When you become a mum for the first time, adjusting to life with a newborn can be really challenging – there are amazing highs, but can also be some lows. If you’re struggling with newborn baby sleep (hey, who isn’t?), a Baby Sleep Expert shares her top tips for getting through those first few months.
Irritable, sad, moody and forgetful – when you were pram shopping, excitedly awaiting the arrival of your precious bundle, it’s probably not how you imagined you would be feeling once you finally welcomed your bub.
When baby is born, we expect this time to be blissful. But with the joy comes a complete readjustment to your new life as a mum.
It’s often very hard for new parents to share with others what a tough time they’re having. The lack of sleep has us walking around in a constant fog. As a mother of two, I very well know the feelings of agony and desperation when you have a child that struggles to settle and sleep. Naturally you fall into patterns of rocking, feeding, or even driving your baby (back) to sleep.
If this is you, you need to know two things –
- Firstly, sleeping is a learned skill. Parents assume it’s an emotional and physical development that will come naturally, but one in four families have babies or young children that have a sleep issue
- Secondly, you’re not alone. There are so many different methods to help teach babies and children how to sleep. Not every approach is right for every baby or child, and you need to find what works for you and your family – long term
When you bring your baby home no one tells you that the period they “sleep like a baby” only lasts a short time. This article will give you 10 tips to help your newborn sleep better.
Remember: It can be dangerous for a new newborn baby (just a few weeks old) to sleep all night. They really do need to eat at least every 3 hours in those early days so they can grow well and thrive. It is also safest to place baby on his back to sleep, to guard against SIDS.
Top Tips for helping your newborn baby sleep better
1. Don’t let them stay awake for too long
After the first week or two, the #1 key with your newborn is to keep wake times very short, at first. You should soothe your baby for sleep after just 1-2 hours of wake time TOPS. By wake time, I mean to include feedings and diaper changes and disregard how long the last nap was. You should look for signs that he/she is getting sleepy and start soothing him/her. If you wait until he/she is fussy, cranky or crying, you are actually too late! An overtired baby will have more trouble settling down and going to sleep and staying asleep
2. Swaddle your baby
To help mimic the feeling of the womb, it helps to swaddle your newborn baby. This basically means to wrap him up in a blanket like a little burrito. This helps the baby feel safe and secure and also helps baby stay asleep during any moro reflex or startle reflex moments. It is said that those reflexes are similar to how we have the feeling we are falling while falling asleep. It can take up to 4 or 5 months for your baby to stop startling
3. Ensure the days are bright and the nights are dark
Although you might be tempted to keep things quiet and dark for your newborn to nap well during the day, it might prolong the day/night confusion that almost all newborns will have. Day/Night confusion can last up to six weeks. So, keep days bright and upbeat and nights, dark and boring, and it will help your newborn sort out days and nights faster
4. Limit naps
If your baby is taking longer to sort out days and nights (or you are having a very rough time keeping up with it being up all night), you can further speed up the process by limiting naps to no longer than 3-4 hours during the day
5. Post-feeding routine
To help your newborn baby sort out day and night sleeping even more you may want to develop a play routine after the baby eats during the day. Keep her awake 30 minutes after feeding by playing, singing, bathing, etc. Again, the light stimulating it eyes will help sort out that daylight is for being awake at least a little bit. Many people recommend the eat-play-sleep routine for newborns.
6. Sleep in the same room as your baby
Sometimes it helps to have your newborn in your bedroom for quick access for middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes. This also can help give him/her more comfort being close by as the baby will be able to hear and smell you. For safety reasons, you should use a Co-Sleeper sleep positioner, or bassinet, rather than have baby in bed with you.
7. Angle the mattress
For babies who spit up a lot or have reflux, it helps to angle the mattress when the baby sleeps, so baby is not flat on his back. You’ll want to angle the mattress so their feet are lower than the head, so the stomach contents can stay put. To angle the mattress, you can simply change the support platform level on one side on most cribs. If that is not feasible, you can put blankets and pillow under the mattress. Please note that the mattress should still remain flat at all times, just at an incline. You must make sure that you do not tilt the mattress so much that your baby slides down the bed, either
8. White Noise
White noise is made up of the sounds like a fan whirring, vacuum cleaner, hair-dryer, etc. It helps a newborn sleep because inside mum’s womb was all white noise. The sound of her blood flow, heart beating, etc. That’s why the baby finds comfort when you may run the vacuum cleaner. I recommend getting a White Noise machine, sound machine or a White Noise CD.
9. Wear your baby
For particularly fussy babies or just for parent’s convenience and snuggling, it helps to “wear” baby using a sling. They get very folded up in a sling or Baby carrier as it mimics the womb and babies love it –
10. Use a baby swing
Mum’s movements lulled baby to sleep while in the womb so I also recommend trying a swing, but don’t be surprised if your newborn only likes it at high speeds and fall asleep in it!
Unfortunately, some of these tips do create sleep associations, but during the first weeks you really do what you can to survive. To avoid sleep associations, TRY to put your baby down to sleep without any of these “tricks” at least once a day if possible.