Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Newborn Sleep Tips that work

This post comes from my sister, Kate, who just had her first baby about 8 weeks ago. She has cared for my children during the last four winters when her seasonal job ended. So she has recent infant experience. As a new Mother, I think it helped her out a lot plus we see eye to eye on child rearing for the most part. Little Rory is a mellow and happy baby who was born at 42 weeks at home. I'll have to get Kate to write up her birth story for this blog too.

I might also add that Kate received a video monitor as a gift and it has helped her be fairly scientific about this whole process. When I started to impart gentle tips, Rory was only 2 weeks and sleeping in a co-sleeper with Kate and Norm, her husband, was sleeping in the guest room. A very common formula. I didn't want to see her reactive co-sleep for too long but I also didn't want to push my "ideas" on her. It's fine to co-sleep for up to 3 months if your baby is doing well with it and it works for your family. Kate mentioned it wasn't working well for her. So I gave her some options. My words are in blue. Kate's are in black.

Here is the advice I gave her that she wanted to share with my readers:

1) Encourage the baby to sleep longer at night. It seems absolutely stupid to wake a newborn, but after the first week (as they are going to be recovering from the birth and need to feed so often) don't allow the baby to sleep more than 3 hours during the day. I started to see the benefits of following this advice within days. I also want to add that all you are doing for these first weeks is shaping their sleep. Helping the newborn to know the difference between night and day... so try not to always nurse in the room with the curtains shut or in your bed if it's daytime. Bring them to a room that has natural light but not too noisy. ALL newborns will sleep one long stretch per day, and you want that to be at night. So keeping the daytime naps to 3 hours is one way to target that. I myself had a really hard time waking up Harper but looking back, I know it kept her from sleeping well at night.

2)Rory wasn't doing well sleeping in a co-sleeper right next to my bed at night (it took forever for him to finally pass out), but he seemed to be doing well in his crib in his room during his day naps. When I told you this during week 2, you basically said "forget the co-sleeper, just have him sleep in his crib. YOU are probably what is keeping him up." I felt bad about this--don't new babies need to be close to momma, hear her sleeping and breathing? Nope, the first night I put him in his crib, he went to sleep, and fell back asleep, faster and with less fussing. Of course, he was also born at 42 weeks, so maybe he was more independent. Also, having a video monitor and the sleep positioners, if I woke up and freaked out cause I couldn't hear him, all I had to do was flip on the monitor and see him. I gave Kate a sleep positioner or "wedge" so the baby can sleep on their side or back with a little more snug feeling. It looks something like this except mine had a pillow. The little bolsters velcro on there. I don't recommend using these once your baby is more active, or when you stop swaddling them. You have to use common sense here: if it doesn't seem safe for your infant, don't use it.

3)Swaddling tightly. Taking care of your kids, you and Matt taught me how to do it. Maybe some babies can do without, but Rory would wake himself up slapping himself in the face. I still swaddle him now, but not as tight because he can sleep with his hands out--once he is already asleep. My husband is really big on this one.

4)The two pieces of advice, that sort of go hand in hand, that I would tell every new mom (that you emphasized) is this: Minimize motion sleep or the "sleep anywhere" routine. Yes newborns can do it, but if they only ever sleep during the day in your arms or in a swing/carseat/etc., then you will be screwed later on because they won't be able to put themselves to sleep (or back to sleep). Which leads us to the second part of the advice, as much as you can, put your baby down drowsy but awake. Eventually, they get the idea; "Mommy doesn't have to be here every time I go to bed" and "this is my happy, sleepy place, I know what to do". And so far it is paid off. Very rarely now does putting Rory down take a lot of time. He is starting to understand that a dark room, white noise, a swaddle, and a few minutes of rocking means go to sleep. We are still working on his ability to put himself back down to sleep. If your baby is able to link more than 45 minutes together, he is putting himself back to sleep on his own... their sleep cycle is 45 minutes so any nap longer than that and they are having a partial arousal... and will put themselves back down. I've seen Rory do it myself on the video. He opens his eyes, then blinks slowly until he falls back asleep. It's pretty cool for me to watch!

5) Understand that they are going to cry. You said this to me when you learned it yourself with Owen and reminded me of it recently. It won't scar them for life (both your children love you and have a healthy attachment to you and Matt--and we definitely let them fuss and cry when they were babies). Also, letting him fuss, and even cry a little, and not rushing in at every sound of discomfort, has taught me the difference between his "I'm fussing, but give me a minute and I'll go back to sleep" and his "ok, I'm getting pissed now, someone come in here and get me, I want to be awake/changed/I didn't eat enough before". Five minutes of fussing and crying and then back to sleep happens A LOT. If I had gone in there, as I did before you suggested letting him fuss (unless he was getting worked up), I would have stimulated him and woken him up--which I think I did early on. I never advocate for crying it out or crying incessantly. I think mother's should be with their babies when their baby needs them. The problem is that if you respond TOO quickly the baby doesn't learn how to self-soothe, which is a great skill to have. Something that Kate has done a really great job at is knowing what is a super pissed off cry vs fussy moment.

6)Babies go through different grow spurts. If everything is going fine, and then he has a fussy day, or couple of days, its ok. Just keep doing what you are doing, he will go back to normal. Never underestimate the power of developmental interruptions on sleep. If something major is going on developmentally it can really interfere.

7) The first three months you can't expect too much. Just try to help shape his sleep and it will make things a bit easier now and a lot easier later.

I just wanted to add that there are a few things I knew from helping you with your kids. Dark rooms, white noise, setting up a simple, but consistent, routine before sleep, some quiet whined down time, and having them sleep most of the time in their own crib.

post signature