Whether you’re a brand new mom or a seasoned one, sleep is something we all crave. The months shortly after having a baby are the worst for sleep deprivation and there’s usually no avoiding it. But once you’ve got baby into a good routine and you’ve settled into motherhood a bit better, you can start to focus on how to reclaim all your lost hours of sleep.
Mom of two and freelance writer, Lisa Smalls, shares some tips on how to reclaim your sleep after having a baby.
Having a new baby will be one of the greatest feelings in your life, however, that thrill can be quickly replaced with the fatigue, lack of focus, anxiety and an increased temper all due to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is acquiring fewer than the seven-plus recommended hours of sleep each night. While newborn babies can sleep 16 to 20 hours each day, those hours are stretched into bursts which are often inconveniently disturbed when the parent is trying to sleep.
On average, a mother in the first three months after having a baby can lose between one and two hours of sleep each night and for both parents they can experience sleep deprivation for up to six years after the birth. While some people can get an adequate amount of sleep at six hours, most need between seven and nine, so those critical couple hours of loss after childbirth can make a big impact on your quality of sleep, especially considering the hours you do get are broken up into two-hour segments dictated by the baby’s fits.
Your body requires not only that you receive seven hours, but also that those hours are subsequent to each other and they are quality sleep. Sleep is the way your body processes thoughts, emotions, memories and helps your body relax and repair. Without consistent sleep your body does not have the ability to process and file all of your information or process it correctly. This leads to a haze during the day resulting in fatigue, lack of focus, lack of motivation, mood swings and anxiety. In turn, these symptoms lead to additional insomnia. So, when your baby is sleeping at night, you may not be able to. It is a vicious cycle.
As your baby ages, additional challenges such as potty training, nightmares, and the concerns of your growing toddler and an active imagination result in sleep deprivation. Though the sleep deprivation you will likely experience as your child ages may not be as complicated as those first few months, it also provides the same symptoms.
So, what can a parent (especially a mother) do to reclaim sleep after giving birth? Here are five tips.
Create a routine for you and the baby
Okay, to be fair your baby is probably not going to pay attention to a routine in the beginning. But, with practice and commitment a routine can help your baby sleep in longer bouts and learn to sleep so that after four months your baby may actually sleep through the entire night. Routine is good and setting a sleep routine such as bath, reading, cuddling, and sleep will be a great payback for the future.
This is such an important factor in helping you sleep that you should keep a sign on your refrigerator as a reminder. After having a baby friends and family will practically tackle each other to offer help and cuddle with that little cutie. But, parents are often unwilling to accept the help. This may be from guilt or simply because it is difficult allowing someone else (including mom) to watch your baby without you there. But, whether someone offers to watch your baby a couple hours, help with the chores, or just hang out to give you a little break, it all pays off.
Keep the baby near you (but not in your bed)
A nursery is great, but it might be better after the six-month mark. In those first months your baby will wake up every couple hours and one way to miss out on sleep is that long walk to the nursery to feed. SIDS is a serious concern and one of the biggest no-no’s is letting your newborn sleep in bed with you. So, whether you have a crib or bassinet in the room keeping your baby close will help you feed without too much hassle.
Don’t worry about the dishes
Having a baby does not mean you have lost your old life, but it does mean you need to adjust going forward. That might mean that if you were emphatic about getting all the chores done and having a spotless house, those chores just might have to wait until you are having a nice relaxing day as the kids play with the grandparents. This does not mean you should live like a hoarder but prioritizing your sleep over missing a night of sweeping the floor, means you should really get your zzz’s.
Lisa is a mom of two and freelance writer from North Carolina. She regularly writes for the sleep health website Mattress Advisor, which has taught her so much about the importance of sleep (especially as a working mom). When she isn’t working on commissions, she loves connecting, encouraging and learning with other parents through her writing.
If there’s one thing that many parents dread doing, it’s having to deal with the stress of sleep training.
Sleep training is such an ambiguous term – what exactly is “sleep training” anyway? It’s basically any method you use to help your child learn to go to sleep on their own (note that I wrote “on their own” and not “alone”). It’s most often associated with babies, but the reality is – the stress of sleep training never truly ends…
You start by sleep training a newborn, and then you have to do it again after that baby starts teething. Then you move your toddler out of a crib and have to help them sleep in a big kid bed. Perhaps you move and have to teach your child to sleep in a new bedroom. Or you go on vacation, and when you get back, your child has forgotten how to sleep on their own and you have to start all over again!
Sleep training is not a one-time thing you need to teach your child. Unlike teaching them how to write their name or ride a bike – sleep training is something you will have to do over and over again, in several different ways and for several different reasons. So there’s no point in trying to avoid it.
There are, however, ways and reasons to avoid the stress of sleep training. The number one reason being the effect it has on a mother’s mental health.
To Sleep Train… Or Not To Sleep Train?
That is the question but there actually isn’t one right answer. Many parents sleep train without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. (Hint: simply following a bedtime routine is sleep training!) Sleep is a natural part of life, and sleep training means helping baby to do that. The obvious goal of sleep training is to have baby sleep through the night. But sometimes, the stress of sleep training is just too much to consider doing.
Pros of Sleep Training:
Reduces the negative effects of sleep deprivation (for both mom and baby)
Creates a predictable routine
Helps baby adjust to life outside of the womb
Develops good sleep habits early
Cons of Sleep Training:
It’s hard to get right
Requires a lot of patience and persistence
Increases mom’s stress level
Limits the amount of time mom and baby spend together
Is difficult to do while room/bed sharing
Sleep Training vs. No Sleep Training
Sleep training can cause stress and anxiety, but so can sleep deprivation.
A strict routine can make mom feel depressed and imprisoned but no routine at all can be overwhelming.
Having baby sleep in their own bed can be good for a mom who needs space but sleeping with baby can create a stronger bond.
Reduce The Anxiety
Just the idea of sleep training is enough to cause anxiety for moms. Many moms worry about how to do it properly and fear the thought of their babies crying for hours on end. There’s really no way to know in advance how a baby will handle sleep training. You will also find a lot of conflicting information and advice about sleep training. Reading about how excessive crying can cause brain damage will definitely cause a high level of stress for a mom who is considering sleep training their baby.
One of the best ways to avoid the stress of sleep training is to change your perspective on it. Having a positive attitude towards sleep training will help you to be more successful and reduce stress on yourself and baby.
Concentrate on the five senses. Make it a point to incorporate a calming activity for each of the senses into the bedtime routine. It’s a great way to send signals to the brain that it’s time to go to sleep. Calming each of the senses will help baby to relax, which will make sleep training so much easier. It will also help to reduce mom’s anxiety and stress level, making her feel more confident at bedtime.
If the idea of sleep training is causing a lot of anxiety, then it might be a good idea to speak to an online therapist before beginning. They can help you to change your thought process and will be available for you to speak to if you feel overly stressed once you’ve started. Having a plan in place to handle your stress is a great way to manage any mental health problems that might arise.
Another way to eliminate the stress of sleep training is to make sure that you are using the right method. Taking advice from other parents is a guaranteed way to use the wrong method. All babies are different and using tricks and tips that worked wonders for your friend’s baby, or even for one of your previous children, doesn’t mean it will work this time. Using a method that isn’t the right fit for your child will surely end in failure, which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
Find the Right Sleep Training Method
When I use the term sleep training, the brain automatically creates an image of a screaming baby in their crib and a sobbing mother on the other side of the door.
Sleep training has come a long way, and that is no longer the norm. Training does not have to be synonymous with crying. Since crying is baby’s primary way of communicating – sleep training is about learning to understand their cries, as opposed to ignoring them.
Sleep training methods can range from gentle to more extreme and which one to use will depend on the personalities of each baby and mom. It’s important to use a method and level of intensity that you’re comfortable with.
Some common sleep training methods include (but are not limited to):
Fading Method(Intensity Level: Low)
This is a very calm and gradual method of sleep training. Baby can be rocked or nursed to sleep or whatever else they’re used to. Slowly, over a few days or even weeks, the length of time they are rocked or nursed is reduced. Eventually, baby becomes less dependent on it.
Chair Method(Intensity Level: Low)
This is another calm method of sleep training that involves keeping a chair beside baby’s crib and staying in the room until they fall asleep, but without holding, rocking or talking to them. Each night, the chair is moved further away from baby’s crib, until it no longer needs to be in the room at all.
Pick Up, Put Down Method(Intensity Level: Low)
This method is one where the parent is not in the room with the baby. It involves putting baby into the crib, soothing them and then leaving the room. If baby cries, then you would go into the room, pick them up and soothe them, and then put them back down again and walk out. This would continue on and on as many times as needed until baby is asleep for the night.
Sometimes crying is unavoidable when it comes to sleep training. The controlled crying method includes putting baby to sleep in their crib while they are drowsy and then checking on them at regular intervals if they start to cry. In this more intense method, the intervals between checks start around 2 minutes and then 5 and then 10 and gradually get longer and longer.
Cry it Out/Extinction/Ferber Method(Intensity Level: High)
This is a very intense method of sleep training, but the claims are that it is the “quickest” way to sleep train a baby. This method involves putting baby in their crib while they are drowsy and then leaving the room but NOT returning to check on them for any reason. Parents often watch or listen on a baby monitor to make sure everything is alright. It sounds cruel and harsh, and is often a last resort.
If you’re unsure of which method to use, then you could consider getting a personalized sleep consultation from sites like The Baby Sleep Site. After answering an interview about your routine, habits and family life, a professional will provide you with a plan based on your specific answers. This is something I have personally done, and would definitely recommend for avoiding the stress of sleep training. You can read about my experience here.
The Danger of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is the norm among parents of young kids and there’s almost no avoiding it. The quest for more sleep is a main reason why parents choose to start sleep training. But despite being a parental rite of passage, sleep deprivation is known for causing all kinds of mental and physical health challenges.
Common effects of sleep deprivation
Irritability and moodiness
Lack of focus and concentration
Lowered metabolism and energy levels
Headaches and vision problems
Weakened immune system
Excessive sleep deprivation can also cause fits of rage, depression, anxiety, compulsive behavior, intrusive thoughts and even hallucinations. It’s been linked to bigger health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. For a mother in the postpartum period, sleep deprivation can exacerbate symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety. It makes it harder to deal with all the physical and emotional changes happening in her body.
Putting off sleep training or avoiding doing it isn’t a great way to avoid the stress. Eventually, some type of bedtime routine will need to be established and so the earlier good sleep habits can be taught, the easier it will be. Another worry about delayed sleep training is the concern for mom’s mental health. Sleep deprivation can cause all kinds of mental and physical problems, especially for a postpartum mom, who’s hormones are in a delicate state. Allowing mom and baby to get a good night’s rest is the best plan and it all begins with avoiding the stress of sleep training.
Sleep training is one of those tough parts of parenthood. You either get it right or you struggle with sleep deprivation for many, many years.
Years ago, when I started researching sleep training for my first baby, there was so much conflicting information. I had no idea which method would work and so I resorted to good, old “trial and error.” Thankfully he was a pretty easy going kid who took to it wonderfully, unlike my second child. In an effort to avoid the stress of sleep training, I’ve started looking into sleep training consultants for advice with my third baby.
Sleep consultation sites like The Baby Sleep Site usually offer wide varieties of different options based on your sleep training needs, which can get really overwhelming (especially when you’re a sleep deprived parent who has no idea where to begin). And the last thing any parent wants to do is shell out money for a service that they’re not convinced is not going to be worth it.
Yes, it costs money. But for as little as $12/month – you have a valuable source of resources and information available at your fingertips. The Members Area comes loaded with e-books, articles, quizzes, downloadable worksheets and even a chat room.
One of my favorite features is the tele-seminars. They’re about half an hour long so you can listen to one while you’re cooking dinner or folding a load of laundry – perfect for busy moms who don’t have time to read through tons of articles!
Another great feature as a member is the custom schedule maker – which you can use as often as you need to as your baby grows.
The Members Area is a great tool for a parent who is just beginning to struggle with sleep training and needs some guidance on where to start.
But what if you need even more help?
What if you’ve read all the e-books and changed around your baby’s schedule 15 times just to try to make it work but they’re still not sleeping through the night?
It goes without saying that all babies are different, and some are definitely harder to figure out than others. That’s where the sleep experts come in. They’ve dealt with babies of all different temperaments and preferences before. Even a mother of three has only ever had to handle sleep training three kids – but sleep experts have handled sleep training thousands of them.
They offer both phone and e-mail consultation, depending on which you prefer. E-mail is a great option for busy moms but sometimes it really helps to speak to someone one-on-one. (They also offer an express sleep plan if you’re desperate for a good night’s sleep.)
The best part is, as a Member, you get a 20% discount towards the consultation package of your choice!
You can get more info about the other package options here but the difference is basically how many follow up e-mails you get (i.e. how much “time” you want to purchase.)
Beginning the consultation process is very simple but I would recommend setting aside enough time, free of distractions to complete the sleep history. It might also help to write down any notes about your child’s specific areas that you want to work on, what their schedule is like, and how they’ve responded to sleep training in the past.
Once you have an idea of what you need work on, you submit a sleep history assessment via the Help Desk. The questions are pretty straightforward and there are several places to elaborate further on what is happening specifically with your child.
It took me approximately 15 minutes to complete the assessment.
Prior to submitting your sleep history, there is an estimated chart of how long it will take to receive a response.
I submitted my sleep history on a Friday after 5 PM EST and received my personalized sleep plan on Monday morning!
The Personalized Sleep Plan
As a “researcher” myself, I didn’t have extremely high hopes for the personalized sleep plan. I felt as though I had read enough books and blogs, all of which had the same info, that there wouldn’t be much in the personalized sleep plan that I didn’t already know. (In the sleep history assessment, you have the option to select the level of detail you would like. I, of course, selected the highest level.)
I will admit that, upon receiving my personalized sleep plan, it exceeded my expectations. The key reason being – it’s personalized! I didn’t appreciate exactly what that meant until I received the sleep plan back from Nicole Johnson and her team of experts.
Let me highlight my favorite parts so that you can see what I mean:
Specific needs for my child based on the information I included in the assessment. For example, how much she should be sleeping or eating or napping based not just on her age but also on her temperament and history.
Daytime and nighttime routines based on her sleeping arrangements since my toddler and five year old currently share a bedroom.
A personalized mantra about my specific sleep training goals that I can repeat to myself on those rough, sleepless nights.
The day to day plan with precise steps to take each day, including how and what to prepare for before beginning the plan. (See image below)
All of these different things stood out to me in the personalized sleep plan. When I was doing my own research on sleep training, then it was up to me to create a plan based on what I learned and I truly had no idea if it was going to work for my child or not. Upon reading this personalized sleep plan, I found myself pretty confident that I could easily incorporate these changes, and more importantly, that my daughter would be comfortable with them.
The personalized sleep plan included actionable steps for me to take to correct my child’s sleeping problems, based on a number of different factors that I hadn’t even considered.
I still have my three follow up e-mails to use, which are good for 6 months. So as I incorporate these recommended changes to her schedule and bedtime routine, I will have help waiting if I encounter any problems.
Knowing that I have an expert in my corner has absolutely saved my sanity! I regret that I didn’t choose a sleep training expert when my second child was younger and I was battling such extreme postpartum depression. Perhaps it could have reduced the amount of stress and sleep deprivation I was experiencing then. But now, as a busy mother of three, sleep training is no longer an issue I need to stress about, thanks to The Baby Sleep Site.
How much does it cost?
The largest obstacle I would see to most parents hiring a sleep consultant would likely be the cost associated. For this, it all comes down to priorities and how important the sleep is to you. In my case, sleep deprivation is a big trigger of postpartum depression relapses, and so I can’t afford to lose that war.
It’s important to keep in mind that what you are paying for is the time and service of a professional. I’m pretty sure I’ve paid the guy who fertilizes my lawn in the summer more money and that hasn’t gotten me very far in life.
So when I take all these things into consideration, the cost of a professional sleep consultant is worth it, in my opinion.
There’s a parenting image we need to get out of our minds – it’s that one where the parent puts the sleeping baby down in the crib and then does some elaborate dance to make it out of the bedroom without making a sound so baby doesn’t wake up…
The trick to sleep training is that it isn’t a trick.
In my personal experience, teaching a child how to go to sleep on their own is just as important as teaching them all the other basic life skills like brushing their teeth or tying their shoes.
Ideally children should learn to be independent sleepers and not need to rely on rocking, shushing or cuddling.
Leaving a baby to figure it out and cry themselves to sleep doesn’t teach them anything.
Part Two of the Sleep Training Guide is aimed at babies over 6 months old who tend to be more curious about the world around them and try to test their limits. Here are my best tips and advice for dealing with sleep regression, bedtime barriers, and staying positive throughout the sleep training process.
*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. ** Furthermore, I am not a sleep training expert, just a mother who’s been there and lived to the tell the tale.
Between 4 – 6 months babies go through their first major sleep regression (and roughly every 3 months after that until they graduate from high school).
It may be related to new teeth, illness, change in environment or routine – or it could be caused by absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Trying to sleep train during a sleep regression is like taking one step forward and two steps back, so my advice would be to wait until the sleep regression is over and baby is back to their normal routine to start any major sleep training.
Check out this post from shrewdmommy.com for more information on sleep regression.
A Fuller Stomach
6 months marks the big achievement of solid foods!!! While your baby will be eating an array of new foods, keep in mind that they will still be very dependent on milk for the next few months so don’t expect a “fuller stomach” to suddenly help them sleep longer at night.
Adding new foods to your baby’s diet can also cause changes in their activity levels and bowel habits which could alter your routine as well.
Your baby will be much more efficient at eating and may not need that middle of the night feeding anymore.
An Overactive Brain
Baby is discovering so many new things and will be much more active during the day. They will learn to (if they haven’t already) fight sleep in order to stay awake and play longer.
Over and under stimulation can affect how your baby sleeps at night.
Unlike newborns who can sleep in any conditions, older babies tend to wake easier and may be particular about where and when they sleep.
Distractions can work for you here. Try a projection night light, sound machine, stuffed animal, blanket, book or anything that will take your child’s mind off the fact that they are deliberately fighting sleep. Try not to cuddle, rock or feed baby to sleep. The idea is that it should be something that can soothe them when you are not around.
The older your baby gets, the less sleep they will need during the day. Make sure that they have been awake for at least 2 hours before bedtime (and longer as they get older).
It’s important to give them enough stimulation and exercise throughout the day (fresh air always works wonders to help children sleep better).
You can spread out their naps during the day but you don’t want your child to be overtired. An overtired child is a cranky child and a cranky child is an uncooperative child. And trust me, you’re going to need their full co-operation at bedtime!
The Bedtime Protest
You want your baby to watch you leave the room and be OK with it. You can give baby a little rub on the belly and say good night and then walk out of the room.
Do not try to sneak out of the room. We don’t want to trick baby into going to sleep on their own. And the last thing we want is for them to suddenly realize that we’ve left them and then freak out.
Do not feel sorry for them because they are alone. Sleep is a natural part of life and their bodies know this. They will follow your lead so if you seem stressed or feel sorry for them they will sense that.
If they instantly start to cry,wait a minute or two to see if they settle down on their own.
If their cry intensifies, then go back into the room and assure them that you are there and that it’s bedtime. Try not to pick baby up right away, instead try another distraction.
If they seem very distraught and upset then pick them up, console them and once they are calm you can try again. You want to make sure that both you and baby are calm when you put them to bed. If you have to, nurse them again or read a short book but don’t force them to stay in their crib if they clearly don’t want to.
If you and/or baby start to feel overly stressed out by this routine then try again another night. We don’t want either of you to associate any negative feelings with bedtime. If this has gone on for 2 or 3 nights in a row then take a week off and try again.
Night Time Waking
If baby wakes up in the middle of the night – wait 1 -2 minutes and really listen to their cry before going to them.
If they are just fussing and still sound half asleep, continue waiting.
If they suddenly let out one loud cry or scream, wait a few seconds to hear if more follows.
If their cry starts to escalate then go in and reassure them, offer a distraction and leave the room again.
If they seem very distraught and upset, then pick them up, console them (feed them if necessary) and once they are calm you can try again.
The listening and waiting can be key to helping your baby go back to sleep on their own. Oftentimes babies cry in their sleep. I remember many nights where I lay in bed listening to my baby’s cry on the monitor, finally deciding to get up and go to them and as soon as I put my hand on their bedroom doorknob they went back to sleep. I learned to wait an extra 30 seconds the next time.
You can find the top three baby monitors from Reviews.com and/or you can download the Baby Monitor 3G app if you have two compatible devices – a great option for travelling!
Bedtime battles can be so frustrating. Staying positive is so important, but it’s easier said than done. If babies and kids sense frustration or negativity at bedtime they will think of it as something to fear and they will fight you every time.
Consistency is key. Sticking to a bedtime routine means baby will know what to expect and when. Eventually, it won’t be so scary anymore – it will just be something that’s done every night.
Don’t pressure yourself if it isn’t working. Stress and sleep deprivation make for a bad combo. Take some time away from sleep training to get your positive energy back.
Sites like The Baby Sleep Site offer personalized sleep plans designed specifically for your child and focused on the areas that you need help with. Even if you choose not to purchase a sleep plan, you can become a member and access tons of great tools and resources available in their Members Area. Read my review of The Baby Sleep Site to get a sneak peek at what’s included in the Members Area and find out more information about their consultation packages..
Sleep training a newborn is all about establishing a good routine and developing the sleep habits that will become an important part of their lives. It’s about teaching them how the world works – when we sleep, when we eat and when we play – in order to be a functional human being. Sleep training a child is a long process, and the earlier they can learn, the easier it will be in the long run. By following a strict routine with a newborn, you may even be able to avoid sleep training in the future.
The goal of this sleep training guide is to:
Help your newborn baby identify the difference between day time and night time.
Establish a daily routine that focuses on healthy sleep habits.
Lay the foundation for stricter sleep training at a later age.
Help you predict what your baby needs and recognize the reason they are crying.
The reason why sleep training a newborn is so essential is because sleep at this age is instinctual and not something they have learned to fight (yet). This promotes a much more positive experience for both parent and baby. Remaining positive throughout the sleep training process is important to successful sleep training as the child gets older.
Here is a guide to sleep training a newborn (0-6 months), which includes routines to follow during the day, at nap time, bedtime and in the middle of the night.
* This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. ** Furthermore, I am not a sleep training expert, just a mother who’s been there and lived to tell the tale.
Sleep Training in the Morning
Open the curtains
Let as much sunlight into your home as possible or sit by a sunny window. The point is to associate “daytime ” with brightness and noise.
Change baby out of their pajamas
It may seem like a tedious and unimportant task because many newborns stay in sleepers all day long. But the simple, routine, act of changing clothes in the morning will signal to your baby that it is time to start the day, and not just another one of their many wakeful periods.
Skin to skin contact
Several times a day, strip baby down to a diaper and lay them on your bare chest or cuddle next to them in bed. This is a great thing to do while nursing or bottle feeding baby as it can also keep them awake and stimulated so they will feed better.
If you’re a busy mother, or have other children to take care of and don’t have the time to lie in bed all day, then consider carrying baby around in a wrap-style baby carrier while shirtless.
A lot of effort should be put into those daytime feeding sessions. Feed baby as often as they want to during the day, whether it’s breast or bottle.
If you’re breastfeeding, now is the time to master the latch and try out different breastfeeding positions. Make sure to empty each breast even if it means feeding on the same side twice in a row. That will increase your supply and provide baby with more hind milk. Try using the breast compression technique to ensure baby is getting enough of the fattier hind milk and to help speed up the session.
Try your best NOT to let baby fall asleep during the feeding! Sucking is extremely soothing for a baby and it’s natural for them to drift off or get tired halfway through. If baby continues to fall asleep while nursing, they won’t get full enough and will wake up wanting more just a short while later.
Get a good burp
Different methods work for different kids but this is so, SO important. Try gentle bouncing or laying them on their tummy across your arm or leg instead of patting their back. Adding a little bit of pressure against their tummy with the palm of your hand, or holding their stomach against your rib cage as you bounce up and down can help to eliminate gas.
The number one reason why newborn babies cry after a feeding is because of gas. Often, babies will put their hands to their mouths or root around when they need to burp which can be confusing if they just finished nursing. For babies who are struggling with gas, try using colic tablets or essential oils to ease their tummies.
Get a good poop
This will usually happen on it’s own, so it’s really just a waiting game. You can try “pumping” their legs or holding them in a “sitting position” to get things moving along. The reason why you want to watch for this before putting baby down for a nap is so that they will be comfortable as they sleep and will have no reason to wake up before they’re ready to.
Newborn babies can poop frequently throughout the day (especially breastfed ones). Make sure to use a good bum balm to help avoid rashes with frequent changes. With time, you will learn how often and when they need to go. Their specific habits and routine usually remain constant as they grow older so this is just another way of getting to know your baby.
Talk or sing to baby, have tummy time and lots of skin to skin contact. The environment should be stimulating and playful but not over-stimulating, so watch for cues that baby is done with a certain activity.
If you’re not sure exactly how to play with a newborn, then just take them around with you as you go about your day and talk to them while you do it. Babies don’t need a lot of entertainment at this age but they love to hear voices and watch faces.
Watch for signs of sleepiness
Throughout the day, keep an eye out for signs that they are ready to sleep. Some babies get very fussy, others may simply stare off in one direction and start the “slow blink.” As soon as you catch the hint that they are sleepy, prepare yourself to initiate the nap time routine.
Sleep Training At Nap Time
Put baby to sleep in their bed
Wherever you want baby to sleep at night time is where you should put them for naps as well. It may be tempting to hold and rock that baby for the next 2 hours but the sooner you can get them accustomed to sleeping in their own bed, the better (don’t worry, you can get in lots of cuddles during “playtime”).
Try to avoid letting baby nap in a car seat, bouncer or swing, as this can develop bad habits as they get older. Remaining consistent about where they sleep will help them get used to their bedroom and learn not to fear it.
Make sure that baby’s room is as comfortable as possible. Try using a warm or cool mist humidifier to make sure that their room is set up with the right conditions for them to sleep.
Keep the curtains open
Daytime sleep needs to be different from night time sleep, so keep the room bright. If it’s a dark or cloudy day, then leave a light on while baby naps. Make sure that there is a significant difference in baby’s room during nap time versus at night.
It’s common to try to avoid any and all noise while baby is napping, but that will become something you need to keep up for years. Most newborns are deep sleepers (hence the term “sleeping like a baby”).
Play music in the background, use a sound machine or open a window to let in street noise. If you have older children, don’t shush them while baby naps. Basically, go about your regular every day activities. This will teach baby to nap despite life happening around them.
Some babies tend to startle in their sleep when they hear loud noises, such as a dog barking or a car horn. Swaddling can help keep the startle reflex from waking them up.
Wake baby up after 2 hours
… and start all over again. It might sound cruel to wake up a sleeping baby but wouldn’t you rather save that sleepiness for 3 am? Several smaller naps throughout the day work better than a few longer ones at the newborn age so that baby can eat more often.
Sleep Training at Bedtime
Make sure that baby has been up for at least 1 – 2 hours before bedtime
Even a 10 minute nap in the car can sustain a baby with enough energy to last all night. It will take some work to plan out baby’s nap times but it is much easier to put a sleepy baby to bed than it is to wrestle with an energetic one.
Dim the lights
The wakeful period before bedtime should be focused on darkness and quiet – different than the wakeful periods during the day. Dim the lights, close the curtains or install blackout blinds.
You still want to make sure baby gets a really good feed, burp and poop
*Ahem* this is your life now…
Tone down the playtime
In the hours before bedtime, choose less vigorous playtime for baby. Avoid swings and bouncy seats or over-stimulating toys. Talk in quieter voices and play soft background music. Try to avoid having the television on.
Make sure that playtime before bed is calming and soothing instead of stimulating.
Change baby’s clothes
This is the other part of the day when it’s important to change baby’s clothes to signal that it’s bedtime. It doesn’t really matter what you put baby to sleep in because it’s just the act of changing into pajamas that will create that routine habit.
Try NOT to feed baby right before bed
A feeding before bed is important to keep baby full but if you don’t want to nurse them to sleep every time they wake up, then you need to disassociate it with bedtime. Aim for a half hour before bedtime so that they don’t fall asleep while nursing. You can feed baby first, then gently bounce or dance around with them to get out all those gas bubbles. Or change them into their pajamas after the feeding.
Initiate the “BEDTIME ROUTINE“
This is the last thing you will do with baby before you put them to bed for the night. It can include a bedtime story or lullaby, turning on a projection nightlight, some gentle rocking or cuddling in a chair, or goodnight kisses and hugs from everyone in the family.
Over the years the bedtime routine will evolve as your child grows. But it should always include a calming activity that is reserved specifically for bedtime so as to give your baby the bedtime signal.
Put baby to bed when you see the early signs of sleepiness
It’s worth repeating here – put baby down when they are sleepy but not actually asleep. The younger the baby, the more they are acting on instincts and as long as all of their needs are met, they shouldn’t protest when you put them down.
If baby cries when you put them down…
Try feeding or burping again until they get drowsy. If baby falls asleep while nursing, just try to get them into bed as soon as possible afterwards. Try your best to remain positive about the process, or baby will sense your anxiety.
Once down for the night – DO NOT WAKE BABY UP TO EAT.
Newborns need to eat on a regular schedule but because you have been pumping them full of food during the day, you can worry a little bit less about how much they are eating at night. They WILL wake up when they are hungry but it should be longer than 2 hour intervals. The older and bigger they get, the longer they will be able to go without a midnight snack.
Use a baby monitor to listen for when baby wakes up, and try to get to them as soon as possible. Try not to let baby cry for too long, as this will stimulate them more than necessary. Newborns will normally only wake up to feed so there is no point in letting them “cry it out.”
Sleep Training in the Middle of the Night
If and when baby wakes up in the middle of the night…
Do not turn on any lights
Keep the room as dark and quiet as possible. A soft nightlight or mood light offers just enough lighting for you to see what you’re doing but the idea is to help baby associate night time with darkness and quiet.
Keep baby dressed
Save the skin to skin contact for the daytime. If you swaddle baby then it’s up to you whether or not to unswaddle them, but the idea is not to disturb or stimulate baby any more than necessary.
Because you’re pumping them full of milk during the day, you don’t need to worry about how much they’re getting in the middle of the night. This is a great time to use the breast compression technique while breastfeeding. Most likely, baby will fall asleep during nursing. If they do, try to get them back into bed as quickly as possible.
Do not talk to or stimulate baby in any way
If you’re smooth enough – you might be able to convince baby that this is just a dream and that they aren’t really awake at all…
Only change a diaper if it’s poopy
If baby had enough poopy diapers during the day then the chances of a poopy diaper at night are slim (though they do happen). Some babies are prone to diaper rash so if you absolutely must change a diaper, use a warm wipe or washcloth and try to make it as quick as possible.
Get a good burp
But don’t try any fancy positions that might overstimulate baby unless they seem to be having a lot of trouble with gas.
Immediately return baby to crib
Don’t make a big deal out of night time wake ups. Try to make them as quick and quiet as possible and don’t take baby out of their room.
Continue this routine for all night time feedings until morning and then begin the daytime routine all over again.
By following a routine with your newborn throughout the day, you will be able to get them on a consistent schedule. This will help you to predict what they need and when, so that when they cry, you can rule out the common reasons. Having designated awake and nap times will also allow mom to get more rest and/or work done without having to constantly wonder when baby will be ready to eat or sleep. You could even try using an app to track baby’s sleep patterns. The routine will eventually become second nature to mom and baby, and will continue to change and evolve as baby grows. It will also help to reduce the stress and anxiety caused by sleep training at a later age.
Have you tried all these tips and your baby is STILL not sleeping through the night?
There could be something you’re missing. All babies are different, and there isn’t ONE plan that works for everyone. Don’t be afraid to seek help from an expert. Read my review of The Baby Sleep Site for more information.