All new parents should understand that in the initial first two months, your bundle of joy would have no concept of day or night. And even though newborns require nothing more than milk and sleep for the first few weeks, their intermittent sleep can cause agony to parents who would have to wake every three to four hours every night to feed the baby.
While there is little that can be done regarding the baby’s instinctive needs, parents can help illustrate the difference of day and night by interacting with the baby more during the day and limiting stimulation at night. This simple habit aids babies in understanding that day is the time for noisy stimulating activities, while the night is for resting and quiet time.
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So from two to three hours of small naps, your newborn will now snooze in four to six hours of interrupted sleep. | Photo: iStock
Limiting contact during the nights
If it is acceptable to the parents, they can also choose to minimise contact with the baby at night as to help them build independence. A newborn can (and will) easily fall asleep most of the time due to their need for rest, and if we avoid repeating certain habits to them to “help" them, they will slowly be able to associate lack of interaction to bedtime. Habits like rocking, cradling and giving them milk to aid them to sleep will only make them rely on these forms of comfort in order to fall asleep. Avoiding them will prevent the forming of bad – and very hard to quit – sleep habits down the road.
The results of these practices will not be experienced immediately but will help greatly for the child to get used to quieten down in the evenings and slowly settle down for bedtime without screaming for your attention. It will also help down the road when separation anxiety kicks in when your child is about 9 months old.
Taking the cycle into your own hands
If your newborn happens to be one of those who love to sleep all day and are awake all night – just like the way my boy was – then some “crisis control" is necessary. Here are some simple steps in helping your baby sleep normally at night:
Stimulate your baby by talking and playing with him in the day and try to limit his nap to no more than two hours. This will tire him out sufficiently by sunset and he will sleep through most of the night, only waking up for milk and then promptly falling back asleep again. After a few days of repeating this, your newborn would be accustomed to sleeping longer hours at night instead of in the day.
Use comforting techniques such as baby massage or lullabies to soothe him to sleep at night. Make sure it is a routine takes no more than 15 minutes and that it will end once it is completed. Otherwise, our cheeky little babies will want you to continue it throughout the night and you can say goodbye to your own much-needed sleep!
Place him in a noisy daytime environment such as the living room to let him nap so that he may be woken up by common noises and prevents him from oversleeping. At night, put him to bed in a quiet and dimly lit room to sleep where there is minimal disturbances. This also adheres to the “day and night" cycle that was mentioned earlier.
Use sleep aids such as a soothing toy
A sleep aid like a soft toy can help soothe babies and make them more comfortable and calm at bedtime.
The Fisher-Price® Soothe ‘n Snuggle Otter is a unique plush soother. It helps to comfort your baby just like you do. It has a soft belly which moves up and down in a rhythmic motion that mimics breathing which can help soothe your baby naturally. There is also up to 30 minutes of calming music, sound effects, and soft lights. With its sweet face, super snuggly fabrics, and satiny tail, the Soothe ‘n Snuggle Otter is a perfect cuddle friend for your baby.
Keeping in tune
The most important key in creating a good sleep routine is that it must be consistent. Especially in the first few months. Once you have the routine down smack, your baby will adapt himself to accept adjustments such as a later bedtime.
If you chose to let your child learn to comfort himself and settle down to sleep, there will definitely be some uncomfortable moments where your baby experiences difficulties in self-soothing and would want you to help him out. You will have to bear with it and let him continue to self-comfort. This is a very important step in cultivating independence in your child. And although it may be hard to hear him cry, remember that it is for the better of your child’s sleep habits for the rest of his life.
It is also very important to praise your newborn for his efforts in falling asleep alone. Being praised every morning for being a “big boy" will help to build his confidence. It will also encourage him to try again later in the night. Plus, you should also let him know that sleeping at night is very important. And that it will help him to grow up big and strong. All these, usually, are reasons enough for them to continue the efforts on their own. While you reclaim your own sleep!
For more related articles on your baby and sleep, see:
Good sleep habits for your newborn
How long should my baby’s daytime naps be?
Establishing a bedtime routine