When I recently learned that I was expecting another baby, I was beyond thrilled. The experience of pregnancy with my daughter was the best feeling of my life. I loved the thought of growing another sweet human and sporting that ever-growing belly that I was so obsessed with the first time around.
But to be honest, I have had some flashbacks here and there to when my daughter was a newborn. Those first four months were the hardest months of my entire life. I had a horrible sleeper on my hands…or at least that’s what I thought.
The truth is, looking back, and knowing what I know now, I was doing all the wrong things when it came to my daughter’s sleep. Now, I’m not shaming myself or regretting anything. I was a first-time mom! I wasn’t at all prepared for the ugly sleep monster (or lack thereof) and it was really hard for me to get out of the hole that I seemed to dig for myself.
This is a feeling a lot of Moms experience when they have a new baby. You’re learning about your new human; what she likes, what she doesn’t like; what works the best, what doesn’t work at all. It’s scary, frustrating and downright exhausting.
So, this time around, I have vowed to not only apply what I have learned from my months of training to become a sleep consultant, but I’m going to do my best to apply what I learned as a first-time mom when it comes to baby sleep! Here are some tips that I have been reminding myself.
- It’s all about timing.
We all know that newborns are super sleepy. But in fact, did you know that a newborn can only tolerate about 45 minutes of awake time before she is ready to be sleeping again? That’s not a very long time at all! When you consider how long it takes to feed her, change her and have some cuddles, 45 minutes certainly flies by. After about this amount of time, you will notice your newborn become fussy. Many times, fussy looks like hungry, right? Therefore, our reaction is to offer baby a feed, because let’s be honest, when does food ever NOT fix a fussy human? 🙂
The problem here, however, is that not only is baby still not sleeping when she should be, but the association of feeding and sleeping is starting to begin. Most of the time, baby will fall asleep at this feeding and then you have a baby who is starting to realize that a feeding must happen before sleep. Three, six or even twelve months later, your baby still needs to be fed in order to fall asleep! Raise your hand if this is you!
Try this: When you see your baby become fussy after this 45-minute mark, try sleep first (assuming you have already fed her after her last wakeup). By doing this, you’re establishing a fabulous pattern for the rest of your day; Sleep, Play, Eat! Sooner than later, your baby will understand that feeding comes after she wakes and the association of feeding to sleep will be broken!
- It’s not always your job to get your baby to sleep.
Man, I really would have loved if someone told me this when I had my daughter! (Someone did, of course, after I went through the Sleep Sense™ Program). The idea of putting my daughter down for sleep when she was still wide awake, was absolutely terrifying.
But even in those early days and weeks of your baby’s life, it’s very possible to begin teaching her healthy sleep habits. Helping your baby discover a path to get themselves to sleep is the first step to a successful independent sleeper!
Try this: A couple times a day, put your baby down wide awake and allow her the opportunity to fall asleep on her own. It won’t always happen but at least some of the time, she will drift off to sleep on her own; especially if she is tired enough. Doing this a little each day will teach her how to fall asleep independently and it will become easier for her to do so with each attempt.
- A dark room is key.
A dark room will help your baby’s melatonin levels to kick into gear. All humans have melatonin and cortisol levels that help determine our circadian rhythm, which then tells our body when it’s time for sleep. A lot of terms there? Let me break it down.
Melatonin and cortisol are hormones that tell our body when it’s time for sleep and when it’s time to wake up. These hormone levels can be manipulated a bit by the light and darkness throughout our day.
Try this: Make sure your baby’s sleeping space is quite dark. It will help encourage quality naps and good stretches of sleep at night. On the contrary, make sure baby is around a lot of light during the day when she is not sleeping. This will also help her establish the difference between day and night, something that newborns struggle with in the first several weeks of life.
If you are the mom of a newborn struggling with sleep, try these helpful tips and be confident that you will see success! Even if you are expecting, you can be even more prepared for your little one by keeping these sleep tips in mind; I know I will! When all else fails, give me a call, and I can help! 🙂