There is one conversation almost everyone with a new baby has and it goes a little like this; ‘Aww, new baby, how adorable, congratulations. Are they a good sleeper?’. And if it’s your first baby, you're probably wondering ‘what does that even mean?’. And we completely concur: what DOES that even mean!?
We recently caught up with baby sleep specialist, Karen Johnson, of Little Petal’s Sleep Solutions; to get the low down on all things baby and sleep and to give us some tips to help your baby become a ‘good sleeper’.
Karen is a marvel; she has TWO sets of twins (yes you read that correctly) and has worked as a sleep school nurse for nearly a decade. Karen has helped countless parents and babies catch some seriously good z’s and she has helped us pull together these top tips for a well rested baby.
Know when to put them to sleep. Look out for tired signs and react to them. These are your baby’s way of telling you they are tired so you can act on it. Tired signs for newborn babies can include pulling their ears, balling their fists, yawning, fluttering eyelids or having trouble focusing – your baby might even seem to go a little cross eyed, jerking their arms or legs, arching their back, sucking their fingers to settle themselves. These are common signals, but every baby is different and as you get to know one another, these signs will tell you when its time to make your way to the Nursery.
Let them fall asleep by themselves. Ideally you pop your baby down to sleep in their cot. It doesn’t mean you are not there to support them. It is so very tempting to rock them to sleep in your fabulous new nursing chair. We know it is lovely to watch them drift off in your arms and sometimes it’s okay to savour that sleepy baby deliciousness, but if that’s how they are used to going to sleep, that is what they may require for each sleep cycle they wake for. Including the middle of the night…...repeatedly! Popping your baby into their cot to sleep may save you lots of rocking, rolling and shushing later.
Know how much sleep they need. Becoming familiar with optimal amounts of sleep for great development is useful. A newborn baby, if they are feeding every 3-4 hours will generally only be awake for one of those hours. So feed, play for an hour, sleep for two-three and repeat. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but a general guide. Also, leave them to linger in their cot when they start to stir. A stirring baby doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to get up, they might just drift back to sleep in their cot.
Avoid the over tired or over stimulated baby. When your baby starts to show their tired signs, put them to sleep. If you’re out and about and the cot isn’t an option, a sleep in the pram is absolutely fine. If you try to keep them awake and happy, particularly with well meaning but poorly timed visitors looking for baby snuggles; baby will likely end up both overtired and overstimulated. From here, it can be harder to wind them down for a good quality sleep.Look after yourself. We cannot stress this enough! A well rested parent is truly more helpful to a baby. It seems like a HUGE ask and we know many new Mums and Dads find this difficult to comprehend. It is OK to rest while your baby sleeps! Even if you don’t utilise nap time to sleep yourself, take the time to fill your ‘contented cup’ with things that rejuvenate you. We know that leaving the dirty dishes and not folding the growing pile of washing is difficult and you may feel like you’re being lazy. But! it is so important to cut yourself some slack. You JUST CREATED A LIFE – the washing can wait. It is much easier to tackle the challenges of new parenthood if you are well rested and fulfilled. Calm and happy parents, calm and happy baby.
More fantastic baby sleep tips here at Karen's 'Little Petals' website.