The first time I took my newborn to visit my husband at work, one of his co-workers was appalled that she slept in her own bed, in her own room. For her, a veteran mom of three, newborns belonged in mom’s bed.
That was early lesson that people have very strong opinions about newborn sleeping arrangements. Now, mix this with the pressure to have a “good baby” who “sleeps through the night” at a young age, and the result may be a new mom who feels confused, stressed, and suddenly more tired than she already was.
Let’s look at some facts about babies and some great tips to help your baby sleep as safely and soundly as possible.
Newborns can sleep between 16-20 hours a day and need to eat frequently (8+ times in the beginning). A stretch of sleep might only last 2-3 hours in the beginning. While erratic at first, sleeping patterns will emerge as the weeks go by, and your baby will sleep for longer intervals, usually sleeping 10 hours sometime before her first birthday.
In the meantime, here are 9 tips to help new parents . . .
#1 Keep a record. The early days at home can be a bit of a blur. Consider keeping a simple record of sleep, wake, and feeding times. (And go ahead and throw in wet and soiled diapers because your healthcare provider is going to ask you about that at your visits.) This record on a piece of paper in the kitchen or on your phone will show you developing patterns. Although they’ll shift during the first year, it will help you to have reasonable expectations of what the day—and night—might bring.
#2 Less is more. While you want your baby to get accustomed to all the sounds of your house like older siblings, pets, television, or neighborhood noises, remember they are easily startled and overstimulated. Try to mitigate this for your baby, even during the day.
#3 Create a bedtime routine. Develop a bedtime routine around the same time each evening that includes calming sounds, dim lights, and a comfortable environment.
#4 Swaddle. Put the baby on his back in his bed using a snug swaddle to help create a feeling of security. You can also consider a white noise machine that mimics the sounds of the womb.
#5 Give it a minute. It will often take a few minutes for a baby to settle down. Sometimes parents can be too eager to return to the room when the baby begins to cry. Know that this is normal. (I would turn on the mobile, stand just outside the door, and say to myself, “If she is still crying when the mobile turns off, I’ll go back in.” She never was.)
#6 Consider a pacifier. Many babies are comforted and calmed by sucking.
#7 Be a night ninja. When the baby wakes in the night to eat, be all business: keep the lights as dim and the room as quiet as possible while you change, feed, and put your baby back in bed.
#8 Sleep when the baby sleeps. For many people, this is an excellent way to catch up on the sleep you are missing at night. If you have other children or enjoy getting some things done while the baby is sleeping, this advice might not be right for you.
#9 Get help. At Tennessee Family Doulas, we offer a service that can support you in your early days at home with a new baby.
First, a Postpartum Doula can help you adjust to taking care of your new baby and managing the other aspects of your life. A postpartum doula can help smooth the process by:
Supporting your physical, emotional, and mental recovery
Caring for the baby and teaching you tips and tricks to make it easier
Running errands with you or for you
Helping siblings adjust to the new addition
Stay overnight to help you and your baby get better sleep
Assisting with housework and meal prep
In addition, a Night Nanny (another name commonly used to describe a Postpartum Doula) can help you get the rest you need to heal and recuperate. A night nanny is available for feedings, diaper changes, crying spells, and other baby tasks while you get a great night’s sleep. If you are nursing, the nanny will bring the baby to you. Otherwise, she’ll bottle feed the baby, leaving you in dreamland for as long as possible.
No matter your needs, our doulas and night nannies will work with you to ensure they are met. This is an exciting time in your life, and you deserve to enjoy every minute of it. Contact us at Tennessee Family Doulas to learn more about our services and how we can help you!