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Establishing Good Sleep Habits For You and Your Baby

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Aside from helping expectant parents prepare for the pregnancy and birth of their baby, I also make sure that I provide them support post birth so they can have a good start in taking care of their newborn.

Sleep and breastfeeding are two of the most important subjects that every new parent should take time to research and learn. In this article, we focus on how you and your baby will be able to get good sleep.

There are a lot of theories out there that talks about when your baby should sleep and what’s the right way to get them to sleep. Some parents are even criticized for doing “sleep training”.

I have read and researched more than I care to admit, and I have tried to approach this with an attitude of respect for choices, understanding of lifestyles and being practical.

A baby’s cry is a form of communication and usually, new mothers are alarmed when their newborn cries. It makes them feel nervous. They worry that they might be doing something wrong and the worst of all, they think that they are not fit to be a mother.

A lot of new moms turn to the internet and books in search of helpful information. Each of the experts and authors prescribes their own remedy but what we need to keep in mind is that no baby fits a time schedule and is the same as another. And that’s what makes this topic interesting and challenging at the same time.

First, you need to analyze what your needs and expectations are. How do you want to continue with your lifestyle now that you have a new addition to the family? Do you want to go back to work, be a full-time mother or work at home?

Next is to take note of how well you are feeding your baby. You have to ensure that your baby is taking in good nutrition and growing up healthy. You also need to keep a sleep diary and then we evaluate how much sleep your baby needs.

Most babies under 12 weeks will need 12 hours at night and 6-8 hours in the day (although 4-6 hours of daytime sleep will be adequate). They usually drop day sleep down to 2-4 hours after 6 months. However, establishing good sleep habits for you and your baby will also be based on how your baby responds and behaves.

Good Habits Every Mother Should Start With After Birth

1.    Establish a feeding routine, a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 3 hours between feeds

This not only helps stop excessive gas and assists in digestion for the baby but also gives the mother some sanity and ability to structure what she would like to do a little.

2.    Wrap and put down your baby.

Not all babies like being wrapped but most of them do. They have a strong startle reflex and the wrap assists in controlling this. If you use a sleep pod, then the baby does truly feel like it is in the uterus as the pod allows movement while still providing a resistance just like the muscles of a mother’s uterus would have.

Also by putting down your baby after a feed doesn’t mean you don’t get to hold them. Anytime your baby is making eye contact and interacting with you, please keep them in your arms. But if your baby is showing you some signals that he needs to sleep, then you must put him down. This time will increase as he get older.

3.    Attend but do TRY not to pick-up

When your baby cries after you put him down, I recommend you attend and use a technique I call “hands on” which means to reassure your baby that you’re still there, talk to him, touch him and he may settle. If he doesn’t, that’s when you should pick him up.

There’s also a concept called “HAT” which means Happy Awake Time. This starts when a child wakes from appropriate sleep and ends when he shows you that he’s tired. Early signs are hiccupping, sneezing, blinking, frowning or staring but not yawning.

If you miss these signs, your baby will start to fuss and cry a little. If you still do not pay attention, he will start to jerk his arms and legs and eventually start to cry uncontrollably.

I also put a time value to this as it helps to give parents a guideline to start watching at:

  • Until 6 weeks – 60 minutes
  • 6-12 weeks – 90 minutes
  • 3-6 months – 120 minutes+

But sometimes, you will see your baby’s tolerance as you watch him and learn to understand what he expects and then you can guide him into your lifestyle patterns or adjust your lifestyle to suit his a little better.

4.    Establish a bedtime routine – Feed, bath, feed

You can start as early as you wish but establishing a bedtime routine works well from about 6 weeks. Some cultures do not do an evening bath, so bath just literally means an activity between the two feeds to give your child the bedtime signals. Babies do like predictability and your baby will begin to understand that this is bedtime, which is different from daytime sleep.

5.    Establish a Dreamfeed, Daddy feed (DF) – Feed, diaper, feed

This is around 23:00, before your bedtime. This gives dad a chance to feed the baby once you decide to introduce a bottle of formula. Please note that formula doesn’t make your baby sleep through the night easier, calories do. I’ve known plenty of breastfeeding mothers who have no trouble with achieving this.

6.    Shrinking feeds

If your baby cries and wake you up, do not change the diaper unless it is really needed. Feed them as much as he need but as little as possible. Until 6 weeks, you will most likely have two of these and after 7 weeks growth spurt, you will start to work on getting rid of these.

This article won’t be effective if you will try and do the outlined steps without a written plan for you and your baby. If you need some help is establishing a good sleep habits for you and your baby, I would be happy to assist you so please feel free to contact me on the below details provided.

I believe that you deserve a good night’s sleep too, just like your baby, and that’s not impossible to achieve.

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About the Author:

Cecile de Scally is a Midwife & Childbirth educator. She is the co-founder of BabySenses ME and provides professional advice/support to women during pregnancy, labor and post birth. Learn more

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