It is true what they say, about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. There are things you can do with your new baby that will help to set a good foundation for healthy sleep.
Sleep Tips for Expectant Parents:
#1: We’ve all heard horror stories of babies having their nights and days mixed up. There is something simple you can do that doesn’t take much effort, to avoid this problem. Divide the day into two 12 hour sections. It doesn’t have to be a time set in stone, but let’s say 8-8. For example, you would put baby to bed around 8pm and from then until 8am you will keep feedings quiet, dark and in baby’s sleep area. At baby’s next wake up around 8am, you will take her to a bright, noisy area of the house. This helps to differentiate day from night. Keep night time dark, quiet and boring and keep day time bright, noisy and stimulating.
#2: Routine, routine, routine! The consensus among sleep experts is that a routine is very beneficial because it helps cue the body and mind that sleep is approaching. It is never too early to start a routine – in fact it’s a good idea to start one right away! That being said, if your baby is older – now is still a great time to start! A routine should be 20-30 minutes. Any shorter, and it may not be enough to complete the transition to sleepy time. Any longer, and they may not understand that it is a transition from awake time. One of the last steps of the routine should be a feeding so that baby has a full stomach before going to bed.
#3: Since baby stomachs are very tiny, they cannot hold much. They will likely need to wake in the night to eat for their first few months. I recommend keeping night feedings dark, quiet and boring so that baby doesn’t think it’s party time. Doing the feeding close to the sleeping area is easiest. Try not to have your phone or tablet light shining onto baby’s face. It is a good idea to respond to all hunger cues in the night, because they simply need to eat. Do not limit feedings – in the womb, they didn't know hunger. That being said, don’t assume every whimper is for hunger.
#5: Newborn babies sleep a lot! They can usually only tolerate up to 45 minutes of awake time before needing sleep again. It’s not recommended to enforce a strict routine with a baby, we are more looking at setting up a healthy foundation for sleep. Setting good habits can make lengthier sleep happen when baby is ready to go for longer stretches at night.
#6: Try and have some of the daytime sleep happen in the same place as night sleep. Baby sleeping in your arms, a sling, stroller or carseat is okay, too! Having a little routine before nap is a great way to cue that sleep is approaching – this can be as simple as a song or two.
#7: When baby wakes from naps throughout the day, offer a feeding. Since baby is their most rested, they will likely have the energy and stamina to take a good feeding. Then if you have some play time followed by a nap, you will be breaking the association between eating and sleeping.
#8: We all have a way we fall asleep. Some of us fluff up our pillow or roll around before falling asleep, some of us wiggle our feet. The important thing to note is that our journey from awake to asleep is controlled by us alone. Babies, too, have a journey to sleep. If their journey to sleep is always dependant on a feeding, they will likely find it hard to fall asleep without one. That being said, they will likely fall asleep while feeding regularly – that is okay! Even if just some of those times they fall asleep was without a feeding, that would be a great start.
#9: Sleep when baby sleeps! As you will be tending to baby in the night, this is absolutely a skill worth learning. You will be recovering from childbirth and needing the rest. Accept help and ask for help - it may come in the form of meals, cleaning or simply someone holding the baby while you take a shower. It truly does take a village to raise a baby!
You don’t have to be sleep deprived for years just because you became a parent. If your baby’s sleep becomes a problem, there is no need to suffer through it. Call me and we can gently resolve it.
Bridget Jensen, BA
Certified Sleep Consultant
Bridget Jensen is a Certified Sleep Consultant who resides in Waterloo Region. As a mother of three young children, she understands the tremendously important role that sleep plays. She is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University and a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants.
She understands that there is no “one-size-fits-all” sleep solution for all families. It isn’t as simple as “do nothing” or “leave them to cry all night.” Every family is different, and therefore the strategies to learn how to sleep vary. A number of factors come into play when determining the right approach for teaching a little one healthy sleep habits: Age, developmental milestones reached, parenting style and much more.
Bridget’s calm and supportive demeanor are beneficial while working with families all over Ontario and beyond. Bridget is dedicated to helping parents learn the skills to teach their children to become independent, healthy sleepers. Bridget has always felt passionate about sleep being a priority in her family’s life and that a better bedtime can happen for your family every night.