Before I begin this post, I’ll just point out that EVERY baby is different! Our little girl is an amazing sleeper and has always been quite independent; but there were a few things I did to help her along the way. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t sleep through every night – but as an adult, do you? Don’t tell me you’ve never woken up because you’re cold, afraid, or need to pee. But she does sleep well. And when I learned how to help her do that; I slept better. When I sleep better, my Postnatal depression is pretty much non-existent. Yes, I suffered. It was awful. And sleep deprivation in the first two weeks didn’t help. Once I went on medication for it I was able to cope with the sleepless nights, and had a clearer head to be able to deal with them; and help my daughter to sleep better.
This is not a sleep training post. We were thinking about sleep training but we don’t really need to as our daughter is a good sleeper; once we made a few changes to our routines.
Do: Eliminate Day/Night confusion
When a baby is first born, they have no idea about the time of day and they have no circadian rhythm. This means their sleep/wake cycles are all over the place. So, help them understand. Make it bright and loud during the day; and dark and peaceful at night. Have differences in day and night sleeps and they’ll eventually learn what those differences mean.
Do: Wake a Sleeping Baby
In the first few days I let my daughter sleep when she wanted. This usually ended up being during the day; which meant she was up all night. It also meant my milk supply was low because she was sleeping through her feed times and we had to resort to combi feeding to help her gain weight.
Eventually I started waking her every 2 hours during the day to feed her; and then let her sleep longer at night.
Do: Cluster feed in the evening
Cluster feeding in the evening (feeding closer together and longer / more substantial feeds) helps her to have a full stomach for longer so she’ll sleep for a longer stretch. It really made all the difference and we still practise this now.
Don’t: Put them in a sleeping bag during the day
We learned that our daughter slept well in her sleeping bag. It was a breakthrough. So we used it at night, and only gave her a blanket during the day. It helped her differentiate between night and day; and also helped her sleep better at night. And because sleeping bags are safer (as they can’t wriggle underneath them and suffocate); it was a no-brainer to put her in them at night so we weren’t as worried about the SIDS risk.
Don’t: put them to sleep awake.
It’s impossible to spoil a new-born. They need your help to do everything! That includes falling asleep. I nursed my baby to sleep and put her in her cot fully asleep right up until she turned 7 months old. Now she can self-soothe, I’ll put her to bed sleepy but not asleep; but until she learned to do this, there was no point in fighting with her and having to listen to the crying. It won’t be a bad sleep association – you don’t see 18 year olds still breastfeeding to get to sleep! Just do it and get some rest!
Do: Eliminate Colic and other tummy troubles.
Our daughter struggled terribly with silent reflux, and also constipation. We raised the head end of her Moses basket (not the mattress, but the whole basket); so she didn’t have such bad reflux. We gave her infacol every time she had a bottle as she struggled with wind. When she was old enough to have gripe water, we tried that and it seemed to help. We also had to give her lactulose (on prescription from the doctor!) to treat her constipation. And the absolute game changer was to keep her upright for 20 minutes after every feed. YouTube helped tremendously with this as I’d start a 20 minute video after she’d finish feeding so I knew how long to keep her upright for. This made such a huge difference as it brought her wind up, and helped her acid stay down. If you’re concerned about any tummy troubles, ALWAYS consult a healthcare professional.
Do: Be prepared for sleep to go backwards at some point.
Ever heard of a sleep regression? I hadn’t. They happen at major stages in baby’s brain development and cause babies to wake up more frequently and/or be harder to settle. It will pass. We’ve had 2 so far and they were awful but she’s back to sleeping well again and it is heaven. Enjoy the good sleep while it lasts.
Don’t: Brag about how much sleep you’re getting
When you get to the stage where you’re getting good sleep – be it at 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years – don’t brag to other mums! Chances are they’re tired. Every mum is at some point. Be empathetic and silently smug if you got a good night’s sleep. Talk to other mums about anything but sleep; and you’ll both be happier.
So, those are my tips. I’m totally winging this whole parenting thing though, so feel free to do your own thing. Don’t be afraid to follow your baby’s lead and your own instincts. Rejoice in the little victories and draw a line under the bad days (or nights). And if you’re ever unsure about anything regarding your baby’s health; ALWAYS consult a healthcare professional.
If you have any other tips, leave them in the comments below!