4 Tips for Newborn Sleep
Right after "Is it a boy or a girl?" and "What's his/her name?," the next question people tend to ask new parents is "How are they sleeping?" Unfortunately, the answer is usually "Not well." As any bleary-eyed parent will attest, it is one of the most difficult challenges of parenting. I want to give you a few tips for helping your newborn become a great sleeper from the get go. It's absolutely possible for your newborn baby to develop great, independent skills for putting themselves to sleep and you can gently guide them down that road. If you practice and encourage these skills, you’ll see that your baby will be happier, more attentive and tolerant, and you'll probably never have to do sleep training later on. What's truly wonderful is if you're expecting or you have a new baby and you use these tips you’re going to save yourself a lot of headaches.
It’s very common for people to wait months before making any steps towards understanding their baby’s sleep needs and helping their child get to sleep independently. The Number 1 tip when it comes to newborn babies is to understand that they don't have a very high tolerance for being awake. These tiny humans can only tolerate about 45 minutes of being awake before they need to go back to sleep and I WISH that someone would have told me that when I took my first baby home from the hospital because like most moms I had him awake for hours on end and he got crankier and crankier and I'm feeding and feeding and I just couldn't figure out what to do. I’m sure you can relate. Forty five minutes of awake time does sound like much but sticking to it will help your baby avoid becoming overtired (the enemy of good sleep). If your baby takes 30 minutes to feed and they have a little bit of play time, maybe some tummy time, you're going to watch the clock; maybe set a timer, and after 45 minutes of being awake, attempt to put your baby to sleep.
Number 2. A very common mistake that we as moms usually make is that we wait for our babies to get cranky to put them to sleep. That crankiness is really your baby’s way of saying that they're overtired but it usually sounds a lot like…. You guessed it! I'm hungry! Now you're thinking that he's only been awake for an hour and a half (which seems like a little bit to you), so he must be hungry again. The real cause for his crankiness is having missed his window for being tired and going to sleep and now he’s overtired. I would encourage you to keep an eye on the clock or set a timer. Every 45 minutes throughout the day your child has an opportunity to sleep. Try putting them down at that time and see what happens. You’ll be amazed how the body clock works and how it prepares your little one for sleep at that time.
Number 3 is encouraging your newborn to develop self-soothing strategies that are independent of extra help from you. You don't teach your baby to creep, walk or eat because you're lazy and you don't want to do it for them; you do it because it’s a fundamental skill. You want to help them learn 'what do I need to do to calm myself down and fall asleep?’ If you've got the timing just right and you put them down, you might be surprised that you just went to find your cold coffee and you came back to a sleeping baby. The first time I learned about this, I put my baby down after 45 minutes and when I came back and he was sleeping I felt as if I'd been tricked! Who told me that I needed to rock or feed him to sleep, then lift him carefully like a ninja to put him down asleep, only to have him wake up again?! If you want to have a good sleeper, the number one reason for them sleeping well is because they've figured out how to soothe and put themselves back to sleep without needing assistance from anyone or anything else.
The last tip I want to give you is to put your baby down in the same place that they're going to sleep for the night. I know you want to keep them close to you and you want to check every 10 minutes to make sure they’re still alive, but the more your baby learns that this is the place that I sleep, the easier it becomes to put them to sleep and for them to stay asleep. No one would like to have to go to sleep in a department store where the lights are bright, there’s people around and lots of noise. There'd be too much stimulation to sleep and that stimulation is too much for you baby as well. Of course it's completely understandable that you’re not always home and they might nap in their car seat or in the carrier, but more often than not try to put them down in the same place they sleep for the night. The more they practice this, the more their brain will tell them 'okay I'm in my sleep spot, it's time to sleep'.
Being the parent of a newborn is simultaneously the most difficult and the most wonderful thing on earth, isn’t it? However every mom can attest to how exhausting and overwhelming it can be to try and help your newborn sleep well. With these tips, you can gently encourage better, deeper sleep from your baby… and possibly get some winks for yourself!
Marie is a trained, certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant from Trinidad. She has an Honours degree in Accounting and Finance, however, since seeing first-hand the tremendous benefits of sleep training, she has made it her mission to empower other parents and their babies so that they can enjoy the restful sleep that they need in order to develop, to thrive and to enjoy this precious time as a family. As a mother of two she had her own sleep struggles, until she successfully learned to Sleep train her kids.
Parents of newborns may joke about sleep deprivation being a “rite of passage,” but the fact is that many families suffer sleepless nights for months (or even years), yet the toll it takes on the child AND the parents are no laughing matter. Moms whose babies keep them up at night are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression and the ongoing stress leads to a disconnect between the parents. She believes that tackling the problem early is the most important step in avoiding these issues. If you are struggling with your baby’s sleep and feel you’ve tried it all, please reach out for help. There are definitely solutions to your baby’s sleep troubles.