8 genius hacks to help your baby (and you!) get better sleep, according to a sleep expert.

Thanks to our brand partner, ErgoPouch

If you’re a parent, you’re probably sick to death of talking about sleep. Thinking about sleep. Planning your day around sleep. 

Imagine if we got to spend all that time actually sleeping. Heaven.

The reality is, as people in charge of these newly minted humans, we’re going to spend a lot of time working on their sleep as we help them learn habits that will set them up for a lifetime. Luckily we’re not the first, plenty of parents have made it to the other side, and some of them are so good at helping babies get better sleep they become experts.

Like Tara Mitchell, a sleep specialist, who had worked as a nanny and registered nurse, specialising in Pediatric Nursing for 7 years and overall, had worked with little ones for 15 years. Tara approached motherhood feeling optimistic and confident when she welcomed her daughter. 

But then Scarlett arrived. 

"She came, she screamed, she conquered," Tara told Mamamia.

Let's just say things didn't go as planned. From hospital trips due to weight loss to tummy trouble, unexplained rashes, irritability, and crying spells. No one was sleeping.

After three months of severe sleep deprivation, Tara began to explore options to resolve her sweet baby girl's sleep issues. It worked. "The difference that sleep made was incredible, both for the baby and our little family. It was a total game-changer. She woke up happy, fed better, gained weight, her tummy settled, and her reflux was minimal. Our family was thriving, not simply surviving."


Inspired by her own experience, Tara trained as a sleep consultant. Now, she's worked with thousands of clients around the world as a private consultant and through her online courses. She is a trusted referral source for pediatricians, midwives, child health nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, and teachers.

If you need some help getting sleep sorted, here are 8 genius hacks from Tara to help your newborn or little one get better sleep.

1. Swaddle your way through the fourth trimester.

Tara's number one hack for better sleep is a zip-up swaddle. "Newborns should remain in a cocoon-like swaddle until four months, or until they start rolling, in which case you take their arms out." 

Swaddles provide babies with a familiar feeling of warmth and security, resembling the womb, which is super soothing if you've spent the last 9 months living in one. Swaddling can also help manage the Moro reflex, you know, the weird thing where babies whack themselves in the face and startle themselves awake, which is not ideal for sleep.

As a third-time mum myself, I have a swaddling hack to add to this tip. A hack on top of a hack, if you will. 

Forget the 30 complicated wraps you received at your baby shower. For better baby sleep, you need the ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle. It's a zip-up swaddle sleeping bag designed to be both easy to use and difficult to escape from. Even my super wriggly third baby stays snug, warm, and securely swaddled. 

The Cocoon is TOG-rated (which means it's insulated, so there is no need for loose blankets), ergonomically designed to promote hip health, and sustainably made from organic cotton. Best of all, it's super easy to wash again and again. I've used our ergoPouch swaddles with all three babies, and it's my go-to baby shower gift.


Image: Supplied. 

2. Soothe in the swaddle.

If your baby cries or seems irritable when going into their swaddle – don't be put off. Tara has a hack for that. "It's not abnormal for babies to cry when they are put in a swaddle, but it doesn't mean they don't like or need it. They may actually be resisting the settle and sleep ahead."


The hack: put your baby into their swaddle and then settle them. Give them time to get used to the swaddle and even forget about it by rocking or swaying, making sounds such as shushing or humming, or even having a little chat with them while walking around the house. Only once they are calm, begin settling them to sleep. 

3. Make changes at night.

If you're making any changes to your child's sleep routine, do it at nighttime.

"Making changes in the evening means we can work with their sleep hormones such as melatonin and circadian rhythms, which favour nighttime sleep," says Tara. 

A change might involve transitioning from the bassinet to a cot or transitioning your baby's arms out of a swaddle once they reach four months or start rolling. If that's your stage, ergoPouch's Butterfly Cardi is designed to be worn over your baby's swaddle to help them transition to arms-out sleeping, with minimal sleep interruptions and maximum sleep comfort.

Combined with the ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle, this sleep set is an all-in-one solution that offers your baby three different sleep-style options to choose from arms in, arms out, or hands up swaddling.

Image: Supplied. 


4. Try this safe sheet.

"I love the use of white noise, such as the Drift Away White Noise Machine, window block outs to create a dark room, and a sleeping bag. Keeping the sleep environment consistent helps babies feel calm and understand what's happening next," says Tara. "But it's also important for the parents to feel calm and confident, which we can do by ensuring the sleep environment is safe." 

To help with this, Tara recommends using a tuck sheet, like the one from ergoPouch, rather than loose blankets.

This is genius because it fits around the mattress and physically can't come up higher than mid-way up on a baby's chest, in line with the Red Nose safe sleep guidelines. Even the most mischievous of babies can't get the Tuck Sheet untucked from the mattress or over their face. Even if they wriggle their little legs out, the sheet will simply lie flat on the mattress.


5. Look for the calm before the storm.

We've all been there – one minute your baby is happily sitting with you, and the next, they're a hurricane of over tired emotions. Ironically, an over tired baby will take longer to fall asleep and potentially have poorer quality sleep too. 

Tara says you can hack the process by looking for early tired signs, which are typically much calmer. These signs include less engagement, lack of eye contact, and disinterest in toys. You don't need to rush them off to bed (see the next hack). Instead, these cues are a helpful heads up that you might need to proceed with their pre-bed activities, such as dinner or bath time, to avoid over tiredness in the near future.

6. Avoid jumping the nap gun by using awake windows.

When you become attuned to subtle sleep cues, it's easy to assume that a yawn or a bit of fussiness means your child is ready for a nap. However, Tara cautions against jumping the gun too early, especially as your baby gets older. 

"If you try to put a 'tired' 12-month-old down for a third nap because they're showing tired signs or only had two short naps in the day, there is every chance they will refuse to sleep. By then, they are pretty programmed to a certain number of naps and awake times each day. Like adults, they can be tired or yawn but not necessarily be ready for sleep yet." Try using awake windows to establish a nap structure – Tara has a handy guide to get you started.


7. Use the car, pram and carrier to 'encourage' your child into keeping their nap.

As your baby grows, nap transitions become inevitable. However, Tara suggests not rushing into dropping naps prematurely. Babies with sleep challenges (frequent night waking, short naps, difficult nap settles, or refusal) tend to drop naps sooner, which can exacerbate existing sleep issues. 

When your baby or toddler starts to regularly resist their nap, use the pram, carrier, or even a quick car trip to encourage at least a short snooze. Warmth and constant motion are a recipe for sleep. Also, try delaying their nap before considering dropping it altogether. When a nap is eventually dropped, ensure the remaining naps are well-spaced to avoid a large gap before bedtime.


It's important to note here too, once the car ride is over, baby is needing to be removed from the car seat or capsule, as per Red Nose guidelines to ensure the child's sleep safety for long periods in car seats, capsules or infant seats.

8. Pause, scroll or squeeze before you step back in.

"Babies have a unique sleep pattern, which includes up to 75 per cent light and active phase sleep." This means they can appear awake even when they're actually asleep or transitioning between sleep cycles. 

Tara suggests pausing before going into their room if they aren't upset. Have a quick scroll of Instagram or give your partner a hug – whatever it takes to get you to wait. This gives your baby a chance to try to naturally settle back into sleep. This approach encourages better sleep, longer sleep cycles, and helps your baby move seamlessly from one sleep phase to the next without constant intervention, resulting in better sleep for you too.

Shop ergoPouch's range of natural fibre, premium, ergonomically designed sleepwear for babies.

This information is general in nature and does not replace the advice of a healthcare professional tailored to your needs. Explore the latest evidence-based advice from Red Nose on how keep your baby safe and reduce the risk of sudden infant death.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia. 

"ergoPouch make natural fibre, premium, ergonomically designed sleepwear and sleep solutions for babies and kids that are TOG-rated for warmth. Sleep (or lack of) in the first five years is difficult and full of challenges. Our range spans Newborn to 6 years old, and is designed to take the guesswork out of dressing your child safely for sleep, no matter the temperature. We empower parents to feel confident in making safe-sleep decisions for their child and help them navigate their way through the tougher phases of their sleep journey. Made from certified organic and natural fibres with ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes, our products care for the environment as much as they do your child."