Sleep Tips for Your Newborn
Establishing a sleep routine for your child is good for them and good for you too. Emma Purdue, a New Zealand sleep expert, has a few tips to help
5 min read
The first 12 weeks are such a uniquely special time for all parents, but there is nothing else that ruins that precious time as quickly as a crying baby who just won’t sleep.
There is a difference between a baby who just won’t sleep, and one who is crying and not sleeping. The former might just not neurologically be ready for a lot of sleep. Humans are born very neurologically immature, with no sleep patterns or cycles. These need to develop over the next 3-6 months. Consequently some babies will lie in their Moses basket and stare at the curtain for hours and refuse to sleep, if they are happy, they are resting, and the sleep will come as they mature.
How to set up successful sleep
There are a few things you can do as a parent to ensure your new baby gets the best possible chance to sleep. These are what we call sleep hygiene, and no, don’t involve sanitiser. Instead I am talking about setting up your baby for successful sleep. Create a nice dark sleep space, even for naps. This will help minimum distractions and once your baby is old enough they will begin to make sleep hormones in the dark such as melatonin. Try some loud white noise, like vacuum cleaner loud, and not a heart beat! For 9 months your baby has listened to woosh woosh woosh (the sound of the blood rushing past) at around 70-90 decibels.
Your heart beat was background noise, get a white noise which shushes or is true white noise. Ensure your baby gets to bed with a full tummy. If your baby has low weight gains, excessive crying and minimal sleep, get yourself off to a lactation consultant, your baby might just be hungry and need help with latching!
How to use the Calming Reflex
Try to have your new-born back in bed after 60- 90 minutes to avoid over tiredness kicking in.
Tricks to settle a new-born to sleep once you have the sleep hygiene in place involve triggering your babies calming reflex. Yes they have a calming reflex! Five ways to kick the calming reflex into action are below.
This is you shushing loudly, or decent white noise.
Recreate that womb like feeling, snug and secure. Invest in a good swaddle and keep it on while trying to settle your baby. One which is snug enough to prevent your babies startle reflex is perfect.
Sucking either a dummy, or nursing, both of these acts will help a crying baby calm right down. If you are trying to achieve sleep with either of these, don’t remove the sucking too quickly. Swaddle and hold your baby while they nurse to sleep for a good 10 minutes before attempting to pop them down.
Hold your baby in your arms on their side, their chest to your chest usually works best. This helps alleviate any sore tummies from wind or cramping and almost instantly triggers the calming reflex. In this position you can use a dummy, or rock or pat their bum to get them off to sleep.
This one is key! … yes babies love movement, rocking, bouncing on a swiss ball, walking, etc. But the key to stopping your baby from crying and lulling them off to sleep is the type of movement. Your rocking or bouncing or ideally bum patting needs to create a little body jiggle, like jelly in a bowl. A short quick rock in your arms or push chair will be 10x more effective than a slow and gentle rock, and patting should be heartbeat rhythm.
If you work on your baby’s sleep hygiene and the five tips above, you will have your little one sleeping brilliantly in no time!