Sleep: Making Your Life Easier from the Start!
July 21, 2016
As a new parent it's difficult to know what you should and shouldn't be doing.
Every child is unique and has a slightly different sleep pattern just like we do as adults. As much as I encourage you to be consistent and follow my guidelines I don't want you to be rigid, I stress that each child has their own individual needs and you need to listen to your child's cues. During the first few weeks a baby should determine his or her own feeding and sleeping schedule. After about 6 weeks I advise you to follow these guidelines to help you avoid pitfalls that can lead to many sleepless nights for you and your whole family.
- Be Consistent: Consistency makes a child feel safe and secure. They know what to expect and it teaches a child cause and effect. So if your child is tired, you put them down for a nap and you take them out 5 minutes later because they cried, you're teaching them to cry and they will be taken out of their crib.
- Establish a routine: Establish a feeding schedule, this will vary from child to child. Set a consistent bedtime and a nice bedtime routine. For example; have a nice bath, milk, books and then into bed.
- Don't be afraid to put your child down: Don't smother your child. Babies need a lot of love, affection and a need to be held but learn to put your child down. Children are very happy and content to be put down if you start this from the beginning.
- Avoid holding, rocking, swinging or bouncing your child to sleep: Put your baby down awake, they need to learn how to fall asleep on their own and in a calm, motionless environment.
- Always burp your baby well: Even if they are already sleeping you must burp your baby. Some babies actually don't need to burp but the majority do. Gas is one of the main reasons a baby will cry and it will often wake them while sleeping.
- Use a pacifier properly: Please don't put one in their mouth at every squeak. After all that's the only way your baby can communicate at an early age. Use it as little as possible, always remove it once they are asleep and take it away completely at 3 months.
- Don't feed on demand: Feeding on demand encourages your child to snack all day instead of getting a full meal. Breast milk has two consistencies the fore milk is the sweet sugary milk and the hind milk has the rich fat content which is needed for brain development. So if your child snacks all day they miss a lot of the rich hind milk.
- Learn the cry: Don't jump at every little noise your child makes. They are not always hungry when they cry. Just remember the only way babies communicate is through crying. So they could be telling you they are hungry, wet, dirty, gassy, tired, just uncomfortable or even bored. For instance if your child cries from gas pain and you feed them again thinking they are hungry you just compound the problem and actually make the gas worse.
- Don't feed your child as soon as they wake up: It's important to encourage your child to wake up content and happy to wait and play on their own while waiting for you to come. This encourages independence and better enables your child to self-soothe.
- Talk to your child: Communicate with them, tell them what you're doing whether it be bathing, feeding, changing their diaper or going on a trip. You may not think this is worthwhile at such a young age, but babies are smarter than we give them credit for. They may not fully understand you but the constant repetition and association makes them feel secure in the actions you're performing or taking. This is key and will also help develop your child's language skills.
When are there exceptions to these guidelines? If your child has been diagnosed with severe colic, acid reflux, your child is sick or otherwise under the physicians care and guidance.
Originally published in 2010.