Quite evidently, having a baby is as daunting as joyous it is. As new parents, you do your best to keep your baby calm, content and happy. For newborns, this directly translates into lots of feeding and sleeping, and of course, lots of love and attention!
However, having a newborn baby is synonymous with parents not getting enough sleep. Most parents begin looking for ways to make their babies sleep properly as it means that they sleep well too. To clarify, it isn’t a selfish approach, it is natural. You do require rest and sleep to take care of your little one.
Also, there’s just so much advice present in both the online and the offline world, it’s hard to know which piece of information to believe. Should you listen to your distant relative aunts or the trendy blog run by a new mom? Save yourselves! In situations like this, it’s expert opinion that makes the most sense.
If you’re new to the realm and looking for a baby sleep consultant, the first thing you should know is that babies sleep a lot. Normally, newborn babies sleep approximately 16-19 hours a day. A baby’s body and brain need all this sleep for his/her growth and development. Not getting enough sleep at proper intervals can make your baby agitated, cranky and overall unhappy.
Being a Child Sleep and Food Habits Consultant, I can help your little infant sleep well and resultantly grow well; here are my top 5 tips:
1. Recognize Your Baby’s Tired Signs
Babies often show subtle signs of tiredness but we may not always recognize them. Understanding your baby’s sleepy signs can be helpful in getting your baby to fall asleep with the least amount of fuss. Some easy to recognize signs would be yawning, rubbing eyes, crankiness or fussing behavior. Other signs to look out for could be:
- Sucking of thumb or fingers – this doesn’t always indicate hunger, it often indicates tiredness too
- Looking away from your face
- Jerky arm and leg movements
- Arching backwards like they want to get away from you
- Staring off into space
- Pulling their ears, hair or keep scratching their face
It is actually better to settle your baby in bed a little before you see these signs. If your baby shows such signs, say an hour after they wake up, perhaps you need to make it a practice to settle your baby down after 45 minutes or so of waking up.
2. Set Day-Night Pattern
While babies sleep a lot, it’s also important to note when and how often they sleep. Many parents find that their baby is up and playful in the night, and mellow and sleeping long stretches during the day. This day-night confusion is common in the early weeks. This phenomenon occurs because babies are not born with developed internal clocks or circadian rhythm, which helps them to distinguish between day and night.
Generally, most babies pass this stage by 4 months of age. You can, however, speed this process up and help your baby fall into a pattern much sooner by:
- Giving your baby sun time in the early morning hours
- Keeping activity levels higher during the day
- Making bedroom darker and calmer at night
- Keeping the lights dim and activity level to a minimum during night feedings
Swaddling is a technique that’s been used for generations and is often a new-born baby’s best bed buddy. Swaddling properly helps a baby feel snug and calm like they did in their mother’s womb. It also prevents sleep disturbances caused when the baby startles due to Moro reflex, which they experience during the early months. It’s best to use a soft muslin cloth or a natural breathable fabric as a swaddle to keep the baby cozy and also prevent them from getting too warm.
However, swaddling is a skill that needs to be learnt. When a swaddle is not wrapped accurately, it can leave your baby feeling uncomfortable. Many parents give up on swaddles soon after they come home because they feel that their baby doesn’t like it. Although, in reality, they might not have been swaddling the baby properly. Once you learn the right technique of swaddling, you’ll be amazed to see how easily it settles and calms your baby down.
4. Room Environment
Babies prefer cooler temperatures when they are sleeping. Typically, a room temperature of approximately 24 degrees works best for most babies. So, maintain a cool room. If required, turn on the air conditioner and/or a fan. Fans in the room often also act as white noise, cancelling out a lot of the sudden noises and sounds in the house and setting a constant, ambient sound in the bedroom.
Moreover, avoid overdressing your baby. Remember: your baby will most likely be swaddled, which means that it will be another layer over their clothes.
It’s also a good idea to keep the room dark when it is sleep time and keep the baby in bright, well lit spaces when awake.
5. Wake, Eat, Play, Sleep — Repeat!
New born babies take longer to feed, and therefore, end up consuming very small portions. Also, just the act of feeding appears to tire a baby easily. This is one reason that it’s helpful to feed infants soon after they’ve woken up — they’re the most energetic and can thus feed fully and burp properly. They may even stay awake for some time and look around and then can be swaddled and put to sleep at the appropriate time.
Following these simple techniques can help your newborn baby and the entire family enjoy better sleep during the early months of this new life. It also sets the platform for healthy sleeping habits as they grow up.
Ajita Gopal Seethepalli
Ajita Seethepalli is a Child Sleep and Food Habits Consultant and the creator of KidsCenter.in. She uses behavioural coaching to help develop healthy habits in children. Over the past 10 years, she has helped thousands of parents and children across the globe through concrete, customized, step-by-step solutions.
For further information on Ajita and her services please see:
If you’ve tried everything and you see no change in the fussiness of your newborn, it’s better to check with your pediatrician. Colic could as well be because of an underlying cause, which only the doctor can determine.