But before I could do any of this, I had to understand how my babies slept, how to encourage them to sleep, and how to improve sleep itself. So I want to now share with you what I’ve learned and my best tips for a better night’s sleep for both Baby and Mom!
Understanding your baby’s sleep.
When your baby is born, he does not know what is night and what is day. You should expect to be woken up persistently, no matter what the time, for the first 8-12 weeks. It is what it is. Embrace this as much as possible. It will not last long and you will want that Newborn bliss back trust me.
Babies sleep in shorter spans when they are young because their stomaches are very small and only hold a small amount worth of nutrition. Thus, baby will wake every few hours and cry to be fed. This is completely normal.
That said, you should – whenever possible -try and condone the fact that night is for sleep from the very beginning. This does not mean just letting your baby cry when he needs attention and ignoring your babies needs. Rather, do things in a way that gives your baby less attention than they would get in the daytime. Example, keeping the ambience calm, lights off, no baby talk, etc..
Let me be clear:
- Limiting the length of naps is important to support night time sleep. You want your baby to get in as many feedings as possible during the daytime. Think: More daytime feeds = less nighttime feeds.
- You don’t want to keep your baby awake for long stretches. Your baby will get over-tired, fussy and have difficulty falling back asleep.
- Basically encourage lots of naps and feedings during the day that following the eat, wake, sleep cycle.
From birth to about age four to six months, babies naturally have a startle reflex, in which they feel as if they are falling. The sensation of falling causes jerking movements, and the baby will incidentally wake up. Keeping a tight swaddle prevents babies from startling themselves and waking up. This will in turn help your newborn baby sleep both better and much longer.
I love the Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle but the Woombie or Nested Bean are both amazing as well. All help keep your baby swaddled snugly and safe. I stop swaddling once my babies can roll over. I then continue to use the Halo Sleep Swaddle and or Nested Bean just swaddled around their torso, leaving their arms out.
Limit the length of naps during the day.
I know it’s extremely hard to wake a sleeping baby, but sleeping too long of a stretch during the day can bereave everyone’s nighttime sleep. Trust me It makes a huge difference. If your baby sleeps past the 2 hour mark, I would go ahead and wake your baby up, feed him, keep him a wake for a bit, and then lay him down for another nap. If you feel your baby really needs longer naps, feel free to increase the nap limit to 2.5 hours. Breaking up their sleep during the day will help your newborn baby sleep better at night. I know people look at me as if I have 4 eyes when I tell them this but trust me it works. I do this with my toddler’s also. They will go down for a nap at 12 and by the time they go to sleep its around 1:00. I will wake them up no later than 3;30. This helps them fall asleep at night as well. So yes I even wake my toddlers.
ROUTINE is so very important.
Dreamfeed is the feeding that is given to your baby right before you go to bed, and it helps prevent your baby from waking up just after us moms finally drift off to sleep. The dreamfeed can really help your newborn baby sleep for longer while you sleep. I have done this with all of my babies but a few did not even need to be dreamfeed. So if you see that your baby is sleeping without even waking this could be skipped. Nursing babies tend to do better when they have this last feed as they will stay fuller longer.
I place a sound machine in all of my babies rooms. Using white noise in our home has been amazing as it is very loud in our home pretty much 99% of the time. We have this one and this one. I love them both.
Follow the eat, wake, sleep cycle.
Your baby wakes from sleep and immediately eats. Then your baby is awake for a while to play. Then your baby goes back to sleep….
I took this information from the Book Babywise. When I had my first baby I read this and have since followed with all of my babies.
Here are my theories on the importance of eat/wake/sleep pattern when implementing On Becoming Babywise:
- This cycle helps baby differentiate night from day. This is one of the biggest things that enables young babies to sleep well from birth.
- It helps them learn to sleep on their own because they aren’t being fed or nursed to sleep.
- It helps ensure your baby takes a full feeding. For this reason, you really want to avoid feeding right before a nap.
- Another reason is to help your baby make it the appropriate times between feedings. If you have ever played with a baby close to feeding time, you know they are far less patient for food than they would be if they were sleeping. A baby can happily make it to feeding time if they are sleeping than if they are out playing. So the routine prevents snacking from happening.
- It also helps your baby to be more alert and happy during waketime. If your baby is full and rested for waketime, he can focus on learning because babies basic needs are met.
- If baby has taken a full nap, he is usually really hungry when he wakes up. My babies always are ready to eat when they wake.
In conclusion the eat/wake/sleep cycle has several purposes. First, it encourages full feedings by allowing your baby to eat immediately after waking. The baby will have the most energy immediately after waking, making him more inclined to take a full feeding and go longer between feedings. Also, by feeding your baby after sleep rather than before sleep, the cycle prevents your baby from associating food with sleep or using food as a sleep prop. When using this eat/wake/sleep cycle, a feeding before bedtime is typically only feeding before sleep.
Of course, there are times where I definitely feed my babies before sleep. For instance, if they needed a little extra TLC for a certain nap and or bedtime. But for the most part, I try to avoid feeding them right before sleep as they would get confused. You will know what your baby needs I promise.
Note: Newborns require frequent feedings and rest to ensure healthy growth a development in the early months. Always feed your baby as frequently as your baby needs to ensure proper weight gain. With all my babies I would not implement the Babywise method until they were gaining the amount of weight they should. All babies are so different. For example: Isaac and Max my last two babies both had lip and tongue ties so it resulted in poor weight gain. Once those problem’s were taken care of and they were gaining the proper weight, I would enforce this routine.
Use pre-nap and bedtime routines.
It is well known that babies thrive on routine, structure, and predictability. Creating consistent routines for your baby will help bring order to a very chaotic times. Choose a pre-nap routine that works for you and your family. A pre-nap routine may include taking the baby to his room, close the curtains, place your baby in his sleep sack or swaddlet, turn on the white noise, sing a lullaby, give a few cuddles, and say your prayers or read a book and lay them down. Routine, routine-I cant stress enough as they will soon figure out this means it is time to sleep. A bedtime routine would typically be a little longer and may include a bath, reading a story, massage with favorite sleepy oils, offering a feeding, placing the baby in a sleep sack or swaddle, turning on white noise, a few cuddles. Following the same exact routine as consistently as possible cues your baby for sleep, and over time your baby will learn that sleep immediately follows the nap and bedtime routines.
Change your baby’s diaper very carefully in the middle of the night…
If you change the diaper after a night feeding, the baby may become too awake, making it more challenging for him to fall asleep. Be very quite and I repeat do not make eye contact or you and your precious little one will be up for a while. Keep room dark and do not turn on any lights as this will disturb the sleep cycle.
Do not rush in the moment baby makes a sound…
We may inadvertently encourage the start of a bad sleep habit by rushing in when our baby cries or rustles during the night. Often times, babies wake up babble and go back to sleep. The baby may even cry briefly or babble and still be asleep. Give your baby some time and see if he will resettle himself. Avoid rushing in and disturbing this process in order to help your newborn baby sleep better.
Lay your baby down awake, but drowsy.
The most important way to encourage your baby to sleep well in the long run is to teach him to fall asleep independently, which is essentially the beginnings of teaching independent sleep.
Babies, like adults, will naturally wake up during the night. Without knowing how to get back to sleep, a baby will cry out after waking regardless of actual need, resulting in night waking droning on for much longer than is actually necessary. Once a baby gets older, falling asleep independently enables a baby to drift back to sleep after waking in the night, ultimately helping your baby sleep better in the long run.
I really hope that this was helpful. Hang in there momma, you are doing amazing. If you have any questions please ask them below and I would be happy to answer any and all questions.