Evidence-based strategies to improve your baby’s sleep patterns

Associate Professor Harriet Hiscock is a paediatrician with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health, a Leader with the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Healthcare Innovation Affinity Group, and a Principal Fellow within The University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics.

Sleeping newborn

Sleep problems are common in babies and include difficulties settling a baby to sleep and frequent waking during the night. The good news is that for many babies, you can help improve their sleep.

There are a number of ways to do this and you can choose which way(s) suit you best as a family. Remember, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways!

To help your baby settle to sleep and stay asleep, you can try the following:

  • Recognise when your baby looks tired – they may clench their fists, jerk their arms or legs, or as they get even more tired, they may grizzle. Crying is a late sign of tiredness.
  • When your baby looks tired, take them to a quiet, darkened room. It doesn’t have to be completely dark!
  • Give your baby a brief cuddle and put them in the cot quiet but awake.
  • It’s fine to pat or stroke them in the cot until they settle.
  • Try to let your baby fall asleep by him/herself.


Some parents find that wrapping a baby can really help, even though the baby might fight the wrap in the first place. If you do wrap your baby, make sure they have room to move their legs in the wrap.

Cat nappers

Some babies cat nap, i.e. have short naps of 20-30 mins each, and this is also exhausting for parents. If your baby wakes after 20-30 minutes in the daytime, try to re-settle them with stroking or patting in their cot for another 10 minutes. After a few days, your baby may learn to re-settle and have longer sleeps. Some parents find that going in just before they arouse to pat or stroke them can also help baby to re-settle back to sleep.

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