What I’d like to offer you in this post is some basic fundamentals about newborns and sleep, so that you’re reassured you are doing the ‘right’ thing and that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with your baby.
I don’t like to tell parents what’s right or wrong because I believe you are the expert of your baby. What I’m providing is information based on research from various child development experts. This information is for you to make an informed decision on how you feel best to raise your child in your best capabilities and knowledge.
The following are the needs of newborns:
* Physical contact (lots of touch and being held)
* Gentle movement (like rocking, swaying)
* Heartbeat sound
* Mom’s and dad’s calm voices
* Prompt responsiveness to crying
* Breastfeeding when hungry
* Reduced source of overstimulation
Babies are extremely sensitive to their environment during the postnatal period. They’re so used to the sensation of being in the womb, safe and protected. After birth, they find the coldness, brightness, loud noises or separation from the mother very frightening and overwhelming.
If mom or dad holds their baby close, and bringing the familiarity of the sound of heart beat and voice, your baby will find this very reassuring.
Babies ask for only as much as they need. When a need has been met, they’re happy.
How is this related to sleep?
Well, babies are born with natural mechanism to tell you exactly what they need – feeding, being held, being carried and rocked, and sleep.
When they are hungry, they wake up and root or make sucking sounds.
When they want to be held, they cry until someone carries them.
When they are tired, they sleep.
There is no need to wake a sleeping baby to feed, unless your baby is under medical supervision or the effects of drugs. Sleep is vital for babies and children. The only time that growth takes place is during sleep.
Here are some of baby’s sleep signs:
READY FOR SLEEP
- Slowing down of activity
- They begin to suck slower
- Become quieter/calmer
- They avoid eye contact
- Their eyes glaze over and they don’t look around
IF BABY IS OVERTIRED OR OVERSTIMULATED
- Fights sleep
- Very irritable and agitated
- Crying uncontrollably
What do you do when baby is already overstimulated?
Sometimes you can’t help it. Even in your best intention to reduce the source of stress for your baby, they still experience stress and overload to their sensory system because your baby is still making sense of the world they are now living in.
This results in confusion and panic.
Hence they display lots of agitation and crying.
There is another fact about baby’s crying that’s not made known to a lot of people. That is, babies not only cry to communicate, but they also cry to release stress and tension in their system.
It is their inborn mechanism to heal from the effects of stress and trauma.
Researchers have found that crying itself is not damaging or increase cortisol (stress hormone), but rather it is the result of stress they experience.
As such, when your baby is overstimulated and crying uncontrollably, it’s your job to respond promptly to the crying by holding your baby close to you.
The goal is not to stop the crying, but to allow the crying to run its course until there is no more need to offload the painful feelings.
When your baby calms down in your loving arms or dad’s after a good cry, then your baby can now fall asleep peacefully.
Let’s go into the practicality of things.
The first and most important thing to consider is getting the feeding on a right start. If you’re breastfeeding, you’d want to make sure that your baby has a correct latch in order for an effective milk transfer.
I highly recommend that you get help from a lactation consultant or a midwife who’s trained and certified in breastfeeding, if you’re struggling.
Your baby needs to have 10-12 breastfeeding sessions within 24 hours.
The next thing to consider is to try a very loose and flexible schedule that works best for you.
If you could choose a time to start your day, what time would it be?
Realistically, anytime between 6-8am is ideal because of your baby’s natural biological clock.
Then work around a rough 2-3 hours feeding schedule where your baby feeds, sleep, wakes briefly, feeds again, sleep and so on.
Growth spurts take place at 2 weeks, 6 weeks and 12 weeks. You will see increased feeding and frequency. This is called cluster feeding. It’s your baby’s way of naturally asking for more calories. You can do an extra feeding in between the daytime feeding.
And don’t worry about creating ‘bad habits’ such as breastfeeding to sleep or carried to sleep at this stage.
I believe that while you try to create a healthy routine to your baby’s day, there are times when your baby just needs to feed or being carried to sleep. And this is absolutely fine.
I also personally believe that when you meet your newborns needs as shared above, they will be asleep much longer. And yes this includes the physical contact with you.
I feel it’s about managing your expectations and reassuring you that it is normal for newborns to sleep better and longer when they are physically close to you.
It meets your baby’s needs for warmth, touch, heartbeat sound and gentle movement by your breathing.
30-40 minutes nap during the 6-24 weeks of age is also developmentally normal. Their sleep matures around the 4-month mark and around 6 months above, they learn to link one sleep cycle to the next, resulting in an hour long duration per nap.
Suggested bedtime routine
It is encouraged to swaddle after feeding to signal that it’s going to be sleepy time. Some babies hate to be swaddled, please read your baby’s cues.
Use white noise or soothing music. White noise volume to be as loud as someone taking a shower.
Smell – you could use lavender essential oil that’s diffused into the room. Never ever apply essential oil directly on your baby.
Keep the room in low lights. Use night light to help you with the night feedings and diaper change.
Keep it super simple! Implement the routine within 10-15 minutes.
What your baby can’t do yet
- Sleep through the night without feeds
- Trained to self soothe or settle on their own
- Take long naps when placed on the cot or bed
- To soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up hungry
When is a good time to encourage your baby to sleep more independently and through the night?
I like to go with 6 months and above, when your baby might already be taking solids and getting more calories in the day.
This is also the time when your baby is ready to go for a longer period of time without food. If they awaken more than once at night, this is not likely to be from hunger.
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