Whoever it was that once said, “sleep like a baby” undoubtedly didn’t have one.
Getting an infant to grow into a sleeping pattern is one of the most challenging areas of welcoming a new baby into the world, especially for first time parents. Personally, I was very lucky in this department, having had a significant amount of childcare experience by the time my own daughter came along, I had her routine down to a full sleep through from around 10 pm to 5am within a month. For most families though, it’s a frustrating process. Don’t worry if you are one of the 90% of parents struggling with the process, you aren’t alone. Very few fortunate parents are able to say that their babies sleep through the night. I hope these tips will help prevent sleep problems and get your infant into a routine that works for both you and your new baby.
Be realistic in your expectations. If you are currently pregnant, it’s important for both you and your partner to understand that in the first few months of life, sleep deprivation is almost an inevitability. In the first three months infants generally sleep for 2 to 3 hours at a time. This means that prior to birth it’s really important to talk to your partner so that you can support each other.
Be safe. When putting an infant down to sleep, safety is paramount. Always make sure infants sleep on their backs. Never place a baby to sleep on their tummy. Sleeping on their tummy increases the risk of SIDS (cot death). Experts the world over, recommend a clean firm flat mattress with only a fitted sheet. Pillows and stuffed animals should be removed from the cot and if the child is sleeping in a separate room, be sure to install a baby monitor so that you can hear your child throughout the night.
Make a sleeping arrangement decision and stick to it. It’s a good idea to prior to babies birth you and your partner carefully consider the sleeping arrangement options for after your infants birth. Will your new baby sleep in a cot, in your room, in their own room or will they co-sleep? If you make the decision to co-sleep, it’s a good idea to invest in co sleeping safety equipment, perhaps a cot extension so that there is less chance of crushing your child in your sleep. It’s a mistake numerous new parents make each year and the most devastating experience. The last thing any parent should have to live with is losing their child through bad sleeping arrangement decisions.
Create a sleeping routine. Babies love routine, and so will your sanity. Routine makes infants feel secure and loved. Babies with a consistent sleeping routine also sleep better and for longer. It’s good idea to create associations for night time sleeping so that the baby knows they are expecting a long sleep. Dim the lights, give baby a nice warm bath or ‘topping and tailing’. Maybe give them a little massage or sing them a soothing lullaby or tell them a bedtime story.
Make sure the infant is comfortable. The environment and clothing or swaddling shouldn’t leave the child too hot or cold. Always ensure baby is fed and wearing a clean diaper. When an infant has a full tummy before sleep or nap time they will likely sleep longer. When an infant is still very small they tend to be more comfortable when they have been swaddled. If the child has a blocked nose, you can also purchase a humidifier to help keep the air clean.
Keep in mind what crutches you are teaching your child to expect during the day. If the baby is being rocked to sleep in the middle of the day, they will expect the same treatment in the middle of the night. If they are always using a pacifier during the day to sleep, you are training them to wake up when the pacifier is spat out in the middle night, and the child will expect you to put it back.
There are many prescribed ‘quick fixes’ you might find on the internet, but watch out for these. Self-soothing is now being shown to have possible knock on effects later in life. In my personal experience, by allowing my daughter to self sooth in the first two weeks of life I was able to get her into a routine easily and within 3 days. For parents that wait, and I understand it’s very difficult not to coddle and fuss over your new angel at this time, but if you decide to let the child self soothe later, I think that’s when it may be a bit more problematic as you have already established the routine of providing whatever form of soothing is being provided and is then expected by the child and neuroplasticity certainly makes it possibly to change the established standards, once established they are more difficult and traumatic for the child (and the parents) to change.
Above all don’t worry if your initial ideas for a routine don’t turn out to be what makes your child happy, you will find your family happy space eventually. Each child is different and so is each family. We can prepare as much as we like, but our child may come into the world with other ideas. That’s just part of parenthood in general really.
If you find yourself struggling with a routine, or are expecting for the first time, perhaps apprehensive about establishing routines or would like full time support and have the means available, perhaps consider hiring one of our infant care specialists to live in for the first month to 3 months (sometimes longer where the mother is suffering from PPD). An infant care specialist is someone with 3 or more years of experience specializing in the care of newborns. These staff will provide direction and assistance in every aspect of newborn care, from making sure mom gets enough sleep, too bathing, establishing feeding and sleeping patterns, assisting and providing expert guidance through the first few turbulent months of parenthood. You can enquire about this service by clicking here.
Written by: Bianca Steyn
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