Parenting

A Guide to Newborn Sleep

The first weeks after your baby is born are usually the toughest. Newborn sleeping routines can be erratic, confusing and unpredictable. As your baby gets used to life outside the womb, they might have trouble adjusting to a daily routine.Your baby is doing round-the clock mini waking, sleeping and feeding stints which leads to the parent being very overwhelmed and sleep deprived.

Newborns will sleep about sixteen to eighteen hours a day, spread out in about two hour segments around the clock.  When the stomach is still so small, babies need to eat frequently, especially if you are nursing.
As the weeks pass however, it does get easier. Your baby will slowly realise the difference between night and day and by about 6-8 weeks, your baby should (hopefully) sleep until the early hours of the morning.

If you need help decoding baby sleep patterns or you need some tips, then you are in the right place!

How should we establish a good bedtime routine?

A lot of parents find it easy to settle their baby in the evenings, purely because they have made a bedtime routine. Even when you know your child is going to wake up every few hours, a simple sleep time ritual will help you as a parent and will help your baby develop healthy sleep habits later on. Every parents routine differs but here are a few things you could include:
1. Wind-down time – The more alert your baby becomes, the more quiet time he/she will need to get into the mood to sleep. Try and limit interactions and stimulating things before bedtime.
2. A bath. A warm, relaxing bath is a great way to relax your baby and make them feel warm and sleepy.
3. A massage. Follow the bath with a gentle oil massage. It is wonderful for your child’s muscles, bones and skin. Studies also show that a bedtime massage can boost a baby’s production of melatonin – a sleep-inducing hormone.
4. The right ambiance. Dim the lights and turn on some soft music or white noise.
5. A story or song. Snuggling over a book can be the start of a treasured nighttime tradition and it’s never too early to start. If you don’t feel like reading, you can sing a nice lullaby/song.

6. Sweet goodnights. After you have fed your baby it’s time to put them down to sleep. Keep your goodnight’s short, sweet, loving, and consistent. Use the same phrase the same way each and every night. Pretty soon your goodnight words will become a reassuring signal to your baby that their busy day has come to an end and it’s time to sleep.

It is important to set up a nap routine, just as it is important to have a bedtime routine because if your child doesn’t have enough sleep in the day and becomes overtired, then they often have more trouble sleeping at night than those who have had enough sleep during the day. While these routines can have some steps in common (like singing a lullaby), having slight differences is fine.  The nap routine should be a bit shorter, i.e. no bath and massage. Your baby will start to give you hints that they are ready for a nap. Here are some tired signs beyond the obvious yawning:
• Pulling at ears
• Closing fists
• Fluttering eyelids or difficulty focusing. Your baby might even go cross-eyed or seem to be staring into space
• Making jerky arm and leg movements, or arching backwards
• Frowning or looking worried
• Sucking on fingers – this could be a sign that your baby is trying to find ways to settle to sleep.

Tips on settling your baby for sleep

A lot of babies, no matter how tired they are, need some serious persuasion and a lot of love to get them to sleep. Here are a few tips which might help:
1. Swaddling – Research shows that swaddling mimics the coziness of the womb. It can keep your baby warm and secure, as well as calm a baby with colic.
2. Keep things quiet before naptime – In the lead-up to bedtime limit the number of people holding your baby. Too many people holding your baby can be both unsettling and over-stimulating.
3. Stick to the clock – A good rule to follow is that a newborn baby shouldn’t stay awake for more than two hours at a time. If you notice your baby has been awake for longer, retreat to a quiet room and try and get them to sleep.
4. Rocking – A lot of babies like to be rocked to sleep. This is great in the early days but might get you into trouble as they get older as a lot like this habit to continue!
5. Patting – If your baby is in your arms, gently pat their back (and sway if you like) until they nod off. If your child is in their bed, then you can (very) gently pat their chest.
6. Stroking – A lot of babies like it when you stroke them especially on their nose. Gently stroke your baby’s nose in little downwards movements. This encourages them to close their eyes and fall asleep.
7. Pacifier – It is totally unto you as a parent if you want to use a pacifier but generally if babies are offered one, they will happily use it! This can be a soothing object for babies when it comes to sleep.
8. Sling – There is nothing more a baby likes than to snuggle up close to you. When your baby was in the womb they would have become accustomed to the sound of your heart and the rhythm of your movements. After birth, the experience of being held close to a parent’s body helps them recall the peace they felt in the womb. A baby sling also swaddles them and helps control the movement of their arms and legs. As you move, the motion with sooth your baby.

How Should Babies Sleep?

During the first weeks of a baby’s life, a lot of parents choose to share a room with their baby. This is where you place your babies bassinet/crib next to your bed. Experts recommend this as it keeps your baby nearby and helps with feeding, comforting, and monitoring in the night. Although it is ok to share a room, it is not recommend to share a bed during the first few weeks after birth.
Bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and other sleep related deaths.
Follow these recommendations for a safe sleep environment for your little one:
• Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, not on the stomach or side. This is done, again to reduce the risk of SIDS.
• Use a firm sleep surface. Cover the mattress with a sheet that fits snugly. Make sure your babies bed meets current safety standards.
• Do not put anything else in your child’s bed. Keep toys, pillows, comforters, unfitted sheets, blankets and bumper pads out of your baby’s sleep area. Items in baby’s crib can cover his mouth or face and lead to suffocation. It’s safest to swaddle your baby or use a sleep sack to keep him warm at night, and save the toys for places where he can be supervised.

• Avoid overheating. Dress your infant for the room temperature, and don’t over dress them. Watch for signs of overheating, such as sweating or feeling hot to the touch.
• Keep your baby away from smokers. Second hand smoke increases the risk of SIDS.

Babies really aren’t built to fall asleep alone and sleep for eight hours – at least not initially, anyway. They need your help the create lasting, healthy sleep patterns that turn falling asleep into a time of comfort, safety, and closeness – rather than a battle of wills.
Be patient with your baby, have realistic expectations of their sleep, and remember that they will eventually sleep through the night. Remember that this is a milestone and something they will reach in their own time.

A big piece of advice is sleep when your baby sleeps. You have probably heard this so many times, but really try to do it. It really helps especially during those early days. Getting in a nap (or two) during the daytime will help you deal with the exhaustion from nighttime feeds. Taking a rest does a lot to help you be a better parent.

Sweet dreams!

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