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7 Gentle, Natural Ways To Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Better

 
7 Ways To Gently Naturally Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep

Fact: newborns and young infants aren’t usually the best sleepers, what with the waking every few hours to eat and all. That’s why the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ is so misleading, in my opinion! ;)

Understandably, parents often become very interested in how to help their newborns sleep pretty soon after delivery. The thing is, newborns and young babies aren’t ready for sleep coaching (we usually advise waiting on that until baby is at least 4 months old and have moved past the 4 month sleep regression).

Don’t let that make you feel hopeless, though – just because your newborn is too young for sleep coaching doesn’t mean you’re destined to endure months of sleeplessness. There are steps you can take to naturally, gently encourage your newborn to sleep better.

And that’s what we’re looking at today! Below are 7 ways you can naturally and gently promote better sleep for your newborn. Let’s take a look!

7 Ways To Gently, Naturally Encourage Your Newborn Baby To Sleep Better (and Longer!)

  1. Go for a walk with your baby. Turns out your grandmother was right – fresh air really does help children sleep better! Once your baby is a few weeks old, you can start incorporating a daily walk, or some time spent sitting outdoors. This will go far towards helping improve sleep at night and during naps.
  2. Give infant massage a try. We’ve written before about the benefits of infant massage in improving baby sleep, but we’ll say it again – infant massage is an easy and natural way to help your newborn relax, which in turn can help promote better sleep. Not only that, but infant massage can improve digestion (great for colicky newborns), strengthen the mother-child bond, and even aid growth and development!
  3. Keep days bright and nights dark. Newborns aren’t born knowing that days are for playing and nights are for sleeping – in fact, many newborns have their days and nights mixed up, and sleep for long stretches during the day while being up every hour at night! You can gently, naturally correct this by making sure that your baby is exposed to sunlight during the day (not direct sunlight, but rather filtered sunlight in a bright, sunny room). In addition, work to keep nights dark – keep the room dim during diaper changes and feedings, for example. Over time, this will help re-set your newborn’s circadian rhythms and guide her towards sleeping long stretches at night and napping during the day.
  4. Cluster feed in the evening. It’s perfectly natural for newborns and young babies to ‘tank up’ on feeds in the evening, and to feed more frequently than they do during the the rest of the day. While cluster feeding can feel overwhelming for mom and dad (especially for mom, if she’s nursing – she may feel like she needs to camp out on the couch for hours every night!), many experts agree that cluster feeding is a natural part of the newborn stage. In fact, many agree that newborns do this as a way to get in a longer stretch of sleep at night- many babies will sleep their longest stretch of the day after cluster feeding! So if you’re looking to promote longer, better nighttime sleep, cluster feeding is a good strategy.
  5. Keep baby close. We don’t mean simply holding or wearing your baby (more on that in a moment). Keep baby close at night, too – consider sharing a room with your baby, and having your baby sleep near your bed in a bassinet or small crib. There are lots of benefits to having your newborn nearby at night – it can make middle of the night feedings more convenient, for one. But research indicates that room-sharing is more than convenient; babies who room-share and sleep close to mom have actually been shown to sleep better. They tend to cry less and sleep longer. They also tend to have slightly lower rates of SIDS. For these reasons, the AAP actually recommends room-sharing as the best sleeping arrangements for babies. Of course, room-sharing isn’t for everyone; there are definite pros and cons to sharing a room with your baby. As always, we recommend you find a sleeping arrangement that works best for your unique situation.
  6. Strive for adequate daytime naps. If your newborn or young baby is up every hour, all night long, then you’ve no doubt toyed with the idea of keeping him up more during the day, in the hopes that it will encourage him to sleep better at night. Be wary of this line of thinking – generally, babies who don’t nap well during the day actually sleep worse at night, because they are overtired! Yes, it’s important that your newborn have some awake time during the day (this helps correct any newborn day/night confusion). However, your newborn’s awake time should be relatively short (no more than 45-60 minutes, generally), and your newborn should take plenty of naps during the day.
  7. Carry/wear your baby. Nothing is more soothing for baby than being held close to mom or dad. Consequently, most newborns sleep best when they are in mom’s or dad’s arms, or held snugly in a baby sling. This is especially true for colicky babies – baby wearing is a great way to soothe colic! Remember that holding your baby, or wearing her around the house, certainly are not permanent sleep solutions. Rather, these are short-term strategies that will help maximize your baby’s (and your) sleep during those first few months after birth.

Need Newborn Sleep Help? You Came To The Right Place – Check Out These Resources!

Essential Keys to Newborn SleepNeed help encouraging your newborn to sleep better, and to sleep longer stretches at night and during the day? We have a great resource designed to do just that. Check out Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, the latest e-Book from The Baby Sleep Site®. Available in PDF format as well as a variety of e-reader formats, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is the tired parents’ #1 newborn resource. Developed by Nicole and Miriam (a lactation consultant, nurse, and Baby Sleep Site® sleep consultant), Essential Keys lays out everything you need to know about helping your baby to sleep better right from the start. It also includes information on feeding (both breast and bottle), baby communication, bonding with baby, daily routines, sample sleep schedules, and more. Download your copy today!
 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant, as well as access to ALL our newborn resources. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
 

Interested in personalized, one-on-one help for your newborn? Why not consider one of our personalized sleep consulting packages? Our consultations allow you to work directly with one of our expert sleep consultants, and to get a Personalized Sleep Plan™ that will work for your family.

First, browse our extensive list of package options and select the one that looks best for your situation.
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Have questions about how to help your newborn sleep well? Ask, and we’ll answer! Want to offer sleep tips with other parents? Share them below, in the comments section!

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7 Tips for Better Baby Sleep in 2012

Baby Sleep 2012Happy New Year! The last year has flown by for a lot of us, in some ways, and really dragged in others, especially if your baby hasn’t been sleeping. When you’re not getting good sleep, days feel terribly long, sometimes. You know what I’m talking about if your baby was part of the Massive Recall of 2011 Babies. :D It’s time to take a look into our future and see what we can do to improve sleep in 2012! Here are 7 tips to make sure 2012 is a year of better baby sleep for your baby and your whole family:

1. Be realistic

All babies will not sleep through the night at the same age, weight, or other arbitrary quality. Your baby is unique and may be 6 months or 8 months or 13 months old when she finally sleeps through the night. Once you do start “working” on sleep, your baby may or may not respond as quickly as some of the lucky few who have success in one or two nights. I wish they all did, but frankly, if they did, I wouldn’t have this site because my own son would not have been as challenging as he was and I wouldn’t have had to obsess about his sleep as much as I did! Please have realistic expectations for your baby that while he may respond in a few days to a week, he might not or he will and then backslide. If you are realistic, you will have less frustration and more success, since you are less likely to give up before he has time to learn. This is especially true for slow-to-adapt babies. It’s easy to read through our testimonials and get very excited that we can help you overnight, but that will only be true for some of you. Our track record is good, but some parents send just one e-mail, receive a sleep plan, and away they go, while others consult with us for 30 days where we can touch base very frequently to tweak their plan. A family’s solution is as unique as their baby, sometimes.

2. Be consistent

Boring, I know. “Consistency is key” is something we all hear all too frequently, but I can’t emphasize this enough. When we read through family histories, certain things jump out at us and lack of consistency is a huge factor. Sometimes it’s not your fault. It’s hard to know when to feed, when not to feed, when it’s okay to rock them to sleep, when you should try to have them learn to fall asleep on their own, etc. If your toddler is playing with the trash can, if you sometimes let him and sometimes not, he won’t understand the rules and what’s expected from him. Look at it from their perspective to see how your inconsistency could be confusing your baby. This typically increases crying, rather than lessens it, and none of us want that.

3. Make smaller goals

One helpful step you can make is to set (realistic) goals for your baby’s sleep. Even better to choose baby steps in sleep training. If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s very hard to find a path there. And, you should be more specific than making “sleeping through the night” your goal. That is too broad and you may be disappointed. You might first decide “Go to sleep without breastfeeding.” Then, you might say “Wakes up for less than 4 night feedings.” And, so on. Make smaller goals to help yourself see progress and avoid giving up before you achieve your granddaddy goal.

4. Make a plan

After you make your goals, decide on how you’ll achieve those smaller goals. If you’re going on a road trip across country, most people make some sort of plan. Some of us will plan it down to the finest details, including where we will eat a meal or go potty or what specific hotel to stay in. Some of us might make loose plans such as what city we’ll stay for the night, but if we are making good time, we might go further or, if we are tired, stop sooner. We see a lot of different personalities in our personal consultations. Some need to know every little detail about what they need to do and ask a lot of “What if?” questions (which is a big reason why we’re here!) while others don’t. Whether you are type A or type B or go where the wind blows you, success usually starts with a plan, even if it’s not super detailed.

5. Take the first step

Once you have your plan, taking that first step is often the hardest. Very often we build up how terrible sleep training will be in our head and, often, it’s worse in our head than in reality (unfortunately, not always). We’re afraid we’ll be sleep training a tortoise and we’ll feel guilty because our baby won’t sleep because it’s our fault and how guilty we feel that we’re changing the “rules.” The first step in solving any problem is usually the most difficult (usually admitting there is a problem or that you need help), but one of the most important.

6. Gather Your Support

Whether it’s another friend going through a similar situation, your partner/spouse, a friend on Facebook, your parent helping you through, or us, one thing that helps you succeed in making a big change in your life is your support network. Holding yourself accountable by “checking in” with someone also helps you succeed. So, try to get your support lined up before you start. Someone who is non-judging if you make mistakes and someone who can empathize.

7. Expect backsliding

No doubt that just when you figure out the first thing, a second thing pops up: “She was sleeping great and then learned to roll! AAAHHH!” When we potty train, we are not surprised by accidents, so I’m not sure why parents sometimes expect perfect sleep after sleep training. Your sleep training progress might look more like a roller coaster than climbing to the top of a mountain.

Only you can make the changes that your family needs to thrive in 2012. I hope these 7 tips can help get you started. And, if new year’s resolutions is what inspires you to take that first step, then just make sure you are one of the (only) 50% who will stick to them. ;)

How Will You Make 2012 a Year of Better Baby Sleep?

If you’re looking for ways to to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

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November is Prematurity Awareness Month

Premature Awareness MonthLast year, I wrote about World Prematurity Awareness Day and how it just didn’t seem like it was near enough to raise the level of awareness needed about premature births. In the US, the entire month of November is dedicated to being Prematurity Awareness Month. For the entire month of November, the March of Dimes will work to help the nation to focus it’s attention on premature births. The March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Awareness Campaign in 2003 and since then they have made significant strides in raising awareness about premature births and in working towards reducing the rate of premature births but there is still a long way to go. Recent news reports that the premature birth rate is down slightly to 12.2% but still quite far from the March of Dimes goal of 9.6% by the year 2020.

Premature Birth Facts:

  • 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely in the United States
  • Worldwide, 13 million babies are born prematurely
  • Premature births are the number on killer of babies
  • Premature babies are at risk for severe health problems and lifelong disabilities.

As part of National Prematurity Awareness Month, The March of Dimes has released 2011 Premature Birth Report Cards by State. Overall the United States has a grade of “C” when it comes to preventing premature births. You can click here to view the map to see how your state ranks for preventing premature births. It’s rather alarming that we only have one state with a grade of “A” and four states have a grade of “F.” Clearly, much more still needs to be done towards working to prevent premature births in the United States.

November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day. World Prematurity Day is set aside as one way to honor the million babies who die each year from being born too soon along with 12 million who struggle to survive. See inspiring stories and get updates on Facebook by joining the World Prematurity Day Facebook page.

How you can help:


How will you help to raise awareness about premature births?

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Why Prematurity Awareness Can’t Even Get a Day

premature developmentLast Wednesday, November 17th, I turned 37 years old, where I will remain for the next 10 years. ;) Last Wednesday was also Prematurity Awareness Day. Yes, you read that right. It was Prematurity Awareness Day. Unfortunately, one day is not enough to raise awareness about this very important topic. Actually, not even a month, but here’s why it can barely even get a day.

Sadly, over half a million babies will be born premature every year in the United States alone and 40% will be for unknown reasons. This will affect a premature baby’s development (sleep-wise and otherwise) and, often, her health. Sometimes it’s even fatal. :(

You would think that with that many babies born prematurely, we would have heard a lot more about prematurity awareness this month. But, we didn’t. I finally received this link on Facebook, because a few of my “Facebook friends” have had premature babies.

So, why can’t Prematurity Awareness even get a day?

First, take a look at this list of “special months”: List of Special Months. I mean, really? January is California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month and National Hot Tea Month? February is Weddings Month? Isn’t the most popular month for a wedding in the summer? March is Sing with Your Child Month? I mean, shouldn’t we sing with our kids all the time? May is Good Car-Keeping Month? Huh?

Now, I don’t want to offend anyone if you are passionate about some of these special months, but it seems like all of these different “special months” dilute efforts that can be made on topics such as Prematurity Awareness, which will save lives.

Second, although 500,000 babies being born premature is a lot of babies, it’s “only” 12.5% of babies (there are over 4 million born per year in the U.S.), so not as many parents are directly affected by it (which is good), which makes eduction on the subject harder and it’s harder to make people listen. When it comes to other causes like Breast Cancer Awareness, many people have been touched one way or another by it: a grandmother, mother, wife, aunt, sister (like mine who died from it the year I got married), daughter, friend, or co-worker, to name a few.

As my friend said, being in the NICU is not for the faint of heart and losing a baby must be one of the hardest things a person can go through. Yes, losing my sister was hard, but a baby that you carried for months in your womb, whom you thought you’d watch grow older and give you grandchildren one day? I can’t even fathom it. Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, mother of preemies, and writer, says

“…I am really interested in promoting awareness, because before I delivered three premature babies and after 3 months in the NICU brought only two boys home from the hospital I had no idea prematurity was as terrible as it really is. I mean I knew it a happened a lot, I delivered many premature babies myself, but I never really appreciated the magnitude of the problem. I never appreciated the devastation. For us, the NICU stay was like a marathon through hell, but just when we got home we realized that those first 26.2 miles were just the warm up because surprise, we’re really signed up for an ultra-marathon in hell. Parting gifts include cerebral palsy and bronchopulmonary dysplasia.”

You can imagine that if it was hard for an OB/GYN, who saw a lot of premature babies born, to grasp the magnitude of the problem, that it needs a lot of education to the ill-informed. Even though I’ve never personally experienced the birth of a premature baby, and even though you may not have a premature baby, wouldn’t it be something if we could help another parent who did/does? Sometimes, even if it hasn’t touched our own lives, we still need to act, not for us, but for the babies, many of whom who will go on to have health problems from their premature birth. At minimum, we can raise awareness and reduce the number of premature births. After all, if it did happen to you, wouldn’t you want to feel less alone?

Lastly, I know how hard it is to actually get your voice heard. Building this website has given me first-hand knowledge about how difficult it really can be to a) Get Google to find you (we are now over 80,000 visits per month! Yeah!), b) Get people to stay and read (average is 2 minutes), c) Get people to open e-mails (why the link to this article went in my newsletter titled “How Thanksgiving Will Affect Your Baby’s Sleep” and nothing to do with prematurity), and d) Get people to act (click on a link, forward to a friend, etc.). So, in order for Prematurity Awareness to get the attention it deserves, it will take marketing, educating, and people sharing/acting. I don’t know who “organizes” all of these special months, but without a force behind it, the news stories won’t cover it, there won’t be ribbons to pin on our shirts, or “races for the cure.” It will continue to be just another item on the list of special months.

How you can help:

  • Learn the causes of premature births, so you can educate not only yourself, but your friends, families, coworkers, and anyone who will listen.
  • Learn that you can reduce your risks by getting prenatal care, spreading out your births by 18 months (if your first was a preemie), and talk to your doctor about progesterone supplements.
  • Share this on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail the link, so other people know it’s Prematurity Awareness Day Month.
  • Consider a donation to March of Dimes

If you are a parent of a preemie, here are a couple of resources:

So, tell me. Will you help this cause stand out among the endless list of “special months” by sharing this article and your new found knowledge?

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Prematurity Awareness Month

Babies PrematureNovember is March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Month! Many babies (roughly 1,400 per day!) are born premature in the U.S. alone and unfortunately, the numbers are increasing rather than decreasing. Please take a moment to learn more about prematurity and what you can do in pregnancy to reduce your risks by reading When Babies Are Born Premature on the Babble Soft website this week. You can also read about premature development and your baby’s sleep here on this site. Please also consider forwarding the information to friends and family as you can save a life of two sharing the knowledge! Thank you for doing your part in this very important matter.

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Premature Development

premature developmentAcross this site, I quote age a lot in terms of when a baby might sleep through the night or how long she might need to eat at night. But, premature development might change the way you approach your baby’s sleep.

According to HealthDay News and the magazine, Pediatrics, even babies born just 2 to 3 weeks early can be developmentally delayed. The risk is small for any ONE child, but as a group, even babies born at 34 to 35 weeks can be affected.

The earlier your baby is born, the more you need to make adjustments in terms of brain maturation. Premature development is complex, but most do catch up by the time they reach kindergarten and “85% of premature infants have catch-up growth and land on the regular growth chart by two years of age.” However, problems can show up early or later, so if you have any concerns at all, talk to your pediatrician. That’s what they are there for and always trust your instincts!

When it comes to sleep, premature development does not affect sleep any more than other areas, except that your premature baby will likely sleep like a newborn longer than if she was born full term. For example, you do need to keep in mind that when your baby turns 4 months old, you might not see the same changes that other parents have and instead, you might see them when your baby’s adjusted age reaches 4 months old. It depends on the baby and it depends on their unique premature development.

To find your baby’s adjusted age, take the # of weeks early and subtract from their actual age. For example, if your baby is 24 weeks old (6 months old), but born 8 weeks early, her adjusted age is 16 weeks old, or 4 months.

Since the age that a baby can sleep through the night is a developmental milestone, you can imagine that the length of time a parent of a premature baby has to feed at night is longer than other parents (by the adjusted age). Since even waking once per night to feed for months on-end is downright exhausting, I feel for parents that need to do it even longer than I did (about a year with both boys).

Premature development is probably one of the biggest things that worries parents. After all, there is already a lot to worry about being a parent. It’s also common for parents to compare their children to others, when they were rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. and I’m sure it’s harder for the parent of a premature infant to resist that temptation. If I compare my sons to each other, if I didn’t believe so much in the fact that each child is unique, with their own time table and their own temperament, I might worry about my younger son. After all, although he sat up early, he didn’t crawl until past 11 months (!) and now at 14 months he is only now just taking some steps to walk. His brother, on the other hand, crawled late too but walked 3 weeks later around 11 months. They are just different.

While reading my website about baby sleep, please use your premature baby’s adjusted age, as sleep is a lot to do with brain development. You may also want to track your premature baby’s development, immunizations, sleep, etc. by using an online tool. You can share your baby log with other caregivers and see the big picture when it comes to your baby’s premature development. You may also be interested in my newborn sleep tips.

Share your premature baby’s development story. How did it affect his sleep?

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Infants and Pacifiers

Infants have a strong sucking reflex and therefore many people choose to give their baby a pacifier. Some parents warn against it, encouraging you to have them “attach” to you rather than an inanimate object while other parents warn that if you don’t give him a pacifier, you will become his “pacifier”. Who’s right? No one! It will be up to you and what works for you and your baby and what works for others might not work for YOU.

When to introduce a pacifier

If you are formula feeding, you can use a pacifier from day 1.

If you are breastfeeding, it is a good idea to establish breastfeeding first before introducing another type of nipple. Some babies will have no problem going back and forth, but since you don’t know if yours will or not, it’s a good idea to wait so as not to cause nipple confusion and establish your milk supply, first. This is usually recommended no earlier than 3 weeks and anywhere from 4-8 weeks. If you just need to do it earlier (especially if you will be returning to work), that’s ok! Just do your best and if you start to have trouble, learn how to get baby back to breast.

Pacifier and Teeth

Is a pacifier bad for your baby’s teeth? In short, no. Only when your baby sucks her thumb or uses a pacifier past the age of two is there a risk of altering their bite. It is unrealistic to expect many babies not to want to suck during those first 2 years.

When a pacifier becomes a problem

There is a time when a pacifier can become a problem and that’s when it interrupts their sleep. Some parents are weary having to replace a pacifier 8-10 times per night. In this case, the pacifier has become a poor sleep association that you may want to consider breaking. Some babies will be able to find their own pacifier at night (particularly if you throw 3 or 4 or 8 into the crib), but usually that isn’t until around 6 months. Some may technically be able to, but simply won’t do it. Others will learn sooner. So, if you really want to hang on to the pacifier, you may be able to just wait it out.

When you’re a “pacifier”

Some parents feel they become their baby’s “pacifier” because they are breastfeeding and baby wants to suckle A LOT (what “a lot” means will vary from parent to parent). This can happen. My eldest son did not want a pacifier and not from a lack of trying (mostly by others because I was not 100% on board with a pacifier anyway), so yes, he did suckle a lot and yes, did develop a sleep association (I did not mind until it was ALL night long!) that we later had to break. We continued to successfully breastfeed until 13 months. He did take to sucking on a light receiving blanket as his “lovey” for several months (he stopped using it on his own), but I was fortunate because I never had to break a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit. So, when my second son came along, I actually decided not to give him a pacifier and it was rough for the first couple months, but then got a lot better and so far, no thumb-sucking, yet, either. I am hoping not to have to break either habit, again, but we’ll see.

Pacifiers day and night

If your baby has trouble sleeping with a pacifier at night, but not during the day (or vice versa), you can limit it to one or the other as a baby’s sleep is handled by different parts of the brain for each.

All in all, I’d say a pacifier can be a good solution (if you agree with the use of one), until it becomes a problem. Once it hurts more than it helps, it may just be time to get rid of it. For help breaking sleep associations or help with other child sleep problems, you may be interested in The 3 Step Guide to Help Your Baby Sleep or my one-on-one baby sleep consultations.

Do you use a pacifier? Did you have a problem with it?

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