January 22, 2020
Good morning! If you just had a baby and you’re wondering how you are ever going to make it through this parenting thing on such little sleep, you are not alone! Having a baby can bring with it so much joy but as the initial stage of bliss begins to wear off, the extreme lack of sleep really starts to break you down. Before you start thinking that you will never sleep again, I am writing 10 strategies to help you get your baby sleeping through the night when he/she is ready.
I will add that newborns need to eat small amounts frequently. It is not appropriate to think that your baby will be sleeping through the night from Day 1, and if they are then something is wrong. So the strategies I am listing below are to help you approach sleep with your baby from Day 1, keeping in mind that you and your baby will change along the way and you need to be willing. Just when you think you found the best way, the baby will do something different. As baby’s grow, their needs change and as they become more and more aware of their surroundings, so do their reactions to what we do in response. This is especially important to understand as it related to sleep.
1. Less is more. When you are setting up a bedtime routine, remember less is more. I know there are many gadgets, sound machines, lullabies, etc out there to get your baby to fall asleep but you need to make it simple. You may not have that gadget when you travel or as your baby grows so remember less is more
2. Establish routines from Day 1. Babies thrive in routines and sleep is no different. Although it is difficult with a newborn it is not impossible. Try to create a pattern that the baby can recognize. For example: Bath, Story, Bed.
3. Create a quiet time 1 hour before bed. Studies show that it is more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when you use computers or electronics before going to bed. Establish this as a rule in your house from Day 1. This is the perfect time for reading and engaging your baby. (This means YOUR phone too…put it down)
4. Help your baby to fall asleep but do not put them to sleep. In other words, you can help your baby relax if he/she is upset but once they appear relaxed, just lay them down. Let them learn from the beginning how to fall asleep without you.
5. Once a baby is between 3-4 months old try to separate feeding from sleeping. You do not want your baby to associate falling asleep with breast feeding or even bottle feeding. Not only does this create a bad habit, but once a baby has teeth, you increase their risk of cavities if they fall asleep drinking milk.
6. Try to create a clear difference between day and night in your home. Daytime is when we speak freely, sing, dance and our lights are on. In the middle of the night we do not sing and dance! (at least not with a newborn).
7. Do your best to not run to your baby with every little sound. Newborns make lots of sounds and even a slight cry when they are settling in or trying to fall asleep. Let them try to get to sleep without your help after you have checked all your boxes: a.full tummy b. clean diaper. (you will begin to recognize your baby’s cries as you get to know them).
8. It’s never to early to introduce a “lovey” or a special blanket. While newborns can not sleep with blankets in their crib, older kids can. However, you can place a lovey or special blanket near your baby while you are helping them transition from day to night with your bedtime routine. Just don’t put it in the crib.
9. Say goodnight. Sneaking away from a baby will create anxiety. The earlier a baby learns that he/she is going to sleep alone the less anxious they will be about going to sleep. (imagine if you’re a baby and you fall asleep in your mother’s arms, thinking you are there all night, only to find yourself alone in your crib at 2 am!-ANXIETY!)
10. Setbacks will happen when a baby is sick or you travel. It is totally fine! Somedays you just have to do what you have to do to make it through. Just try to get back into your original routine as soon as you and your baby are ready!
Sleep is one of the most overlooked aspects of health that many of us take for granted. Our bodies need to sleep. Being proactive in creating healthy sleeping habits will not only help your baby but it will also help you. You will be a better parent with a good night’s sleep and it’s never too early to begin preparing for it with your new baby!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.