A guest Blog post by Jo Tantum, Baby Sleep Expert.
Congratulations on the safe arrival of your little one! This is such an exciting time for your family but it can also be exhausting and overwhelming. I am here to help you understand your baby better and also help with teaching your baby good sleep habits from the start, which means this will continue as they grow.
Up until around 6 weeks old your baby doesn’t have circadian rhythms which means they don’t understand the difference between night and day, so you need to help them with that. This is why your baby can sleep all day and party all night.
For the first two weeks most babies are really sleepy, and you even find it difficult to wake them to feed – which is really important! You will be told to ‘demand feed’ your baby which is important to establish breastfeeding. Most babies are so sleepy, and you are told ‘not to wake a sleeping baby’ so your baby then wakes more often in the night as they are hungry as they have slept all day and missed some feeds.
The best advice I can give you is to try and feed your baby at least every 3 hours, which is their natural pattern, and wake your baby in the daytime for feeds so they get enough calories.
Top Tip 1
To help with establishing your baby’s day and night, make sure you wake for feeds in the day – try noise, chatting to your baby, aim for lots of wake time in between feeds, and lots of light. At night make it dark, quiet and don’t change nappies unless they are dirty. Dirty nappies usually stop around 6 weeks at night.
Top Tip 2
Wake your baby 15 minutes before a feed and change your baby’s nappy, this will mean they will be awake for a good feed.
Top Tip 3
Have a 15 minute ‘playtime’ to break the feeding to sleep cycle. Chat to your baby, sing to them, tickle them. Around 6 weeks, baby will begin to give you smiles, so this interaction is hugely rewarding!
Top Tip 4
Swaddling can really help your baby settle to sleep better as they are born with a startle reflex which means they throw their head and arms back with any sudden noises or as they are dropping into the first part of sleep. Swaddling also mimics the feeling of being snug in the womb or a parent’s arms, so can be comforting for a tiny baby.
Always use a light, breathable, stretchy material which is not tight around the hips, and ensure it only covers their shoulders, not their face.
You can also start settling your baby for naps as soon as you feel comfortable. Having the moses basket downstairs for naps for the first few weeks in a quiet spot will be easier. Babies will be tired after every hour of wake time until around 6 weeks old. This is just enough time for a nappy change, a feed, a playtime, lots of cuddles.
Top Tip 5
Your baby will start to become overtired and overstimulated very easily in the first few weeks. Making sure they have calm quiet time for naps in the day will mean your baby is well rested and less likely to cry.
Top Tip 6
If your baby gets really upset and you can’t seem to calm them then swaddle them, go into a dark room, gently rock in your arms on their side and sssshhh in their ear. This should instantly calm them.
Even though these first few weeks can pass in a blur try and enjoy your baby and the time you have with your tiny little one – lots of newborn cuddles smelling that delicious new baby smell..Try and get some help from family and friends so you can get some sleep to keep you going through the nights. Go with your Mummy instincts, your baby doesn’t just cry if they are hungry. Work out why your baby is crying whether it’s tiredness, overstimulated, dirty nappy, too hot or cold, or tummy ache.
Top Tip 7
If your baby is crying a lot, especially after feeds or early evening, or seems to have tummy ache then if you are breastfeeding look at what you are eating. Dairy can cause baby tummy issues as it is difficult to digest. And of course formula feed is made of cows milk so look for explosive nappies. If there are any digestive issues or excessive crying then go and see your GP, midwife, health visitor or paediatrician to seek further advice.
Jo Tantum – Leading Paediatric Sleep Practitioner.
Working with families and babies for almost 30 years.
Jo offers Emil/phone/virtual and home support.