5 Sure Tips to Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep
The thing that really hit me in the first few days of becoming a mom was the ‘sleep’ problem. You may think I am talking about me being severely sleep deprived, but no I am not. I was expecting to sleep much less actually. What I was not ready for was that our newborn baby would have trouble sleeping!
As a first-time mom-to-be, I did my homework. While I was still pregnant with Joshua, I learnt as much as I could about how babies sleep. All the big health sites claim that newborn babies sleep at least 16 hours a day. Easy to believe as of course that is what they do in our wombs. Some of our friends at work who had their babies a few weeks before us also told us that all their babies did was sleep. They would wake up only for feeding and pooping. Now this sounded wonderful to me, as we were planning to move house soon after Joshua was born. I was already creating plans in my head about how I am going to be packing boxes while my baby is happily sleeping in 2 hour stretches between feeds.
Imagine my surprise then, when things didn’t go quite the way I planned. Joshua was not sleeping 16 hours a day. He was struggling to sleep since the day he was born actually. The doctors wanted to observe him and me after the birth, so we spent his first night in the hospital. I was sharing the ward with three other ladies, and they all had cute baby girls. To my surprise, all three girls were sleeping nicely throughout the night, waking up in between only for feeds.
But my little bundle of joy just refused to sleep. He was showing signs of wanting to feed, and spent all night feeding instead of sleeping. The midwife in charge thought he was probably having a cluster feed. Things did not improve much in the next few days. While his feeding got better, his sleep didn’t. He was sleeping only for 15-30 minutes at best and that too only in our arms. While other parents were complaining that they had to get up 3-4 times a night to feed, I would have been happy to be in their place. After 2 weeks of sleep deprivation my biggest desire was to have at least 3-4 hours of total sleep a day. But that was not happening. Even now, I don’t really know how I quite managed those first few weeks.
Why am I telling you this long story about babies and their sleep?
Well first of all to just let you know that you are not alone. If you are reading this article you are probably also trying to help your little one sleep. And you may well be sleep deprived yourself, looking for some help online. When I used to sit through the night watching my baby, I was very comforted to read other’s stories and know I am not the only one struggling. I also have come across lots of useful products that other moms found helpful with their babies. So from my experience of Joshua’s first 3 months, here are my top 5 tips to help your baby sleep:
If you are new parents like me, this might seem surprising to you, but it is true – newborn babies more often than not love sleeping with noise around them. And what they especially like is called ‘white noise’. It’s a term in physics used to describe a type of noise that is produced by combining sounds of all different frequencies together. Don’t worry, we are not here to become scientists, so I will stop the lesson there!
The only thing we need to know is that it helps mask other sounds around the baby and so can aid your baby’s sleep. Newborns are actually very used to this type of constant noise around them, because they have just spent the last 9 months in mom’s tummy listening to her heartbeat, continuous blood flow and other gurgling tummy sounds.
So continuous and monotonous sounds like a fan running, a hairdryer, a car or even a vacuum cleaner can actually help your baby sleep. We noticed that Joshua slept much better if he was in the car or if we had our air purifier running all night. Also, my friend once told me her baby girl used to fall asleep only if she kept her hairdryer turned on near her!
But in 2016, you do not have to keep a fan running or hair dryer on to get your baby to sleep. Now there are so many products that can play white noise for babies, and some can even imitate in-utero sounds.
One of the most popular sleeping aids among our friends is Ewan the Sheep. It looks like a cute toy and it plays actual recordings of a heartbeat and sounds that mimic the comforting environment inside the womb. The only downside I saw is that it plays the sounds for 20 minutes only and then needs to be started again manually.
There is another white noise sheep called the Cloud b On The Go Sleep Sheep that plays for 45 minutes.
What was our choice? As I mentioned before, at first we tried running the air purifier. But this was not a very energy efficient solution. Also it used to cool the air over time, so it was not good to be kept near baby for a long time. Then one sleepless night we downloaded a free Android app called Baby Sleep which plays different white noise sounds. Our baby preferred the car and hairdryer sounds – especially the cute indicator sounds where he would nod off instantaneously.
It was very convenient because we could play it anytime and anywhere on our phones. The downside however was that it eventually drained the phone battery. Also I was not too happy to keep the mobile phone near baby because of the microwave radiation that phones emit.back to menu ↑ back to menu ↑
Swaddling in Sleeping bags
Yes, swaddling is actually a very good way to get your newborn to sleep. Our midwives recommended light swaddling, and it was very helpful in the first few days. Joshua is such an active baby, if he is not asleep, his hands are up in the air all the time. Even in his sleep. Our families even nicknamed him Superman, because of this.
Naturally, this was preventing him from falling asleep and when he did sleep, staying asleep. It was happening a few times a minute, so at first we were even worried that he was having some sort of seizures. But the consultant pediatrician said everything was absolutely fine, and that little babies startle very easily in their sleep (look up hypnagogic startles).
So what did we do about it? Well at first we tried putting him to sleep gently holding his arms down. This helped him to settle and fall asleep, but then he would wake up as soon as we let go of his arms. He liked to move them about which eventually woke him up. Deep sleep was elusive.
Then we started swaddling him lightlly as instructed by the midwives. The important things to remember are that it shouldn’t be too tight, and that the baby shouldn’t overheat in it. We used a Clair de Lune Cellular Banket because it has holes to prevent babies from overheating.
However, the problem with using a cellular blanket for swaddling was that it was a bit stretchy and Joshua being very strong eventually took his hands out.
Then my husband found the SwaddleMe sleeping bags online:
We bought two sizes. The first set was a smaller one, which worked really well until Joshua was a month old. He was simply sleeping so much better in the SwaddleMe bags. What I also liked about them was that there are two of them per pack. I could use one while washing the other.
Once Joshua outgrew the smaller size, I wanted to use the larger ones. But sadly I got to use it only a couple of times. It was Summer and we bought our first home, a super-efficient new-build home. It was simply too warm for him to sleep in the sleeping bags. The good thing is that at 2.5 months, he more or less stopped moving his hands about in his sleep.back to menu ↑ back to menu ↑
This was one of the products recommended to us by our colleagues. When we shared with our friends that Joshua would not sleep, we found out that we were not alone. One couple said their son started sleeping very well in the Sleepyhead Pod, also called the DockATot All-in-One in the US.
Guess what we did? We ordered it off Amazon the same night! Even though it was a bit pricey, I was ready to pay anything just to help my dear baby sleep. It has amazing reviews on Amazon, which just shows that it has really helped many parents. The reason why it works so well is that it lets your baby feel secure and enclosed, just like in the womb. Babies, especially newborns, may find it difficult to get used to the new environment outside the womb. The transition from a tight and enclosed womb into a big and open cot is a big change, and many babies just don’t like it and can’t cope with it. This sleeping pod lets them feel more secure. It is also very convenient as you can take it anywhere with you around the house or even use it as a travel bed.
Has it worked for us? Well, yes and no. While for some of our friends it has worked a miracle, for Joshua it was not that successful. He definitely liked it more than his cot and Moses basket (he refused to sleep in the Moses basket since day one). But he still struggled to sleep in it for long. However, the reason for that was probably not the sleeping pod itself, but what we discovered later, that Joshua had colic. This made him wake him in the middle of the sleep and not let him settle.back to menu ↑ back to menu ↑
Sling or carrier
I know it sounds funny – what does a sling or carrier has to do with sleeping aids, right? Well, it actually helped us a lot. Initially I bought it not to help him sleep but to help me do things around the house. Because Joshua was not sleeping well in a cot, crib, or the pod, I had to resort to letting him sleep in my arms during the day so that he would catch up on his sleep.
If I put him down he would just end up crying. But that meant I was not able to do my chores around the house. I really struggled to do even simple things like cooking. Even using the shower had to wait for my husband to come home from work and look after dear baby! And then we found ourselves in the middle of a house move. I had to start packing things soon. So after doing some research online I finally decided to buy a sling. There were lots of good reviews for products like the baby bjorn and ergo baby carriers. Initially I thought of getting the baby bjorn miracle.
But after spending lots of money on products that were not helpful, I decided to try a cheaper product first and then if Joshua liked it buy a better one later. So I chose a cheaper sling which had good reviews on amazon and bought it.
This was money well spent. Joshua really enjoyed being in the sling. He used to fuss or cry a bit while getting into it – after all he was just a newborn. But once in it, he settled in well. This way, I was able to do many things around the house, including packing, moving and unpacking in the new house. And the best thing about it was that Joshua used to nap very well in it. He used to even sleep for up to 3 hours in it, which never happened with the cot! So there you go, one more thing that helped our baby sleep!
Now I meant it as a temporary solution till he started playing with his toys. Once he grew a bit and started getting more interested in toys and the surroundings, I could put him in the bouncy chair or play mat for a while to do quick tasks around the house. For nap times, I started working towards a routine, so had put the sling away.back to menu ↑ back to menu ↑
Introducing a routine
So many websites, blogs and articles online tell you that babies like consistency. If you are putting the baby to sleep each day at the same time, they will eventually get used to this routine and go to sleep easier at that particular time.
So I decided to try this out as well. Actually, we introduced the night sleep routine very early, from the day he was born. We tried to get him ready for sleep every night at the same time – 7 PM. This worked quite well, except at the peak of his colic when he used to cry and fuss from around 5 PM to 10 PM.
But now, at 3 months, he usually settles at 8 pm, after some crying and fuss, of course. But my biggest problem was daytime naps. The house move made our days a bit more chaotic, so we did not have a particular day routine. I just tried to make him sleep wherever possible so that he would get his sleeping hour quota for the day.
After moving, I finally forced myself to sit down and write down a small schedule for our day and try to stick to it. It is not that I have decided that baby will nap at exactly X o’clock and feed at Y o’clock. Still,I decided to introduce a small routine for his naps. Earlier I used to try and put him to sleep in the pod, or let him sleep in my arms or on my chest after nursing. But now I try to take him up to the bedroom for morning, midday and afternoon naps. Of course, if he falls asleep in my arms in between while I work on my computer or in the car seat while shopping, I have no problem at all! So far it has been just a few days, but I can see some improvement already. Joshua tends to nap longer compared to his cat naps in my lap!back to menu ↑ back to menu ↑
What does your newborn baby like?
So these are the things that we actually tried, and found more or less helpful for our baby. I hope they help you in some way if you are struggling to get your baby to sleep too. You can also find other tips on the internet which worked for other parents. But do not worry if your baby is not responding positively to one or the other sleeping aid or method.
Every baby is different and may need a different approach. Do not despair if your baby is not sleeping as well as your friend’s baby. And do not let the pressure from others influence the way you raise your little one. Remember that your baby is unique and wonderful, he or she will learn things in their own time. Just look at what’s best for you and your baby.
Please feel free to share your experience or ask any question you may have by leaving a comment below. I want to know what works for you and yours!