Sleep is a topic that is always in conversation with a new Mom. Does my baby sleep enough? When will my baby sleep through the night? Why is he up all night but sleeps all day? Why is it that my baby only sleeps in the swing? And the list of questions can go on and on. The reality is that no one knows exactly what is going on in your baby’s mind but what we can do is try to reinforce good sleep habits from early on.
This topic can be very controversial, so we will stay away from discussing the Cry It Out method or Co-sleeping as these concepts can become too heated and we believe that you should do what you feel is best for your family without judgement.
Think of your baby’s patterns of activity while she was in your belly. Was she restful at night or awake? Wasn’t it just when you were ready to drift off to dreamland that baby decide to bust a move? Your constant movement throughout the day relaxed your baby and lulled her to sleep but when you laid to rest, that lovely rocking motion she felt all day went away, so it was party time. Once baby is out of the belly, what would make you think the cycle would be different?
A few things you can do to help the baby switch the night wake up cycle to days is to create an atmosphere that is restful for baby during the day when it's time to sleep. Talk to her during the day and engage with her while she seems alert yet change your approach when you suspect baby is getting tired. Encourage sleep by paying attention to the signs your baby is showing that she is getting tired. Signs can be sucking, fussing, looking away from you, wriggling, clenching fists, among others. When you note any of these, its time to help baby get some rest. You may want to keep the room slightly darkened during that time and don’t be too active with baby when showing signs of tiredness. At night, keep the room dark and quiet and avoid much interaction to start to teach baby that the night time is for rest.
The most important tip we can give is to remember that sleep induces sleep. If the sleep during the day is not great, the sleep at night will not be either. Baby will be overtired and restless setting up a difficult pattern to break.
Newborns can sleep anywhere from 16-18+ hours per day. Try to allow for that sleep. Limiting visitors and too much stimulation might be a good idea for those first few weeks. While we know this might be hard to do, in the long run, your baby's sleep habits will be better off. If visitors must come, then try to avoid the game of “pass the baby” so that the baby can keep his sleep uninterrupted.
As well, If your baby is often in a swing, bouncy seat, or a car seat while sleeping; chances are she is getting used to “motion” sleep. While any sleep is good sleep, baby may start to crave the feeling of motion to get herself to sleep and may struggle when there is no movement. Be careful not to set up too many motion expectations for baby like rocking her to sleep each night. By following her cues that she’s tired, she may be able to blissfully quiet herself into sleep without relying on motion to aid her. That being said, don’t avoid snuggling with your little one, just know that too much motion can become a crutch in your baby’s sleep routine.
Babies between 3-12 months sleep an average of 14 hours throughout the day. To get consistent sleep for your little one, attempt to develop a night-time routine that differentiates night sleep from nap time. Perhaps a warm bath, a quick book, maybe a little baby massage and bed time at night. Setting expectations for your baby with a daily routine will help him understand in his body what you are trying to help him to do, which is sleep well for his sake and yours.
Each and every baby is different so we always suggest that you find what works best for your baby and family. Every baby will sleep through the night at a different age and may have some “slip-ups” from time to time with the milestones they reach and if they have a period where they are not feeling well. Get to know your baby’s cues and what she is telling you instead of trying to conform to a specific method and you will find what works best. It may take a little time but you WILL get there. As always, if you have questions about your baby’s development, consult your Pediatrician.
Cheers to a full night of sleep, it will eventually happen!