Good sleep is high on the agenda for families all over Australia. Sleep deprivation is brutal, and can make daily parenting totally exhausting.
We are all about practical solutions for good health and good sleep, so it's time to look at the idea of a 'comforter' - when it is safe to introduce to your baby and how it can help support a good sleep routine for naps and night sleep.
1. We can’t force babies to sleep, but like anything, learning to fall asleep (happily, with no tears!) on their own is a skill that you can gently teach your baby. Sleep consultants like The Baby Sleep Co agree that a safe, breathable baby comforter can become a positive sleep association for your baby, a sign that it’s time for sleep and it will give them a means to soothe themselves to sleep.
2. A comforter is a toy or piece of fabric that your baby loves, and that they feel connected to. It could be a toy, a blanket or muslin wrap or even one of your t-shirts (if it smells like Mum or Dad, they will love it for sure).
3. Not all comforters are created equal. In years gone by, many baby comforters were plush, polyester and fuzzy fabrics that seem archaic considering what we know about overheating, SIDS and safe sleeping.
4. At birth, babies do not have control over their startle reflex or arm movements. They do not have the muscle control or strength to move or position any comforter safely.
So if an object accidentally went over their face, they wouldn't be able to remove it, and it could be a serious danger. For this reason, it's not recommended to use any comforter with a newborn.
However, there is a safe way to use the "idea" of a comforter with a newborn. We recommend using a new-style 'arms up' style swaddle/sleep suit from birth from Baby Loves Sleep (pictured below) or Love to Dream. As they gain motor control in the first 6 months of life, the arm corners of their sleep suit often become their first comforter. They might suckle or mouth the fabric as a self soothing way to drift to sleep. But the fabric can't cover their face or pose a suffication danger. The texture and smell of the sleep suit is familiar, consistent and comforting.
5. From around 6 months of age, babies have gained enough motor control to have an independent comforter introduced into the cot. It's time for a Farm Buddy. Organic cotton Farm Buddies are simple, natural and triple safety tested. No buttons or embroidery and made without pesticides or harsh chemicals used to finish most fabrics. They have tie up arms and legs that can have a dummy or teether looped through, for extra comfort.
"As babies go through phases of separation anxiety (usually around 9-12 months and again at about 2 years), having a comforter can be especially helpful."
6. Before using your Farm Buddy for the first time, wash and dry it then wear it in your shirt for a few hours to absorb your smell. It will make the Farm Buddy even more enticing and comforting and familiar for your little one, and more likely to bring on the Zzzzzz's.
Start by putting the blankie comforter between you and your baby during feeding. Let your baby hold it while feeding, as they will be relaxed and cuddled up to you.
7. If your baby has been swaddled for 6 months, you can now start leaving one arm out of the swaddle and put the blankie comforter in reach in the cot.
8. Using the same, familiar blankie comforter for every nap and night sleep is reassuring and secure for your baby and toddler. They will be so excited to be placed into their cot (sleepy but awake). They will snuggle their comforter friend, with eye catching, cute designs.
So many parents tell us their baby spends the first 5 minutes of a sleep session babbling, singing or talking to their Farm Buddy friend. Then they drift to sleep.
"A comforter stays with your baby like a piece of parental love."
We can't promise an instant change to sleeping through every night, but using a sleep comforter like a Farm Buddy, is a safe, affordable addition to a healthy sleep routine.
Babies and children who get enough sleep are smarter, healthier, more creative and easier to manage. Sounds like something to work towards.
"Better sleep within a week. I'm so glad we got a Farm Buddy"
Farm Buddy and White Noise
PS: And just for fun, we thought we'd add in this genius, cheap idea - when it's too hot to carry your newborn in the Ergo, here's a trick that might still comfort them to sleep.