When people think of mum of a newborn, they usually conjure up an image of that sleep-deprived zombie. This state is created over days and weeks after they initially bring their newborn home. Over the weeks you slowly and steading build up such an amount of zombie-like actions that when you have hit that point where they’ve just been finally been stretched to their limits between multiple wake-ups, night-after-night, that they’re just ready to crash. They wish and longed that all those sleep books they saw and possibly skipped over reading while they were pregnant as they may have seemed boring at that time. However, now a few weeks in, there are so desperate for some really good advice on how to help your tiny baby (and yourself) to get some good sleep they frantically start searching for quick fix answers and wonder potions to solve this scenario yesterday! This is where Lisa Gargaro from Sleep Co, author of the book “Antenatal & Newborn Sleep Guide, and a holistic sleep consultant for over 3 years now—this offers several tips for promoting newborn sleep. Not through magic potions or quick fix solutions but through gentle and loving methods that when carried out they can have a quick and immediate effect when dealt with in the correct manner.
Although I fully understand and am aware that although newborns aren’t really ready to start doing long stretches of sleep until they’re a few weeks old (often 6-8 weeks old), there are many steps you can follow that will help you both to get better sleep ASAP and ensure the path you start on it the best one which will naturally lead to great independent sleep which will benefit everyone.
Here are 8 tips Lisa wants to offer for helping your newborn baby sleep:
1. Let your baby know when it’s almost time to sleep.
This seems obvious but we have to understand that a newborn can only truly be awake for 45 mins. Therefore, to be aware of the two things that cue circadian rhythms (a person’s “internal clock”) is paramount — these being darkness and social cues. Simply put, if a child sees that it’s dark out and then that their parents are slowing down, their body will prepare to sleep. The sleep pressure created then causes the body to release Melatonin, making them go to sleep and stay asleep. As your newborn doesn’t develop their internal clock until around 3 months YOU have to be their clock by providing appropriate social cues and darkness in the evening.
2. Put your child to bed at the same time, every day.
By putting children down for bedtimes and nap times at the same time every day, you help your kids establish & understand a predictable routine. This makes bedtimes and nap times easier in the future. Likewise, the same is true of starting the day at the same time every day. You can help get your child into a good rhythm. This timing may move around some until your child is about 12 weeks old; until then, create your own flexible routine with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, whenever it is possible.
3. At night, keep their environment dark.
Helping your child distinguish day from night will become important. So by keeping their room a dark, quiet environment at bedtime and at night they soon understand the difference between day & night time. Ideally, Blackout blinds are the best for this. Keeping their environment dark and quiet, reinforces that bedtime and night time are very different from day & playtime.
4. By exposing your baby to sunlight in the morning when they first wake up helps their brain know that it’s now daytime.
By the simple act of opening the blind and exposing them to sunshine helps them learn to distinguish between night and day.
5. Ensuring your baby is well-rested during the day also is essential.
Simply by ensuring your newborn get good naps—by doing whatever is necessary to help them sleep will be vital. These suggestions can be put them in a carrier, swing, stroller, whatever, all I ask if you avoid feeding to sleep wherever possible. It’s OK if the baby’s naps are short. Most of all make sure baby is not awake for too long a period or believe that by skipping naps in the hopes that they will sleep better at night – it is found that this theory actually backfires, and the fact is that actually a baby who has napped well during the day is likely to sleep better at night.
6. Watching everything will be critical.
Between watching the clock and watch for those sleepy cues and reacting by knowing exactly what to do and when means that you will know when to put your baby down for naps. Newborns aren’t awake long—just 45 mins – 1 hour before they become over-tired and wired. Once they’ve become over-tired, the usual signal for this is becoming fussy, cranky and they then sleep poorly. What then occurs is that this timing slowly gets longer over time. It’s important not to just rely on watching the clock though—It’s much better to watch for those tired cues as well as the clock so you can adjust to your baby’s timing as they grow.
7. Wake a baby at the right intervals will also become important.
So if they sleep more than 3 hours during the day and to ensure they don’t sleep through a feeding and to help them save their long stretch of sleep for night time. This can be avoided by not allowing any really long stretch of sleep during the day. It also will be critical in preventing day/night confusion.
8. I strongly and truly believe there is no such thing as spoiling a newborn baby.
For me every newborn’s cries mean something. They’re not self-sufficient, so when they cry, we as their carer are supposed to attend to their needs. And, when someone responds and takes care of a need (e.g.: dirty nappy, hungry, sick, uncomfortable, over-stimulated)—this builds a trusting relationship and it builds a long-term ability to have trusting relationships.
Lisa explains that by the age of around 4 months, the beginning stages of self-soothing and self-regulating really don’t develop. I also suggest that 6 months old is probably the ideal timing for sleep training, however, this for some families has to be earlier due to returning to work or commitments for the family. I also would advise you that there are some parents who have done sleep train before 6 months which is great in my mind but what those parents have found is they do have to redo this anyway as their child grows and develops new skills and milestones. Therefore, for those early months, I suggest really focus on establishing a good routine, reinforcing circadian rhythms with consistent wake-up and nap/bedtimes, using light and dark to work with you, and ensuring that the long stretch of sleep happens at night. Most of all please feel free to respond when your baby needs you and to enjoy your baby—to reiterate there’s no such thing as spoiling a newborn!
Thanks very much for your interest and time in reading these tips and allowing me to share them with you. For more info on Lisa Gargaro Sleep Co programs, check out her books Antenatal & Newborn Sleep Guide & Adult Sleep self-help guide or alternatively please visit my website for further information to learn about sleep coach packages for all ages. You can also contact me to get started today.