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Newborn Sleep Guide

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Recently I was approached by the physician assistant at our pediatricians office about helping them update their materials to give to patients. I was pretty excited for some updated info...and honored to be ask to contribute!

As all of you know, I'm a "Babywise Mom." I read the book. I follow the method. My pediatrician's office has seen all three of my kids from birth, they know how much I value sleep! The first thing she asked me to write was a quick-reference sleep guide for new parents. I remember being a new mom. I felt CLUELESS. I would have loved to have gone to my baby's first dr visit and be given some good tips on helping him to sleep from the start. I tried to channel that inner-first-time-mom when writing this guide and, so far, she's had great responses from the new parents she gives them to. It was tricky to make a one-page guide for a topic I'm so passionate about! What are some tips you would recommend to a new parent when it comes to sleep training?

The following suggestions will help establish good sleep habits for your baby. A “newborn” is considered a baby under 2 weeks old. By following these guidelines most babies will naturally fall into a 3 hour schedule by the time they are 2 weeks old and will be on the path towards sleeping through the night!

·   Feed On Demand: For the first two weeks be sure to feed your baby on demand, with a maximum of 3 hours between feedings. That time measures from the start of one feeding to the start of the next feeding. Wake your baby if you need to in order to feed them at the 3 hour marker. Many babies will want to eat even sooner than that! A newborn should be eating at least 8 times in a 24 hour period.

·   Focus on Full Feedings: Keep your baby awake! Tickle the feet, do skin-to-skin, do whatever it takes to get them eating during feeding times. A full feeding should typically take around 40 minutes (20 per side on average). This takes time and practice; don’t become frustrated if it’s difficult to keep your baby awake to eat!

·   Start Eat-Wake-Sleep Cycle: Right when your baby wakes, feed them. Then have them stay awake during the feeding and for a few minutes following the feeding (usually this will only be long enough for a quick diaper change) then put them right back to sleep again. Most newborns can only handle 30-60 min total awake time, which includes the time it takes for their feeding.

·   Put Down to Sleep: Try to limit holding the baby while sleeping. Put the baby in their crib or bassinet to sleep. This will help them get used to sleeping on their own and will create a better sleeper from the start!

·   Swaddle: There are many different types of swaddles available. Swaddle your baby at each nap and at nighttime sleep. This mimics the womb and will help them sleep more solid.

·   Avoid Sleep Props: When considering introducing a sleep prop, such as a pacifier, think long term. Are you going to be ok with reinserting the pacifier several times a night for many months? It’s also important to feed a newborn on demand and using a pacifier will make it more difficult to tell when the baby is hungry. Part of sleep training is helping a baby to learn to self soothe and a pacifier will quickly become a “must have” item for sleep rather than the baby being able to sleep on their own.

·   Watch for Gas: If your baby is crying and holding their legs up then they are probably gassy. Gas is the typical cause for sleep problems in a newborn. Be sure to burp well, offer gas drops if needed, and pump their legs to help relieve gas pains. Visiting a local chiropractor can also be very helpful. 

·   White Noise: Have some sort of white noise in the baby’s room to help them sleep and to help block out other sounds of the house. A box fan works great and is an inexpensive option!

·   Consistent Sleep Conditions: Have your baby sleep in the same place for each nap and at night. Be sure the room is dark (black out curtains work wonderfully).

·   Difference between Night and Day:  Help your baby learn when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake by keeping the house bright and comfortably noisy (talking etc) when the baby is eating. When it’s time for sleep be sure to have it dark and quiet.

·   Take Care of Yourself: Rest and limit housework. Focus on taking baths and sleeping and caring for your new baby! This will help you recover quicker and also benefit your baby, as you will be able to provide for them at your very best!

   If you are looking for more help with newborn sleep I wrote this post on starting Babywise from birth. 

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