When you are a first-time parent, the first 3 month of baby sleep are a roller coaster of emotions as you adjust to your new role as caregiver.
And there’s the anxiety of “Am I doing this right”?
There’s more pride, more love and then often frustration of trying to figure out why this baby is fussing!
Congratulations! If your child is still alive, you are doing great and meeting all of her expectations!
When I am out in the community, Moms always ask me “What can I be doing to establish healthy sleep practices for my newborn?”
The short answer is that if you are keeping them alive, and they are gaining weight, then you are meeting all your goals. Any bad habits related to sleep that may be formed, can all be undone later. However….
Now if you are really keen and following the advanced parenting skills fast track, then you can follow some of these suggestions to start working on baby sleep asap.
1. Babies don’t just fall asleep when they are tired.
You have to help them fall asleep. Babies can get overtired very easily, and once they are in this overtired zone, they become increasingly fussy, they cry and it becomes harder to get them to sleep and to stay asleep.
2. Most of us keep newborns up too long.
From birth to 2 months, newborns can be comfortably awake between 45 minutes to 1 hour. After that time frame, they become overtired and harder to settle. Yes, that means sleep, eat, poop, then repeat. This is where the term “sleeping like a baby” comes from. It lasts about 3 months.
From 2-3 months, newborns should be back asleep between 1-1.5 hours. If you miss those windows, they get harder to put to sleep and it is harder for them to stay asleep. TIMING is important.
3. Swaddling is the BOMB!!
Many new parents tell me that their babies don’t like being swaddled. Through years of discussing this topic, what I’ve discovered is that usually when parents try the swaddling, the ir baby is already overtired and probably doesn’t like ANYTHING at this point, and it’s not about the swaddle.
I had so much success with my son and my daughter in the Miracle Blanket that I had the blanket bronzed 😉
You’ll want to stop swaddling somewhere around 4 months once the Moro Reflex has disappeared and your baby’s rolling career is about to start. You can read about why we swaddle and how to wean the swaddle here.
4. Learn what your baby’s cries mean via The Dunstan Baby Language.
This is a baby language developed by an Australian opera singer who noticed that different cries have different meanings. There are 5 cries which include fatigue, hunger, the need to burp, the need to toot and being uncomfortable. If you can master fatigue, hunger and gas, you are good to go. Learning this language will help you meet the your baby’s true need rather than assuming its hunger each time she cries. My husband had one response to every cry my baby made as a newborn…”I think she’s hungry”. Sound familiar :)?
5. Start as you plan to continue.
Unknowingly, we actually teach our babies how to fall asleep those first few months. If we are always rocking or nursing right before bedtime, our babies will expect these things in order to fall asleep, until we decide to change that.
6. Start by feeding your baby on wake up, rather than on put down.
Try putting your baby down in the crib, calm but awake. Get her used to falling asleep in the crib. You can help by ssshhhing her, having your hand resting on her body and gently rocking her a little bit. She’ll get used to falling asleep in her crib from being awake. Over time you can gradually reduce the amount you have to ssshhh and touch.
7. Be an observer.
There is a lot of anxiety that comes with being a first-time parent and crying can totally derail our confidence that we are doing the right thing. I have found that most of us don’t give something new a chance to be successful. Don’t get me wrong, it is like nails on a chalkboard for me to hear my newborn cry, but if I jump up right away and try and soothe her (usually with a boob), I can mask what is truly bothering her. I thwart my own attempts at trying something new.
For example, when my daughter was just a few weeks old, we were in the throes of the ‘witching hour’. That period between 7- 9 pm where nothing seems to appease them and they want to nurse frequently.
You can read about The Witching Hour here.
After 9:00 pm and multiple feeds and multiple burps, I realized that my daughter was fussing because she was so overtired at this point. We had to get her to sleep, but we were both exhausted and didn’t want to hold or bounce her. We pulled out our big ass swing. This type of swing plugs into the wall so you don’t get tendinitis from swinging the car seat. Yes…. that actually happened. The plugin swing is more powerful than a battery adapted one and provides enough momentum to soothe your baby.
My daughter was swaddled in the swing while I sat right in front of her sshhhing. After 2 minutes she still wasn’t settling. I had a moment of self-doubt! I almost got her out, but then said to myself, “You’re not hungry, you’re not wet, you don’t have gas, I’ve attended to your every need…I’m going to give this 5 minutes to work”. We set a timer and watched her settle herself into sleep in the swing. (Note: obviously you need to be present with your baby in the swing, never leave her unattended and be careful of her airway). Point being, I could have easily thwarted my efforts when self-doubt plagued me. Don’t let that happen to you.
8. The clock is your friend.
On the same vein as the previous paragraph, give yourself 5 minutes to try something new. In addition, when your baby wakes at night, wait 3-5 minutes before you rush into her. I had read Ina May’s midwife book that told me to never let my baby wait for a feed. So every time my guy cried out at night, I jumped up and was there for him, ready to feed that big boy. In hindsight, I realize that half the time he probably wasn’t even really awake. Kids make noise when they sleep at all ages. I was rushing in and probably waking him up and teaching him that he needed a boob in his mouth to fall asleep.
9. Get the gas out.
There’s a theory that if you don’t get the little burps out of your baby during the day, they travel down the GI tract and become toots at night. I have no scientific proof that this is true but anecdotal I believe it. The need to burp can prevent a baby from falling asleep, and wake them up after they have fallen asleep. Babies who have reflux have sensitive tummies, more gas than other babies and need to be burped more.
10. Distinguish between day and night.
Set the stage for sleep at night but lowering the lights. In the morning do you wake ups and open the curtains, announce it to be daytime. Start creating a short bedtime routine that cues baby that it is night time. One easy cue is to always change your baby into pyjamas for bedtime.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! As you travel through this crazy parenthood journey you will realize that nothing is ever perfect. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, something will change and keep you off balance yet again. The art becomes trusting your instincts and yourself while dealing with the challenges as they come.
Did you find my information in ‘Ways To Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep From 0-3 Months helpful?’ Don’t forget it!
Share your views on 0-3 month baby sleep. What problems are you facing right now? Let me know in the comments. I would love to reply
Photo credit: Shailee Connolly Photography