This is a special guest post by Jamie Contarini, a certified sleep consultant with Good Night Sleep Site, Halton.
After having your baby, the first few months can be exhausting and frustrating and exciting all at the same time. A baby’s sleep schedule is often unorganized and chaotic because her biological sleep rhythms are still maturing. You might do the exact same thing two days in a row and get completely different results. I understand the concern about creating bad habits, but right now you only need to make sure that your baby is well rested and well fed. Here are 5 tips for navigating through sleep during the first four months.
1. Be Safe. Always remember the “A,B,C’s of safe sleep”. Babies should sleep Alone, on their Back’s in their Crib (or bassinet).
Room sharing is safer than bed sharing and your baby will have some time to practice sleeping in her own space with you in the room.
2. Organize Day from Night. Open those blinds wide and get outside during the day. Expose your baby to a lot of sunlight during wake time and then make it dark when it is time to sleep (for naps, unless you are out, and at bedtime). During the night, keep interactions to a minimum when you can. Feed her, change her, give her some snuggles and help her fall back to sleep. Keep the chatting to a minimum (even though you just want to tell her how cute she is), this is a great habit to get into and it will help in the next month or so when her sleep becomes more organized.
3. Keep Short intervals of Wakefulness. Newborn babies sleep a lot – they can sleep 14-18+ hours and it can come in varying chunks throughout the day and night. A newborn can really only handle a wake time of between 30-90 minutes before needing sleep, and it might be a short nap, but sleep is sleep at this age. Watch the clock and help her if you need to. Most newborns can fall asleep anywhere, in a carrier, stroller, in the bassinet etc., so you can take advantage of this mobility and get out of the house when you are feeling up to it.
Closer to 2-4 months, her wakefulness periods will lengthen to 45-90 minutes, but you might find it harder for her to fall asleep. She is taking in the world and doesn’t recognize when she needs to sleep, so you need to watch the clock and watch her for her “tired cues”. What are some of the signs to watch for? She might start turning her head side to side (resisting sleep), rubbing her eyes or pulling on her ears.
I am sure you have received or you will receive the advice that you should keep your baby awake during the day so that she will sleep better at night – don’t do it!! An overtired baby has a harder time falling and staying asleep. Sleep begets sleep.
4. Practice and Playtime in the Crib. If you are not using the crib right away, then between 2 & 4 months, start giving your baby a chance to get used to it. It is important for her to have a consistent sleeping place and a space that is all hers. You love your bed, being able to stretch out and sleep however you want – she will get to that point too. If you still want her to sleep at arms reach near you for the night (in a bassinet or playpen etc), then offer naps in the crib. You can set up the crib in your master bedroom if you want to – just give her a chance to spend some time in it.
5. Soothing Routine. It is never too early to start your bedtime routine. Similar activities each night is going to send a cue her brain that sleep is coming next. What should be included in your routine? Change her diaper, put her into her pj’s and sleep sack or swaddle and then feed her. You can sing a song, or read a book, rock with her and cuddle – you can combine any number of these. Your routine does not have to be too long, and if you notice that she is getting fussy or turning away from the book then close it and get her into bed. At this point you are calming her and letting her know that it is time for sleep. If she is falling asleep during your routine then you can skip to the end and get her into bed.
Once you finish you routine (approximately 10-15 minutes) put her into her crib or bassinet and offer her the chance to drift off to sleep on her own. If, at the end of your routine she is upset and crying, you can help her sleep. There are no rules at this point other than our safety rule listed above.
After 4 months (calculated from her estimated due date) then you can let her work at falling asleep on her own for nights and naps, but right now, she might need some extra help, and you might enjoy the extra cuddles!
Bio: Jamie is a certified sleep consultant with Good Night Sleep Site Halton. Proud Mama of two boys. Jamie realized that her interest in helping change some of her son’s sleep habits actually turned into a passion and she happily joined the Good Night team with her mission being to help families succeed as she did. When she is not working, Jamie enjoys family time with her husband, sons and golden retriever.