How to help your newborn to sleep “better”
This week I am publishing a guest post from Kathryn Stimpson, a Sleep Consultant. Sleep is certainly something I don't get enough of and I think that's something I would change my approach to if I could go back in time. Here she shares her expertise.....
I’ve just spent the last few hours creating our unborn baby’s “Newborn Sleepless Survival Plan”. Yes, I know this probably seems very regimented, but you see when your first born was the biggest sleep thief going, you really do want to hit the ground running with promoting good quality sleep from day 1.
I know exactly what you are thinking “But newborns are not supposed to sleep”, to which you are 100% right. Newborns do not have a circadian (daily) rhythm until they reach around 12 weeks, meaning they won’t know the difference between night and day until then.
In addition to this, the transition from womb to world is huge, also known as the fourth trimester. Newborns have come from a dark, warm, wet space where they were constantly fed and watered, to suddenly being a completely unfamiliar world where it is bright for some of the day, cold and dry. They now also have to navigate a new feeling in their tummies, known as hunger. It is safe to say that this new-found hunger is one of the contributing factors to their night wakings.
So, what can you do to help your newborn to sleep better? In all honesty, at this stage the emphasis is on helping your baby to transition to the world we live in, as well as establishing excellent sleep hygiene and behaviours from birth into early childhood. Here are my 5 top tips taken from Duckling’s (What Oliver calls his baby sister to be) sleep plan.
The womb had distinct sounds which became familiar for your baby, for instance digestive noises and the sound of your heartbeat. There was constant background noise which when you consider our world at night, it is usually (and quite rightly so) is nice and quiet. I recommend using pink noise to replicate the sound of the womb for the first few months of your baby’s life. This type of noise is different to white noise which can be quite harsh, whereas pink noise is more rhythmic and slightly softer. If you have a smart phone, you can download a pink noise app or use a CD through the night to give your baby reassurance once they wake through their sleep cycles.
Our sling was a godsend during the unsettled and sleepless newborn days. I remember many of times wearing it around the house to cook dinner or even go to the loo! It was also very useful when Oliver napped for just 29 minutes a day. Whilst your newborn is making the transition from womb to world, you may find it useful for them to be close to you to fall asleep. She will be able to hear your heartbeat and feel your warmth, which is a baby step towards a nap, whereas heading straight for a cold flat surface such as their crib can feel totally alien to them. You can always move her from sling to crib once she is asleep.
Skin to Skin
Being Skin to Skin with your baby is the best feeling in the world, plus it has various benefits for both mother and baby. In terms of newborn sleep, your naked skin allows your baby to feel your warmth and hear your heartbeat, which again helps with the fourth trimester. As with baby wearing, you can always transfer your little one to their crib once they are asleep if you prefer. I would recommend doing this during the day, falling asleep with your baby on your chest is not safe and has the risk of your baby falling off the bed or getting trapped somewhere as they fall off.
Day and night
Although newborns cannot know the difference between night and day, there are various strategies you can put in place to help them learn the difference. Firstly, make sure day time is bright and with plenty of background noise (usually quite easy with a toddler running around). Ensure night time is dark, quiet with no talking so that your baby can begin to learn the difference between night and day sleep behaviours.
Temperature is key to both triggering sleep and also for safe sleep. A cooler room at 16-18 degrees with appropriate layers on is the most ideal temperature to protect against SIDS and also help your baby to fall asleep. Make sure heating is switched off in bedrooms unless the room is under 16 degrees and needs the chill taken off it. Be sure that your newborn does not feel too hot or cold as this will affect their sleep, the easiest way to do this is by feeling their chest.
There are my 5 top tips on how to help your newborn to sleep better, if you would like further tips on advice on promoting good quality sleep for your baby, then download my free E-Book “Six Core Steps to Sleep Success”.
About the Author:
Kathryn Stimpson lives in Norfolk, East Anglia with her husband Jonno and son Oliver. She is The Mumpreneurs Sleep Consultant, helping mums in business (and their children) to sleep through the night so they can be happier and healthier. To find out more about Kathryn, take a look at her website or reach out on Facebook!