Safe and Healthy Sleep Habits for Baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep your baby in your room for their first year of life. This practice can strengthen the parent/child bond, keep baby close at hand for feedings and soothing, and help form healthy sleep habits. We know that this isn’t practical for everyone, but we will give you some tips for setting yourself up for success.
Creating the Perfect Nook Before Baby Comes
If space allows, you can set up a “nook” in your bedroom. It doesn’t have to be any fancier than a crib or bassinet, and a chair that is comfortable for you to feed or nurse in. A table nearby for water, burp cloths, and a small light are also recommended. If it makes more sense in your life to have a crib or bassinet in your room and a space for feeding in baby’s nursery, that is perfect!
- Make sure the area(s) is accessible, free from cords or obstacles you might trip on, and in a draft-free area.
- Try the reach test. Is it easy for you to reach into the crib/bassinet? If you have a c-section, you want to be sure that you have the baby as accessible as possible while still keeping them safe.
- No stuffies, lovies, blankets, or crib bumpers!
- All babies should sleep on their backs, on a flat surface. Remember the phrase “back to bed.”
- Do not use a car seat for sleeping. Car seats are just for cars. If your infant is in a car seat at home, they should always be on the floor and not an elevated surface where they can tip over.
Why Back to Bed?
You might have been told by a mom or a grandparent that babies sleep better on their tummies. However, 30 years ago, we also thought it was fine for children not to use car seats or bike helmets.
It has been proven by numerous studies that linked babies that were put to sleep on their sides or stomach with SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Now that we know better, we do better. Any caretaker of your baby should put your baby “back to bed.” If they roll over on their own, that’s okay!
The most common question practitioners get is “why isn’t my baby sleeping/how can I get my baby to sleep more?”
In the beginning, your baby will wake up a lot to eat. It’s part of normal development, and they will sleep somewhere between 16-18 hours. The bad news for exhausted parents is that it usually comes in chunks rather than in one long sleep session.
It is normal for newborns to wake 2-3 hours per night. Their tiny bodies are doing amazing things, and they need calories to grow. They don’t have the same glucose reserves we do for extended fasting overnight. Imagine trying to double your weight in a few short weeks like they are!
When you want to space out feedings at night, talk to your provider first. Every baby’s caloric needs are different.
Swaddling and Soothing
Troubleshooting why your baby is having trouble sleeping can be especially difficult when you are sleep deprived yourself. An excellent place to start is thinking about how baby was soothed when they were in the womb.
Being in a warm, soothing environment with whooshing sounds or a low, steady heartbeat can help some babies relax. You can buy white noise machines or use an app to recreate this noise.
Bouncing or swaying movements in a carrier or while being held can help some babies self-soothe. Just be sure if they are in a bouncer or swing that you are nearby.
Swaddling can help babies not only because it makes them feel warm, safe, and cozy like the womb, but because it prevents their startle reflex. This is the reflex you see in newborns where their arms flail out when they hear a loud noise or see a quick movement.
- Do not swaddle the legs tightly. The hips and knees should be at 90 degrees flexed because this helps with proper hip alignment and hip development, so make sure the sack or the swaddle is loose around this area and never swaddle your infant with her legs straight.
- The minute your baby begins trying to roll on their side or belly, it’s time to stop swaddling.
Technology and Sleep
Items like baby monitors during naps or anytime baby is sleeping out of sight and white noise machines can be lifesavers to get baby back to sleep. These items allow you to check in on your baby and maybe even get some much-needed rest yourself! If you have some help with the baby, don’t feel bad using that time to sleep. A bouncy chair or swing is also a great place for baby while in your sight.
However, the technology you should try to avoid is being on your phone at night when you are feeding or soothing your baby. The light emitted from cell phones or tablets can interfere with your sleep cycle. Add in a tired, hormonal, sleep-deprived mama? You get our point. Banish the phone, and you’ll find that you are able to sleep more soundly.
When Old Advice is Good Advice
Despite all of the old remedies for soothing babies that we do not recommend, there is one phrase that stands the test of time; “Sleep when the baby sleeps”.
The first few months can be really difficult. You’re not sleeping a lot; you’re exhausted. It’s really important to sleep when the baby sleeps so you can recharge. Take turns with your partner, get a baby monitor to alert you when the baby wakes, whatever you have to do to get in those precious moments of rest.