Why infant sleep is so important and how you can help your baby (0-3m) get restful sleep

I don’t think I ever really understood what many Moms tried to tell me about Infant Sleep and Sleep Training before having my own child.  The whole “enjoy your sleep now” and “sleep when the baby sleeps” advices became annoying towards the end of my pregnancy.  But I will be honest and say that I was quite overwhelmed when our son was born and sleep deprivation became reality.  

I suddenly found myself helplessly trying to soothe and calm my crying baby, figuring out how to get information without having to read 300 pages of a book and at the same time doing my best to take care of myself.

A book that was recommended to me was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D., which I still use today!  There are many different sleep scenarios that you can easily relate to in this book. And so so much new information about the importance of infant and child sleep!!

Sleep is important during the first few years of our children’s lives as it directly impacts their development (both mental and physical), their growth (muscles building, nervous tissue growth and repair) and their hormone production.  Getting enough rest will result in a happy and alert child with a healthy amount of energy.

Avery NB Sleeping
My 3 week old newborn baby who loved to sleep on me

Newborn babies (0-3 months) are still in a “sleepy mode” after birth and aren’t really aware that they have left Mommy’s womb. All these big changes are overwhelming and unknown to them. They are used to sleeping A LOT (from the time in the womb) and aren’t able to stay awake for too long (45-60mins max).  You’ll also notice that they’ll be more awake at night and less during the day.  It’s important to learn their cues and help them fall asleep before they become too overtired.  When the baby gets overtired, the body is physically so tired and stressed that it starts producing stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) to help baby stay awake, which makes it even harder for them to calm down and sleep.  This cycle of overtiredness will just get worse and make it harder and harder for them to relax.

Tired and Sleepy Signs/Cues to watch out for:

  • rubbing of the face, ears and eyes
  • yawning
  • fussiness that might end up in crying
  • disinterest in any type of stimulation
  • get’s wound up and hyperactive

How you can help your baby get on a good sleep pattern and get enough rest:

First you will want to try to calm the baby down – move to a quiet, dark or dimmed room with no stimulation.  Often a white noise machine will help creating a familiar environment as well (that’s how it sounds like in the womb).  If a baby cannot calm down, he or she will not be able to get sleep.

  • hold and rock your baby
  • bottle feed or nurse your baby
  • sing soft lullabies or hum a melody
  • swaddling (to keep them snug like in the womb)

I also recommend reading The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. to get familiar with the 5 S’s.

The first 3 months are tough on Mom because while she is still recovering from childbirth, she is also dealing with sleep deprivation and figuring out the newborn baby in her life.  Don’t give it! It gets easier after that, because around 3-4 months, your baby’s sleep pattern will take a huge turn and start to normalize.  Your baby will sleep more at night and will be more awake during the day.

I’ll soon post about getting into a solid routine, sleep training and what sleep disruptions to be aware of.

xTanya

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