet at night and avoiding activity and eye contact to create a calm space.
A good sleep routine is the foundation of healthy sleep habits. Try introducing sleep cues with a short bedtime routine so your baby knows it's time to sleep.
By 3 months, babies are responsive to cues and will start to understand your routine. This might include:
- quiet play
- a short warm bath
- a story followed by bedtime.
Sticking to the same routine can help your baby learn it's time for sleep.
Young babies can get used to falling asleep by sucking on a bottle or breast.
From 3 months of age you could try separating the bedtime feed from your bedtime routine. This can help to avoid wind issues at bedtime and teach them to fall asleep without sucking.
Try putting your baby to bed when they're drowsy, but not fully asleep. And use your bedtime routine as a wind down so your baby is ready for sleep.
If your baby can fall asleep on their own they're more likely to be able to settle by themselves in the night.
Aim for your baby to take regular naps in the day. This not only helps to establish more predictable times for eating but will mean they won't be over tired when you put them to sleep. And they'll settle more easily.
From 9 months of age, try to avoid late afternoon naps.
It's every parent's natural instinct to keep their baby as safe as they possibly can. For new-borns, even though they're very delicate, they tend to stay where they're put. But as babies develop and become more mobile, you need to be extra careful.
There will naturally be times when you have to leave your baby in a room on their own, so here are some very important considerations:
If you're going to leave your baby alone in a room, make sure they're not at risk of rolling or falling off something, like a sofa or a bed. Make sure that if you leave your baby, it's not a place where brothers, sisters or pets could accidentally cause them harm.
In any instance, have a thorough check that there's nothing within reach for them that could hurt them - for example, objects they might put in their mouth or cords they could get tangled up in.
Place your baby's cot by your bed or a mattress by their cot if you want to be close to your baby at night. There's a real risk that a sleeping adult could easily roll over and suffocate a baby.
It might not seem like it now but, before you know it, your child will no longer be a baby. There'll be a whole lot of new ways that you'll need to keep them safe as they become more independent and explore the world around them. But the care you've taken and the bond you've formed in their earliest years will have built a solid foundation for you both.
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