Sleep like a baby.
Right. Who came up with that phrase?
I feel like sleep is something that we don’t really worry about when we are pregnant. We think a lot about the health of our babies, will they be a boy or a girl, etc…
Then the baby is born and we switch gears to feeding. Breast, bottle, or maybe a combination. Each comes with its own set of challenges. But as mamas, we rise to the challenge, and figure out what works best for our baby.
This typically brings us to the three month mark. We have ran the marathon newborn period, high on adrenaline, working hard to adjust to life with a baby.
And all of a sudden you notice you are exhausted. Up multiple times a night for multiple weeks is taking a toll. You feel foggy all day and wonder if you will ever sleep again.
This blog will focus on some simple ideas you can incorporate into your baby’s world, to help make sleep easier, but I want you to know, sleep is a really personal subject. This blog is not about telling you how your baby you should sleep, that is up to you. “It is only a problem, if it’s a problem for you”, is our mantra, and you should too.
Sleep and feeding go hand in hand. If there is an underlying feeding issue, your baby won’t sleep. That is why it is really important to start with feeding and take a big look at how it is going.
If you are breastfeeding, is your baby gaining weight, settled in between feedings, and can you feed comfortably? Peeing and pooping okay? If you answered yes to all of these questions, great! If you answered no, start there. Reach out for support, as there is likely a solution to your feeding issue that will bring more sleep in itself!
If you are bottle feeding, the questions are almost the same! Is your baby gaining weight? Settled between feedings? Peeing and pooping okay?
If your answer is yes and you feel like feeding is going okay, start to work on teaching your baby to feed when she’s hungry. Watch for big sucks and swallows, and active sucking. When the sucking turns more to a flutter, this is your baby getting sleepy. Try breast compression (or if you are bottle feeding, stimulate the nipple in her mouth a little) a few times, and if the flutter sucking continues, burp and end the feed. This helps your baby learn to feed when she’s hungry and not suck to sleep. This is often a big association for babies and can be a big culprit of short naps and bedtime struggles. Focus on this at bedtime, in the middle of the night, and during the day.
Understanding your baby’s circadian rhythm is so important. If you have the timing wrong, your baby will cry and wake frequently. The secret is finding his or her sweetspot. You don’t want to put your baby down for sleep after the first yawn! You also don’t want to wait until she’s straight up crying, as we will have missed the window and will be dealing with an overtired baby! Try the MAMAS method to help guide your baby’s awake times.
M: Milk– Offer your baby milk when she wakes
A: Activity– This is when you play! It can look like a lot of things. Sitting and talking with your baby, playing with toys, reading books, going for a walk, anything!
M: More milk– Offer more milk.. Just make sure it isn’t too close to the nap! And make sure baby doesn’t doze through the feed.. Or that will be the nap! Note: This second “M” will become solids when your baby starts taking them consistently.
A: Activity– This is the nap routine. Something simple, and consistent.
You will know your baby is ready for sleep when you have to do a song and dance to keep her entertained. I am sure you have all been there- if you find yourself having to walk and bounce your baby to keep her from crying, she is likely tired and ready for sleep!
Lay your baby down awake
This is a tough one, and can sound really overwhelming to many mamas. But, if you have feeding and timing on track, it wont be as bad as you think. You can stay with your baby until she falls asleep, but teaching her to close her eyes in the sleep space you want her to sleep in will be a game changer.
Start at bedtime
Bedtime is the golden ticket for better sleep. Your baby secretes melatonin at bedtime, making sleep come easier. Start here, and not at naps. Once you baby masters bedtime, work on nights and then naps.
Support is key
The amount of information on sleep on the internet is overwhelming. Wading through it can be tough and leave you feeling stressed. If you need more support, reach out! As RNs, we assess the entire picture before starting to ensure the process is easier and less stressful.
Lastly, give yourself grace. You are exactly what your baby needs, and you are doing a better job than you think. Sending you so much love and support!
Carrie Bruno is a Registered Nurse, IBCLC Lactation Consultant, Sleep coach and founder of the North American company, The Mama Coach. The Mama Coach is a group of Registered Nurses committed to making motherhood easier by providing prenatal and postnatal education and support.