I'm a huge advocate for as much skin to skin, and those delicious contact naps and all the cuddles, particularly in the early days and fourth trimester. It's perfectly natural (and normal!), and often all your baby wants to do- they feel warm, safe and can even smell you. However, many parents often ask at some stage, how the best way to transition for some/all sleeps not being 'on them', when they perhaps have other children, or need to shower, or even grab five minutes of rest for themselves. It can sometimes become exhausting when your baby will only sleep on you, as lovely as they are!
It's perfectly normal to want to look at ways to transition to crib/Moses basket naps, and here I have listed my most important tips for sleep success. Bear in mind, particularly in the early months it can take lots of comfort and consistency to see results.
Obviously the most important aspect here is that their sleep space is safe. Current guidance is they should sleep on their back in their cot/crib/Moses basket- which should have a firm, flat mattress with a waterproof mattress cover, in an otherwise clear cot- free from bumpers, toys and loose bedding. All sleeps should be in the same room as you until 6months of age, as per current guidance.
2) Sleep Environment
A dark sleep space is most conducive to sleep, even though their body clock isn't yet established, but most babies do find it less stimulating.
The room temperature should be between 16-20 degrees celcius.
Use white noise (pink/brown noise is best- wind/fan sounds) for the entire nap duration- it doesn't just soothe and calm, but can also block external sounds.
3) Nap wind down
A consistent nap wind down can be really useful to signal sleep time to little ones- a shortened bedtime routine is perfect. It also ensures they have a clean nappy, a cuddle/story/ nursery rhyme etc before they head to sleep. Swaddling can be really useful for newborns too, however, its really important this is removed before they can roll/4months- whichever is sooner.
4) Well spaced naps
Nap timing is crucial to avoiding an overtired little one who struggles to wind down to sleep, or a baby who is simply not get tired enough if it's too soon. Typically these age ranges are a guide for you, but also be mindful of sleep cues:
0-3 weeks: 30-60mins 6 weeks-12weeks: 60-90mins
12 weeks: 90 to 120mins
5) Be realistic!
It is going to take time for them to adjust to the new 'normal' of sleeping in a sleep space, rather than on you. Be patient, and offer them as much support as needed. Try a gentle shushing or rocking or patting initially to calm them, before popping them down awake and continue with as much support as needed. Then, slowly over time you can pull back on the support gently so they get used to settling themselves. This isn't to say don't respond if they are upset at all- I am all about being super responsive at all times- even more crucial in the early days, but scale back gradually and see how it goes- increase or decrease support as you need to. It can also be really useful to put them down on their side initially while you still hold and support them in their sleep space, before slowly rolling them to their back (always on their back for sleeps). This can help stop their moro reflex (startle reflex) trigger if they get put down on their back straight away.
I recommend starting work on the first nap of the day for a few days, before starting the second nap and so on every few days.
I typically say, if they haven't settled within 20/30mins of trying for a nap, get them up to offer a feed, and try again. If this doesn't work, then try a nap however that needs to happen- on your, in a carrier, in the pram etc to get the nap in to continue with your day. This learning time is really important so don't get disheartened, keep trying the next nap / day, and it will fall into place!
Practice, practice, practice! You've got this!