Getting your baby to sleep can be one of the biggest challenges as a new mum. Because if they don’t sleep, you don’t sleep. And if you don’t sleep, well… lets just say there’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture!
When I was a new mum I started out in a completely blissful state with a baby who slept beautifully, only waking once or twice a night to feed. I was smug in the fact that I had a “good baby”. He was sleeping well and so was I. I felt invincible. This motherhood lark was easy!
And then everything changed. And went downhill. Fast.
We went from one or two wakings a night to our lowest point where he woke up every 45 minutes. All night long. For MONTHS. And I was lucky if he napped for more than 15-20 mins during the day. I was a complete basket case and would burst into tears at any given minute. My weight dropped well beyond what would have been welcome post baby, and my family feared for my sanity. But with some help from a sleep consultant, we finally managed to get back on course and eventually I had a baby who slept well, woke up happy, wasn’t overtired, actually napped, and who finally “slept like a baby”.
And all was right in my world. Not to say it was all smooth sailing from there... Illnesses, sleep regressions and growth spurts would often disrupt our routine, but now I had the tools to get back on track.
(Here's a pic of my little one with his exhausted Daddy!)
So in todays blog post, we are bringing you some top tips for navigating your way through the highs and lows of baby sleep in the first year! Our lovely contributor Erika Lamour is an Infant Sleep Specialist at The Sleep Dept who has worked with newborns, toddlers, special needs, multiples and everything in between.
Here are her hottest tips around the most FAQ’s for new mums when it comes to baby sleep.
SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT
There are definitely foundations you can set early on to create great sleep habits, but the 0-3 month stage of your baby’s life really should be referred to as the 4th trimester. Babies are making a HUGE transition from womb to world - coming from an environment that is dark, warm and well-nourished to suddenly being exposed to light, different temperatures and hunger. Whilst it’s not a great idea to have your newborn on a time-based schedule, if you make sure your newborn is awake for no longer than 60-75 minutes between sleeps, you are on your way to creating great habits.
DEALING WITH THE 4 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
Ah yes... The dreaded 4 month sleep regression where sleeping patterns change and become more like an adults. Your baby's brain has matured, gone are the days where your little newborn could fall into a deep sleep at the drop of a hat. Now, they start to sleep more like us - they begin to go through light and deep sleep cycles. This means that each time your babies sleep cycle goes from deep to light, they will most likely wake up (thats every 40-45 minutes!)
While many parents fear the 4 month sleep regression, it really shouldn't be seen as a regression but more so a developmental milestone, and the best time to implement a sleep program that's right for you and your baby.
PACIFIERS/DUMMIES – YAY OR NAY?
Uh-oh! Paci's are great to settle and soothe newborns, but what happens when you are up 10 times in the middle of the night popping it back into your baby's mouth? The best thing to do is cut it - COLD TURKEY! i know it sounds scary! But if it is being used as a sleep association it WILL wake your baby in the middle of the night and when they can't find it, it may cause confusion and distress. We need to guide babies in having their own sleep associations that they create themselves. All the babies who implement 'The Sleep Dept' program get used to having no paci on night 1! Instead, replace the paci for a small comforter.
If your baby has a sleep association that means they will not fall asleep without this. The simple answer as to why this might be happening is - they haven't been allowed to figure it out on their own. When we introduce external sleeping associations, such as feeding or rocking a baby to sleep, we take that away from them. We don't want a baby to be falling asleep outside of their cot (easier said than done!). There are gentle ways that this can be done (The Sleep Dept. only uses gentle techniques and no Cry It Out methods). It takes patience and consistency, but the good news is that if we follow a plan 100%, the results are almost immediate, with babies falling asleep on their own and sleeping through by night 2!
HOW TO STOP SWADDLING WHEN BABY STARTS ROLLING?
In my experience, the best way to do this is... COLD TURKEY! It creates less confusion for your baby. I would recommend introducing a small handkerchief sized comforter, so that your baby can keep their hands busy if they need to. Again, most babies get used to having arms out in a night or two.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MY BABY IS SICK OR TEETHING?
The MOST important thing to remember when your baby is sick, teething or going through a sleep regression is to not introduce anything new - especially a bad habit that you had worked so hard to get rid of in the first place! Of course, your baby needs you in times like these, but the best thing is to go to them. They still need to know its night time. So do what you have to do - feed them, bring a mattress into their room, hug them. Just be sure to stay in their room. All of these things pass, and if a baby is on a solid routine, it will only be a few days before they are back on track.
WHAT ABOUT TRAVELLING WITH MY BABY, WILL THIS RUIN OUR ROUTINE?
We get it. A long flight, lots of waiting around, unfamiliar surroundings - these can all affect your Bub BUT if your little one is in a great routine at home, then they should be able to easily adjust wherever they are in the world. My best tips for travelling with a little one -
1. Throw all your rules out when on the plane. It will be much less stressful for both you and Bub if you do what will easily calm your Bub.
2. Get your baby onto a routine based on the timezone you are in. Babies adjust to different time zones much quicker than adults!
3. Have your baby spend lots of time outside during the day, and start the nighttime wind down approx. 2-3 hours before sleep time.
If I’d known about these tips with my first I definitely would have been better equipped to deal with our sleep issues. I can see now that my problems started with the 4 month sleep regression which started early (yes it’s possible!) and were made worse by sleep associations and dummy use. By the time I had my second I knew what to expect …although she still loves her dummy! (we’ll deal with that eventually!)
If you'd like to grab another EXCLUSIVE HOT TIP from The Sleep Dept, plus some additional parenting tips around Feeding and Nutrition in the First Year, sign up to our mailing list to download your FREE New Mum Checklist Kit! This 27 page e-book has everything you need when planning for baby all in one place!
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To get in touch with Erika and her team and find out more about their services CLICK HERE
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Brought to you by The Sleep Dept *not incl in home consultation
(The lovely Erika Lamour - Infant Sleep Specialist)