5 Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep
As I write this post, I am 8 weeks postpartum. The weeks dragged on and flown by all at the same time. I’ve had days when I felt like I slept enough to function and days when I felt like a zombie. I don’t know about you but I like to minimize my zombie days.
I emphasize mental health for parents, especially mothers, because it’s very important. It’s just as important as physical health. They are tied to each other and often as one declines, the other does as well. In the early days of parenting, sleep plays a great role in both physical and mental health. And there is usually never enough of it. No matter how good of a sleeper your baby is, their sleep patterns are not the same as an adult’s. They sleep lighter, wake easily and need to be fed every few hours.
So how do you go about ensuring your child sleeps the most hours they can in a day? Well, you should work on noticing your child’s hunger and sleep signs. Typically, when your baby is in the early stages of hunger, they will root, turn their head and yawn. As the hunger progresses, they might start crying a bit and eating their fists. Please, feed them at that time. It doesn’t matter if they ate an hour ago, if they’re hungry feed them.
Once they’re satiated, they may either fall asleep at the breast (a.k.a. Milk drunk) or be awake and want to play. However, keep in mind that newborns are not designed to be awake for a long period of time. They tire quickly. Here you need to notice your baby’s sleep signs. For example, my son starts whining and doesn’t stop when I pick him up when he’s sleepy. That’s how I know he needs my help to fall asleep.
My older son on the other hand never gave me any signals and would just pass out where he was playing, if he was sleepy. But for the most part he just fell asleep after nursing. You just need to watch your baby and figure out their sleep signs.
Just remember that even though it’s tempting to ask in Facebook groups about sleep training your baby, DON’T. Your baby is not meant to be sleep trained till at least 4 months old and even that is a tad early. 6 months should be the recommended minimum, as that is the time when their nervous system more resembles one of an adult and their sleep patterns start to look more adult as well. I understand that it’s hard to be sleep deprived but you need to power through for a bit. And there are some items that can help you achieve the best baby sleep possible.
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Swaddles are a great tool to use to help your newborn sleep longer and be more rested. The reason why swaddles work so well for soothing is because your child is used to being in tight quarters. They spent close to 10 months inside of you and it got pretty cramped towards the end. But they loved it!
Also, newborns have what is called the Moro Reflex, which is when they spread their arms out when they sense a loss of support. Basically, this happens every time you try to transfer your baby into bed and they wake up. A swaddle greatly helps with that, since their arms are close to their body and won’t wiggle free to startle them while you’re putting them down into their bed.
There are a few types of swaddles you can use. You can go old school and just use a muslin blanket to wrap your baby up. Or you can use a swaddle like Halo Sleep Sack that has velcro. Whatever is easier for you. I personally prefer using muslins but that’s just a preference. The most important part is that your baby is bundled up snugly and it’s easy for you to do.
A lot of newborns have a need to suck and it’s not always tied to hunger. It’s just a reflex that allows them to self soothe. My son needs to suck on a paci when he tries to calm himself down and get to sleep. On the plus side, they are inexpensive and can be easily found anywhere. I would highly recommend getting pacifier clips to go along with them. There is nothing worse than looking for a paci when your baby is having a meltdown.
White Noise Machine
I think we’ve all known a family or two where once the baby was asleep everyone had to be dead quiet. They had to tip toe around the house and make sure nothing woke the baby. But this can be avoided. You don’t have to stop breathing just because your child went to sleep.
You can just get a white noise machine. They really do work to drown out sound and also mimic the noises your baby is used to hearing from their time on the inside. It was loud in there and babies prefer it that way. And it may even help you drift off to sleep if you’re having issues nodding off. Ever since my second son came home, I’ve been falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves. I can’t imagine falling asleep any other way now.
As I mentioned before with swaddles, babies love being in a snug and tight place. And what’s better than a baby carrier. They get to be close to their caregiver, hear their heartbeat, feel the body warmth, and take in the familiar smell. Plus, while some babies do enjoy sleeping in their bassinet (i.e. my second son), some won’t even remotely entertain that idea until they’re older (i.e. my first son). And you , the parent, want to at least be able to get something done around the house while your baby sleeps. So a carrier helps with that as well.
Sometimes no matter what you do baby won’t calm down. And you are tired yourself and really need your hands free. That’s where a swing can come in handy. The swinging motion will help baby nod off and you can finally take the necessary break. You can easily set up the swing in any room in the house, provided there is an outlet, so you can see your baby. There is also entertainment for your baby like a reflective surface, mobile and music.
It’s a great place for your baby to hang out while you tend to other things. And bonus if they fall asleep and have a nice nap in there. One caveat, I would not put a baby in there till at least one month old. And even then use caution. Make sure your baby has at least some neck control and isn’t just slouching down in the swing and cutting off their own air supply.
Final Thoughts on Baby Sleep
These are the 5 things that I found the most useful for both my sons. I hope this shows you that you don’t need a ton of things to help your baby get sleep. And of course, you may find a completely different way that works for your baby but I would keep in mind the 3 most important things for sleep: tightness, movement and noise. As long as you achieve these at the level your baby desires, you will get some peace and quiet.
Don’t discount the benefits of fresh air and take your baby out for walks. They do sleep very well outside. So invest in a good stroller and enjoy the fresh air yourself.
Please, share in your comments if there is anything else you have found helpful in ensuring your child’s sleep.
Quote of the Day
“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” –Leo J. Burk
Mental Health Tip of the Day
I’m not going to tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s just not realistic. But take advantage of the multiple naps that your baby takes and dedicate at least one of those naps for rest time for you. If you can’t sleep, don’t but do something relaxing. Maybe you can read a book in bed or have a cup of hot tea, maybe even take a bath. But do something for yourself, the dishes can wait.