When your baby arrives into the world, we think of how cute and tiny they are. With their adorable faces and innocent smiles. It is hard not to marvel at the miracle of life. But many parents are not prepared for the lack of sleep and the struggle they may face. The earlier you introduce healthy sleep habits the easier life will be for you and your baby.
I recommend to make their room as dark as possible. The reason I suggest this is because at around 6 weeks of age they already know day and night and between 8-12 weeks of age babies start to produce their own melatonin, the sleep hormone, and this is far more readily produced in darkness.
I recommend white noise for all their naps. It needs to play continuously for the duration of their naps and overnight sleep if they are unsettled. This is effective all the way up until about 12 months old and can be particularly helpful for newborns as it simulates the sound they hear in the womb. It needs to be very loud to be effective.
I recommend swaddling until between 4-6months of age, as the Moro (startle) reflex is often still very strong up until around 3 months old and can cause disruption from sleep. I recommend an arms down swaddle or a large wrap.
Monitor awake times
To help encourage them to start to take more consistent naps it is important to look at the time they are awake between naps and ensure its age appropriate. The reason for this is we want them tired enough to sleep well, without being so overtired that they find it difficult to sleep at all. For a newborn, we look at around 45 mins to 1hour awake time. A new born can become overtired very quickly. I recommend you set a timer from the minute they are awake and set it for 45 minutes and watch closely for tired signs. By the time they are 3 months old their awake times will increase to 1.45hour and up to 2 hours at 4 months.
Tired signs are these: they have been looking at you or interacting with you, and suddenly they look away, they have lost attention; their eyelids begin to droop just a bit and it’s getting harder for them to keep their eyes open; they zone right out with a glazed look in their eye. They arch their back and begin to squirm. They yawn, you’d better have their swaddle ready for sleep, because, the window is closing and if they get a second wind, they will begin to cry, and you may have to wait to the end of their next awake cycle before they will be ready to go to sleep. And they will probably cry while you wait out that 90 minutes of this alert cycle.
What are assisted naps
If your baby is not sleeping for long stretches, anything less than 90 minutes of sleep is not a full nap, it is sometimes easier to hold your baby for a nap or go for a walk and let your baby fall asleep in a stroller or pop them in a front pack in order to artificially induce longer stretches of sleep. Offer some naps in the bassinet and some naps on the go until their sleep matures, this will give you the flexibility to keep them rested, while also allowing them to maintain good habits in their room and bassinet.
Why do we do assisted naps
For newborns the aim of the assisted naps is to get your baby used to sleeping for longer stretches, which will help them to sleep through the night as soon as they is physically able to.
When are assisted naps appropriate?
Assisted naps are great for newborns from birth up to around 3 months. After 3 months I encourage you to allow your baby to become familiar with their room and sleep environment so this is their sanctuary where they recognise this is their environment where they sleep.
How to stop assisted naps
It is important to stop assisted naps, otherwise this may become a sleep association for them. All babies stir or wake at the end of each sleep cycle, and need to be able to resettle themselves back to sleep each time in order to sleep for long stretches. Until your baby can fall asleep by themselves, they will continue to wake crying and need your help to fall back to sleep.
One of the key issues to address with self-settling is sleep associations. This means – what does your baby think they needs to fall asleep? If they have a sleep association that involves you they will think they need you to fall back to sleep.
The most age appropriate settling technique for new born is the shush pat. The shush pat does take time and dedication to be effective but is very easy to back off from when they have the hang of it and is a good ‘no cry’ approach to teaching them to sleep with assistance and then removing this.
If they are really really crying, once in their basinette, pat them firm and fast and continue until they begins to calm down, as they become calmer reduce your patting to a tick tock, tick tock as they gradually stops crying, leave your hand on them untill they are asleep.
If they are fully crying for 5 – 10 minutes pick them up and continue to pat them, on their side, in your arms. So what you are doing t is side settling them, as they calm down, say about 90 % asleep, place them in their basinette and continue to leave your hands on their until they are completely calm and fall asleep.They will begin to associate patting with falling asleep. At first this may be in your arms but untimately you will settle them in their basinette.
As they gets used to going to sleep with patting this will make backing it off much easier, as you get to a point wtheire you can give them a cuddle and light pat over your shoulder and this is their sleep cue, so you then pop them in their basinette fully awake and they will go to sleep.
Being consistent in your approach will ensure you are developing healthy sleep habits for your baby.