Sleep. We all need it, and babies need a lot of it! So...why do they seem to fight it so hard?
Passing out from exhaustion is not a sustainable way to ensure your body has the rest it needs, and that is why helping our children learn how to sleep is an important part of their first year of life.
For babies younger than 4 months, it is not recommended to introduce sleep teaching, or sleep training. But don't fret - there are still ways to help your littles. Here are some not-so-secret secrets to helping your baby while they are in their first months of life!
Routine VS. Schedule
For parents who are weary and trying to understand how they can help their infants with sleep, one way to give them comfort and increased secure attachment to his or her caregiver is to have a routine. A routine is not a schedule.
A routine is a predictable plan that your child can become accustomed to. It helps them understand what is going on around them, it can introduce them to words that are associated with specific activities, and it can prepare them for what is coming next.
For instance, infants older than a month, and younger than 4 who are at a healthy weight can usually begin a generalized routine of sleeping, eating, and "playing." Playing can also be awake time where your child is exploring their surroundings.
This gental routine does not need to have specific times associates with it to be effective. A routine is not a schedule.
When sleeping, try to place your child to sleep in the same location and beging a sleep routine. You can tell them it's time to take a nap, then draw the drapes together, turn on a sound machine, change their diaper, swaddle them for comfort, and lay them down.
When it's time to eat, you can feed them in the same chair or location of the house.
When it's time to be awake, it is not in the area where they sleep to help signify the difference.
It may seem silly, but your baby will pick up on these cues!
Watch for Signs of Sleepiness - And Make Naps a Priority
Babies need a lot of sleep! And they will let you know when things are beginning to be overwhelming if you watch and learn to interpret the signs.
A tired baby may start to be irritated, may not be able to settle, or may make more obvious cues like yawning and rubbing their eyes. If these occur, begin your sleep routine!
Babies from 0-3 months old need a recommended 14-17 hours of rest a day, including naps! For young babies, it may feel like they are sleeping again right after they ate - which is not a typical - eating food can mean they are expending an incredible amount of energy!
In line with learning cues - being sensitive and aware of how easily a baby can become overtired is a way to help them learn to sleep without needing a bottle or nursing session to settle down.
Having several restful sessions of sleep during the day will help with more restful sleep at night.
It may seem counterintuitive - but sleep begets more sleep for young ones.
Having knowledge that your baby is satisfied nutritionally can give peace of mind to know they are not fussy because of hunger. If you are a nursing mother, it becomes important to make it clear when your baby is nursing for nutrition, and when they are nursing for comfort.
There are many ways to keep track of feedings both electronically and traditionally (with paper!)
Tools we love are Baby Connect - available for both iPhone and Android, and Everyday Mother*.
*Discount code for 10% off Everyday Mother order: "BAARIEL"
Try to Avoid Comparisons
While having feedback from other parents is helpful, and recommendations for what you should do can be a great guide, your baby may not respond well to what worked for another baby. Even if it was a sibling! The first months are not only for your baby to begin to understand the world around them, but also to learn and develop trust in you! You also are learning about this new individual. Guides are just that - guides. Just like one position may not be good to help burp your baby, it makes sense to try a new method, not believe your baby is broken.
Your baby may need help to figure out to sleep soundly, but you are there to offer comfort, preditability, and safety. You can do it!
Patience and Help
Learning your baby will require patience. To have it, you may need help to delegate other responsibilities, or to have a break yourself.
As the adults, we have the cognitive ability to reason, and choose how we want to respond in situations. We we are tired, it makes responding appropriately more difficult.
If you need sleep, you need help. Help to re-prioritize, help to complete tasks, or help to reduce the worry and possible shame associated with life a new expanded family.
Nannies, doulas, family support, and regular self care are ways "successful" parents have learned to acquire the help needed. The myth of the "do-it-all" parent simply won't go away. That parent is hanging on by a thread. We want to help you weave a healthy and stable safety net of support so both you and your child have what they need.
Written by Ariel Swift
Ariel Swift (she/her) does most of the writing around this blog, but we love having guest writers and visits!