New Baby: How to Help Baby Sleep Better
During the first few weeks after bringing a new baby home, the expression “sleep like a baby” certainly seems like the biggest misnomer in the world. Instead of the long, relaxed, undisturbed sleep the phrase implies, broken up sleep, sleepless nights and experiencing the day in a zombie-like waking state is closer to the truth.
Why Babies Sleep the Way they Do
The sad truth (sad for new parents, that is!) is that babies sleep very differently from adults do. This is because they have a different feeding schedule and different needs altogether. If adults need 6 to 8 hours of unbroken night sleep, newborn babies up to the first few weeks of life need about 16 to 18 hours, broken up into 3 or 4 hour segments, depending on whether you are breast or bottle feeding.
Their small tummies digest the milk fast and they need to eat every few hours or so. And so, mommies and daddies need to be up when they are as well so baby can get milk when baby asks for it.
Parents have to set their expectations realistically, especially at the beginning, to best deal with all the things they must contend with when it comes to newborns. The first and possibly most overwhelming of all is baby’s erratic sleep schedule.
It is important to understand that babies (or about half of them, at least) are born with a rather warped body clock which makes them night owls during the first few weeks (if you’re lucky) to the first few months of their lives. This is because when they were still in mommy’s tummy, they got lulled into sleep with the movements during the day and got more active in the night when things were calmer and steadier. Because of this, they need a few weeks to a month or so (although some kids can take to about 4-5 months) to develop a more stable (and saner) routine that parents can better live with.
There are a few things mommy and daddy can do to help baby sleep better and become less of a night owl:
Practical Tips For Helping Baby To Sleep
Shorter day naps. As much as possible mommy and daddy shouldn’t let baby sleep too long in the morning. Stick with the 3 or 4 hour interval and wake them for feeding or diaper change so they won’t snooze through their schedule. This way they can get longer sleep during nighttime.
- The truth about white noise. We naturally think that when it comes to baby’s sleep, the quieter, the better. But this isn’t necessarily true. When still inside the womb, the muffled sounds of everyday life served as their lullaby and so, out in the world, they can actually sleep better when there is white noise such as mommy’s voice, the vacuum cleaner, the whirring of a fan or say, a hair dryer. Since it’s quite impractical to keep the vacuum cleaner on all day so baby can sleep, some experts suggest a white noise CD for a deeper and longer slumber for baby.
- Watch the lighting. Make sure baby’s room is dark. Also, dimming the lights can help baby associate the lack of brightness with meaning that it is time to sleep. This can help make the transition for baby into night-sleeping faster and smoother.
- Mommy’s scent. Newborns recognize their mother’s scent at birth and this comforts and relaxes them. It helps for mommy to walk around with a baby blanket all day and make baby sleep with it at night so she can calmer and more relaxed. The same can be done for a favorite toy which can eventually serve as a sleep aide.
Just remember to take things slowly and allow yourself and baby some time to get adjusted. Don’t try to do everything on your own. Get assistance and when family and friends ask what they can do to help, let them relieve you for a few hours! Ask for some help, especially immediately after your baby is born. Transitioning into a new routine for you and your baby requires some patience and practice. Having someone come over to watch over your baby so that you can get in some much needed naps and rests can be very important for new moms. The stress of having an infant combined with lack of sleep can be quite demanding. So finding ways to reduce your overall stress will help you be able to deal with both the pleasures and the challenges of adjusting to your new life as a new mom.
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