How to Get Better Sleep for You and Your Baby
By: Nicole Cassey, founder and CEO of Bubbaroo
Good sleep as a new parent can feel impossible. But the good news is that you really can improve your baby's sleep as well as your own.
The newborn period is definitely one of the most challenging times because you have little control over your baby's sleep. Baby is learning day from night and parents are coming to terms with less sleep for themselves.
Try not to worry, because things will most certainly improve over time. The following tips can help both you and baby get the rest you need.
Acknowledge the Fourth Trimester
The fourth trimester starts when your baby is born and lasts for about three months after. Once a baby is born, her needs are greater than they were in utero. She needs warmth, food, comfort, rocking, and more to help her adjust to life outside the womb.
Just imagine how baby feels in the big wide world... cold, bright lights, loud noises, and a busy, stimulating environment. It certainly will take your baby time to adjust and she will need your help to do that. Try to keep your expectations real as you help your baby learn how to sleep. If you can empathize with how your baby feels, it makes it easier to tune in to her needs and not feel resentful because you're tired.
Swaddling is a great way to help your baby through the fourth trimester. As the founder of Bubbaroo, I have seen countless times how swaddling can settle a baby. That is why I invented the Joey Pouch Swaddle Wrap. It simulates the security of the mother's womb, calms baby's startle reflex, and allows baby to self soothe.This often results in better quality sleep for both mom and baby.
Watch for Tired Signs
If you spot the tired signs early enough, you'll be able to get baby to sleep more easily than if you wait until the baby is overtired. Settling an overtired baby can be a real challenge and takes a lot longer than settling a baby that is just ready for a nap.
Every child is different, and you will need to study your baby to find out her unique tired signs. Here are some of the signs to look out for:
- Disengagement/staring into the distance
- Clenching fists
- Pulling at ears
- Arching backwards
- Sucking on finger
- Jerky limb movements
Help Baby Differentiate Day from Night
When babies are first born, they have no concept of day and night. A newborn could be awake a lot at night and sleep all day. There's not a lot you can do for the first few weeks besides going with the flow.
But around two weeks, you should be able to introduce baby to night and day. It could take several weeks, but stick to the plan and you'll be on track before you know it.
During the day when baby is awake, talk to and stimulate her. There is no need to darken the room too much for a nap. Many babies will happily sleep in the car or stroller in regular daylight.
Don't worry too much about blocking out noise. A vacuum, washing machine, or the phone ringing are all normal daytime noises that baby can learn to sleep through. Good daytime sleep will help promote good nighttime sleep.
If baby falls asleep during a feed, try to wake her so that she takes a full feed. More milk during the day will minimize the number of feeds at night.
When baby wakes during the night, keep the room dark. Feed and change your baby's diaper then pop her straight back into his crib–no talking, no eye contact, and no bright lights.
Practice Safe Sleep
By providing a safe and secure sleep space for your baby, you will have peace of mind. Windows, curtain cords, dangling mobiles, and heaters should be kept clear of the crib or bassinet. The mattress should be firm and crib bumpers should not be used, as they're a serious suffocation risk. Quilts, duvets, soft toys, pillows, or cushions should also be avoided. It's also important to ensure that your baby is dressed safely so they don't overheat.
The American SIDS Institute recommends the following to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:
- Don't smoke.
- Don't bed share.
- Place baby in a bare crib (no cover, bumpers, or pillows).
- Place baby on back to sleep.
Baby sleeping bags provide a much safer, no tangle option rather than blankets. A baby sleeping bag like the kind Bubbaroo makes is a safe way to get your baby to sleep in a bare crib. Bubbaroo sleeping bags or sleep sacks are made from 100% natural fibers and are designed to keep your baby at just the right temperature for sleep.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine is about following the same cues so that your baby knows it's time for sleep. I recommend an early dinner, followed a little later by a warm shower or bath. The cooling down period after the bath is how the body comes down to exactly the right temperature that is conducive to sleep.
Then it's time to pop your baby into their pajamas and baby sleeping bag or swaddle. A swaddle or sleeping bag is an important part of the bedtime routine. Children like knowing what is coming next, and when they see the swaddle or baby sleeping bag they'll start to recognize that bedtime is not far away. This can work for both day and night sleep.
Finally, give your child some wind down time. Dim the lights and read a book or two. A book helps relax your child and gives you an opportunity for a cuddle. Helping with literacy is an added bonus!
Find Your Own Nighttime Routine
As parents, we often put a lot of time and effort into preparing babies for bed. But as adults, we can often take little time to prepare ourselves for bed. We then wonder why we have trouble sleeping.
Your routine could be as simple as turning off your phone an hour before bed, having a warm bath or shower, doing some relaxing stretches, meditating, or enjoying sleepy time tea. The important thing is to establish your own bedtime ritual to cue your body that it's time for sleep.
Carefully Consider Co-Sleeping
Co-sleeping in the same room as baby has many health benefits for your baby, but can often interfere with your sleep. That's because a parent is so tuned in to her new baby and hears every little noise
Babies are certainly noisy little characters. But most of the time they're just stirring and moving through different sleep cycles. This is where meditating or listening to relaxing music could come in handy. By wearing bed friendly SleepPhones® to drift off to sleep, you can muffle some of those noises while still being aware of the outside environment. What's more, your baby might learn to self soothe and settle herself back to sleep if you're not constantly fussing over her.
Find a Way to Fall Back Asleep
One of the biggest problems parents experience is difficulty falling back asleep once their baby wakes during the night. This is where SleepPhones® can come in handy again. Simply slip them on and tune into white noise, music, an audio book, or anything else that relaxes you. You'll be nodding off in no time without disturbing your partner.
Make Time for You
If you're not getting enough sleep during the night, try a daytime nap when your baby sleeps. You'll need a lot of energy to get through those early days with baby. Remember that these difficult days will pass and eventually you will get more sleep. Keep these tips handy and hang in there. Good luck!
About the Author
Nicole Cassey was inspired to create Bubbaroo after having her first child in 2004. Since then, she's gone on to sell her premium baby, toddler, and child sleepwear worldwide. Visit www.bubbaroo.com.au to shop the entire Bubbaroo line.