BABY FIGHTING SLEEP? THE TRUTH ABOUT SLEEP AND YOUR NEW BABY

 

Sleep and your newborn baby are often very high on the list of new parent worries, questions arise surrounding concerns such as…

 “Why won’t my baby sleep?”

“Is she sleeping too much or not enough?”

“Am I doing it all wrong?”

 

Western society doesn’t help when the first questions you are asked from anyone and everyone is…

“Is he a good baby?”

“Does she sleep for you?”

 

We come home with our new baby, who by the way doesn’t include a manual - shock horror – and before we know it, we think we have a sleep problem because your child isn’t sleeping through the night or won’t stay asleep for as long as the mum’s child from baby and toddler group does!

 

You begin to wonder maybe it is time for some kind of sleep training for everyone’s sanity, but what?

 

We think we are prepared for sleep deprivation beforehand but once we are actually experiencing it, we are completely unprepared as we are told that new babies ‘sleep like a baby’ so then why doesn’t our baby sleep?

 

Here are some facts…

 

Newborns do require a lot of sleep, typically around 14-17 hours a day in the beginning, however, sleep does not come naturally to your baby and therefore they need a lot of help from you in the beginning.

 

This is due to babies being born nocturnal, expecting the same pattern they had within the womb, during the day they were often rocked to sleep as you got on with your day.

 

Do you remember as soon as you would sit down in the evening your baby would appear to ‘wake up’ and you would notice his/her movements more so?

 

Your babies sleep, like everything else surrounding your baby’s growth, needs time to develop, and until around four months old your baby’s sleep will be quite erratic and unsettled with no patterns.

This is due to new babies only having two stages of sleep in the beginning, often referred to as quiet and active sleep and typically looks very different to us adults sleep cycles.

Your baby doesn’t produce their own sleep hormone, melatonin, this won’t happen until around six months of age.

At six months melatonin will be produced on a set schedule and will help develop your baby’s circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that tells us when it is night and day and helps us with our mealtimes too.

This means that baby needs to wake frequently to check they are safe.

Newborns are heavily reliant on us to ensure they are safe, fed and warm.

Being held and being close helps baby feel safe and therefore will help them fall back to sleep. Being rocked, fed or cuddled to sleep is very typical and absolutely acceptable during these early months until they develop their sleep cycles.

Trust sleep will come in time and is very different from baby to baby but here are some ways to help your new baby and you in those early days…

 

Teach your baby the difference between night and day

 

In the first few weeks you can help baby by exposing them to natural light during the day, opening the curtains first thing in the morning, and getting outside in the fresh air.

Keeping the environment bright and light and not avoiding or being afraid of noise during the day (after all it was quite noisy in the womb).

During feeds in the day keep things chatty, sing and be playful.

At night respond but keep things on the down low, use dim lighting and a softer, soothing voice.

 

Keep on top of daytime sleep

 

Newborns will need a lot of sleep during the day too, follow their lead in the beginning and meet their needs.

Accept sleep will be unorganised for now, and they will require lots of support from you; naps on laps, in arms, slings, prams meaning there may be no set designated sleep space just yet.

Don’t focus on the where or the how they get to sleep, as long as they are getting the sleep they need is all that is important in those first weeks.

Being close, rocked and fed to sleep is all fine so try not to worry about forming any bad habits despite everyone and her neighbour’s advice.

Recreating the womb environment with white noise and rocking is often helpful, a sling can be your saviour in those early months.

 

Incorporate a bedtime routine

It’s never too early to start a bedtime routine, typically around 6 weeks is a good time as a rule however, this varies widely from baby to baby.

Babies love consistency and familiarity and introducing your little one to three or four night-time habits before bedtime helps baby to anticipate what is coming next and aids baby to winddown in advance of sleep.

 

My sample early bedtime routine is:

 

*dim lights and prepare some quiet time

*a relaxing short bath

* nappy and pjs on

* sing a lullaby

* white noise on

* kisses and cuddles

* feed

* say a sleep time phrase such as ‘sleep time baby, I love you’

 

You can then do a condensed version of these sleep tips during nap times and wake ups through the night, particularly using your chosen sleepy phrase.

 

Connect and communicate with your baby

Learning your baby’s sleep cues and language can be incredibly helpful and can help with not allowing baby to become overtired.

Understanding your baby’s needs will develop overtime as you get to know each other, your baby’s early sleep cues are a brief yawn, decreased activity, a brief eye rub or giving you a sleep stare.

These early signs indicate that they are ready for a sleep and given the opportunity they will be able to go to sleep with ease.

 

Late cues on the other hand are, intense eye rubbing, wide yawning, becoming fidgety and agitated, clenched fists, arched back, crying or moaning can all indicate your baby has become overtired and in which case they could struggle to go to sleep and will resist sleep.

Activities such as baby massage will help you to become more attuned to your baby and strengthen your bond and love, making it easier for you to identifying your baby’s needs.

 

Respond, respond, respond!

The last point I want to make is always respond to your baby, you cannot spoil a baby by cuddling, rocking and picking them up and by not doing so you can cause separation anxiety when leaving baby crying for too long.

Your baby relies on you to ensure their needs are met by your timely response, you are developing a trusting relationship between you which enables them to grow to be independent within a safe and secure relationship which in time really will help her to fall asleep easier.

If you would like some help and support surrounding sustainable sleep habits for your baby AND you, please get in touch.

 

Here’s to calmer sleep routines,

 

Love Claire x

 

Sweet Beginnings Babycare

 Claire is based in Maidstone, Kent and her sleep consultancy, baby massage and baby yoga classes offer a nurturing space for mum and baby to relax, recharge and connect. Claire has an extensive background in childhood studies and baby care. 

 

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