Getting a baby to sleep can be one of the most difficult and frustrating pastimes you will ever have to face.
If you have an easy sleeper, count yourself very lucky! Many parents struggle with sleepless children, especially when they are newborns. Try to relax, it will eventually work itself out, in the mean time here are some tricks that may help.
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Why Your Newborn will Only Sleep on You While Being Held
Think about what our species has had to endure for the last (however long). To survive a baby’s instinct tells them they need to be warm, they need to be fed, and they need to be close to someone safe. They simply cannot relax into a deep sleep until that primal need has been filled.
Your baby is not being ‘difficult’ or ‘manipulating’ and it cannot ‘learn bad habits’ at this age. It is simply following it’s hardwired instinct. You cannot argue with nature, you are best just to go with it. Your whole household will be happier and less stressed for doing so.
For the first few months we recommend you go with the flow with sleep and settling, and do almost what ever it takes to get baby to sleep.
A Note on Sleep Routines and Newborns
It is not recommended to expect a baby to follow any sort of routine before 3 or 4 months of age.
It’s far more important in the early days that you and your baby are well rested. Being a new parent is exhausting, and you need to be able to rest when your baby is sleeping. There are some babies who will only ever sleep for one sleep cycle (20-45minutes), regardless of what you do! I have had 3 of them so far!!
Once your baby gets to about 12-14 weeks you will find that she has worked out a little pattern to her day all by herself. The actual times may be flexible as I have yet to meet a baby that can read a clock, but the patterns will start to emerge.
I will never ever condone or agree to any method of cry-it-out or self-soothing, no matter how it is packaged and sold to you, and no matter how gentle they imply it is, it is simply not natural, it is not how babies were designed to be cared for and it is distressing and hard for all concerned.
If your baby needs you, go to them, please go to them. Hold them and hug them. You are their everything, please be there for them. The dark is scary, being alone is scary, be their loving parent. I know it is hard, I know you are exhausted (trust me, I have BEEN there!) but it is part of being a parent, it is part of the contract you signed.
There are somethings that you can do to make this adjustment to life earth-side easier for your babe.
Tips for Helping Settle a Newborn to Sleep Easily
1) Recognize your baby’s tired signs early.
This will help avoid your baby getting over-tired. Tired babies may yawn, get twitchy legs and arm movements or get a glazed/staring look, they will also often act hungry, which might be the case, or they might just be looking to feed to sleep. This can be very confusing for new parents.
If these cues are missed they will begin to grizzle, by this stage they are getting too tired to settle easily. They can also make a lot of noise (grunting and snuffling) winding down to sleep, unless they are actually grizzling/crying, let them be, they may well just be heading off to sleep. If they need help to get off to sleep, try one (or more) of the techniques below.
2) Use the Feed, Awake Time, Sleep pattern if possible.
This reduces the confusion, you know baby is well fed, so it is likely he is tired rather than hungry again. Start looking for tired signs when a newborn has been awake for only 45 minutes, an hour awake is usually plenty at this age.
A baby that sleeps plenty in the day will sleep better at night. It is not reccomended to limit baby’s days sleeps until they are closer to two years of age. Prior to that age, limiting their sleep is counter-productive. Your baby will be over tired and very difficult to settle or keep asleep.
3) Replicate the womb environment
This works wonders as it triggers a powerful response inside babies’ brains that turns off their crying.To do this try:
This is simply wrapping a baby securely. This is the cornerstone to settling a newborn. Get a large, good quality wrap, at least 45 inches square made out of a breathable fabric, with a little stretch.
Either ‘shhhhh’ very loudly, play a white noise CD on repeat, a fan, vacuum or shower. In the womb babies are exposed to a constant noise of 80-90 decibels – equivalent to the sound of a vacuum.
This can be achieved by a dancing/jiggling cuddle, sling carrier or hammock, a pushchair or car ride. This should be a gentle movement. Never ever shake your baby.
Breastfeed, thumb/finger or pacifier. This technique is very effective for colicky babies.
Either in your arms, on your lap, on your chest or in their bed while being patted.
Side/stomach is never for sleeping so ensure you roll them back to their back once they are calm.
DO NOT PLACE SWADDLED BABY LYING ON THEIR STOMACH! – They might suffocate.
Bright lights are stimulating for a babies brain, dim the lights to settle, and let them sleep in the dark.
Keep the room as dark as possible during night feeds, and avoid eye contact or talking with them at this time, it will help them recognize night time is for sleeping rather than being social.
Ensure your baby is sleeping safely for EVERY sleep. This includes each nap in your arms, in the car or when they fall asleep playing or on the couch.
Babies and toddlers who have a bath and a massage before bed, fall asleep faster than those
who are only read a story. So break out the baby-safe oil and rub them down using soft strokes and moderate pressure.
Babies who are usually good sleepers go through phases of not settling as well. This may just be a growth spurt in which they need to feed more frequently. These usually only last 1 – 2 days.
If the child/baby has been unwell with a cold in the last week it might be good to get their ears and throat checked by a doctor. As these are often more painful with the increase in pressure when they lie down and makes babies very difficult to settle.