I’ll admit it: When I was pregnant, I would roll my eyes whenever someone suggested that I ‘sleep now before the baby shows up.’ Didn’t they know I was up every hour to either go to the bathroom, feel my baby’s nocturnal karate chops, or worry about every big decision that seemed like it had to be made by daybreak? (Breast or bottle feed? Pacifier or no? Where will this tiny human go to preschool?!) Isn’t that what all moms-to-be were facing? While it may be a stretch to think we can stockpile sleep in the months leading up to babe’s arrival, following some of these simple tips might allow both you and your little one to get some much needed sleep when babe is finally here!
1. Full tummy
Make sure your baby is drinking enough milk (breast milk and/or formula). Full babies are happy babies; not only because they are never feeling hungry, but also because they are able to sleep longer stretches. Since babies grow so rapidly the first couple of months, you want to make sure that you are keeping up with the growing appetite (and growing stomach). As your little one grows and is able to take more calories during the day, they don’t need to wake up as often during the middle of the night. Ensuring full feeds also helps you stick to a good feeding routine during the day.
2. Avoid overstimulation
Overtired babies have trouble settling and transitioning to their REM cycles. What’s more, the better babies sleep during the day, the better they sleep at night. Sleep begets sleep. A babies wake window is SO short the first couple months of life and putting your baby down before they are overtired or overstimulated makes a huge difference. I always tell my clients, if you are seeing too many sleep cues (rubbing eyes, yawning, fussing, etc) you might be 5 or 10 min past their “ideal” bedtime. Same goes for older babies and toddlers – put them down before they get super fussy and you are most likely able to get more sleep out of them.
3. Make sure baby is pain free
You cannot expect a baby who is in pain or discomfort to sleep throughout the night or even sleep well during a nap. For example, if baby has reflux, you want to ensure that it’s under control. If baby is teething or sick, the pain needs to be managed, and if baby has gas pains give them something to help settle their tummies or pick them up to burp them. I know it’s impossible to read a baby’s mind but try and troubleshoot if your baby seems to be struggling more some days than others.
4. Put your baby down awake
Always try to put your baby down awake. It seems terrifying or even impossible at times, but it is a crucial element of getting baby to sleep through the night. If baby is able to put themselves to sleep at nap time and at night, s/he is much better prepared to put themselves back to sleep when they wake from different sleep cycles. When babies learn this sleep skill early on, typical sleep disrupters (like sickness and travel) are also not as big of a deal, and baby will continue to get good sleep during challenges like “wonder weeks” or “teething”. As every new mom knows- there is always something changing during the first year of your baby’s life.
5. Create a “Sleep Sanctuary”
You want to create the perfect sleep environment for your baby. It will not only look adorable, it will also be a sleep haven. This means the room should be pitch black (invest in the black out shades-they will be worth every cent!) not too hot or too cold (between 68-72 degrees) and have a loud sound machine that runs all nap/night long. The white noise should be loud enough that it soothes the baby and also blocks out outside noise. All these things will become sleep cues for your little one so no matter where they are sleeping, if you can create a similar environment they will feel more secure, and be more likely to sleep wherever they are!
Sweet dreams, mamas!