Trying to understand baby’s sleep
There are many ways to help improve your baby’s sleep, but unfortunately every baby is different and have different requirements. Some poor mums aren’t so lucky, and their babies aren’t straight forward. In this post I am going to talk about some things I’ve learnt to help bub sleep for the first 6 months to a year. I understand these aren’t going to work for every baby.
In the first 6 weeks babies require 18 hours of sleep and wake for feeds every 3 to 4 hours, being awake for only up to an hour at a time. Having only recently come out the dark, warm, and cosy womb, they sleep better when in an environment that replicates this. This can include swaddling your baby, so they feel secure. Quentin never really liked this, from day 1 he would get his arms out every single time. Even when the nurses wrapped him nice and tight! Ensure the room is dark, warm, and quiet so bub can feel relaxed. White noise can help sooth babies and help them fall asleep quicker, ensuring the volume is at an appropriate level. There is also the question of if you would like to use a dummy or not. Dummies can help sooth, help with sleep and reduce the risk of SIDS but the downside is it can interfere with feeding, bub can become very reliant on it and have a increase likelihood of infections and dental problems.
As bub gets older, create a routine so they can anticipate bedtime and is relaxed by predictability. This can be bath time before bed which is a good relaxation technique for them. Reading each night and creating quiet time with reduced stimulus for an hour before bed. Also ensure that bub is eating the right amount for their weight, they can wake up or not sleep as heavily if hungry.
During the night ensure baby is actually awake. The saying “sleep like a baby” is so misleading. They are often very noisy, move a lot and partially wake up throughout the night. Sometimes they appear to be waking up but fall back to sleep fairly quick. When they do wake up for a twilight feed, ensure you keep it as quiet and unstimulating as possible by trying to not talk or make eye contact. Hopefully this will help them go back to sleep fairly quickly.
During the day watch for baby’s cues to ensure he is getting enough sleep and not becoming overtired. It’s proven that babies that get enough sleep during the day, helps them sleep at night. This means “Tiring out your baby” can actually hinder their sleep. Signs they are ready for sleep can include lack of eye contact, rubbing eyes and redded eyes. Also becoming quieter, suckling, being grizzly, less active or engaged and yawning.
When bub is 4 to 5 months old you can begin teaching them how to self-settle, this helps them fall back to sleep during the night themselves without any soothing. I am teaching Quen this, but teething has made him a bit moodier and harder to settle. Creating signals and a routine to indicate bedtime including reading and bathing. After creating a night-time routine, start putting them down when almost asleep. Then slowly put them to bed when they are more awake. Eventually you can put them down and they will settle themselves to sleep.
As they grow older they require less sleep and sleep longer due to less feeds. Ensure your expectations are reasonable, every baby is different and grows at their own rate with different bumps along the road. It isn’t always going to be easy. The most important thing is to ensure that baby is safe to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. This includes ensuring bub wont fall, choke or at risk of any other harm. If you are ever concerned or nothing seems to be working, midwifes and childcare nurses have a huge amount of knowledge and love to help.