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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Sleep Guide for "Informed" Moms.

     First of all let me start by stating that I do NOT advocate implementing sleeping techniques until after 12 months of age. That said, there are nice comforting things that you can use for all babies that may help your little one sleep better.

     From birth, your little one is designed by nature to wake frequently. They are not mature enough physically or mentally to sleep longer stretches. Babies need food, comfort and closeness round the clock. They are designed to wake frequently because it is dangerous for newborns to fall into a too deep sleep. They need to keep a lighter sleep to keep the breathing in check. This a natures SIDS prevention and is easier for baby to regulate if they sleep in close proximity to mom. Not to mention, breastfeeding and co-sleeping go hand in hand, both of those together lower the SIDS risk and help mom get more sleep than her counterparts.

                   These are all different SAFE co-sleeping options. I recommend you figure out the best situation for your family.

     Babies wake often to feed and should not be discouraged from it. ALWAYS nurse baby when they wake, even at night. I am not sure where the notion that babies can and should go all night without eating came from, but, just because one kid you know does/did it, doesn't mean every baby can and should go all night from 2 or 3 months and not eat. Babies have teeny tiny stomachs incapable of holding more than a few ounces. If you pair that with how well BM is digested, and how quickly it is absorbed and used in a growing babies body, it's a wonder any kid goes more than an hour without needing another refill. The only difference between night and day feeding is this: 

  •   Keep it quiet
  •   Keep it dark
  •   Keep it low key
  •   Do not talk or rouse baby unnecessarily
  •   Learn to dream feed(sleeping on your side while baby eats or finds breast on his own)
All of this together will go a long way in helping baby understand that nighttime is for sleeping and daytime is for playing. Another helpful thing is to provide baby with a positive sleep association. This can include a routine for night, a special lovey that comes out to hold only when being rocked at night and slept with, a special go to sleep song or any number of things you can think of.

     If you prefer, when mom is done nursing the baby to sleep for the night, it can then be dad's job to cuddle with baby for nighttime sleep. This is especially helpful for the older child as mom can roll over and dad becomes the security instead of the breast. This method should ONLY be used on a child over six months old minimum. 

     Make sure baby has PLENTY opportunities for naps during the day and is put to bed early enough at night. A too tired baby is not likely to go down easily or quietly. Trying to keep baby awake all day or up later at night will backfire. Although I DO recommend ample play and stimulation and sunlight during the day, naps are equally as important as the rest. 

     These steps are all I recommend for kids under one year old. No more than these. Even if baby wakes every 30 minutes for every night until 12 months. I'm sorry to say, it is just how I feel.

If your child is over 12 months old and you would like suggestions for sleeping longer stretches, continue to follow all of the above methods and slowly incorporate these into the routine as well.

     You can now move child into a separate crib/room if you must although, I still don't recommend it. Be sure to follow the same nightly routine, this is important. That routine let's baby know what to expect and helps him deal emotionally with the changes. Always put baby into the bed when sleepy, but, not asleep. If baby wakes, respond by patting and "shushing", help baby calm and relax. If baby insists, pick up and comfort and soothe baby until calm again. This may or may not take a long amount of time. If it does, be consistent and comfort and soothe. If it takes 200 times of this, continue. I assure you it will work and baby can learn to sleep without "crying-it-out". 
     The keys to remember are:
  • Consistency
  • quiet, still nights
  • bright, active days
  • NAPS
  • comfort, soothe, repeat
  • routine/lovey (positive sleep associations)
  • patience
  • do not withhold feedings
  • parents share night parenting equally


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