OMG why didn’t anyone tell us what life was like having a newborn baby in the home.
For some it is overwhelming, others just take it in their stride and this is okay We all deal with life differently and with parenting there is no right or wrong way, there are easy and hard ways and the best thing about parenting is you can’t fail at this job.
Parenting is a lifelong journey and parenting to sleep is part of that journey. Just as your parents are still parenting you.
BABIES NEED TWO NUTRIENTS – FOOD AND SLEEP – if they sleep well they eat well and if they eat well then they sleep well.
It also takes TACT – time, acceptance, consistency and touch.
Crying is communication
Communication is words
Words we always STOP, LISTEN and ACT – where are we when our baby is crying, what are we doing?
The 4th trimester is 0-12 weeks
This is an exciting but exhausting time of being a parent. It is about getting to know the little one that you have just given birth with, finding your role as parents and also learning how to navigate with sleep
deprivation and maintaining your old life style and adjusting to your body’s new demands.
I often encourage parents where possible to take time out of everyday life and to cocoon yourselves and get to know your baby. For parents who have more than one child, this is a time that extended family or friends can step in and support you all to allow you time to adjust to your newborn.
There is so much information for parents to take in but I can’t stress enough how the 4th trimester is about nurturing. Babies thrive on being held close and sensing the rhythm of your heartbeat, your familiar smell and the warmth of your body. This intimacy emulates the womb and helps build a sense of trust, confirming to your baby that life outside the womb is safe. In a sense, parents are like shock absorbers – holding your baby close absorbs their anxiety and tension so they are able to relax and feel secure.
Every baby is different and some require more nurturing than others. On occasions nurturing calls for going that extra mile to comfort your baby in times of distress. Yes, your baby is going to cry – they are talking to you.
As time passes and expectations are put to rest, parents often discover an internal strength and I always encourage parents to trust themselves and follow their gut – I firmly believe this is a key aspect in helping parents find their feet.
It is important to understand that crying is natural – it is their form of communication and if we think in that crying is communication and communication is words and words we stop, listen and act. The act is
where are you, what are you doing for your baby when they are calling you and of course this can be the most stressful and confusing time for a parent.
When working with parents with newborn babies I encourage parents to engulf their babies for their naps during the day and overnight try and get them into their cots as much as possible. Whatever way you are going to parent it takes TACT – time, acceptance, consistency (80%) and touch. You cannot spoil a newborn so remember by holding a baby you are not going to make a rod for your back or let alone spoil a baby so listen to your gut not others.
Whatever you are doing in arms I recommend that you can replicate in a cot and in many cases this is where it gets hard as for the first 12 weeks you have been advised to rock, walk, swing, drive or put a buggy and rock over a cord but at around 16 weeks the same people then advise you to put them into their cots with no movement. It is difficult to change your pattern of showing a baby how to self-settle with large movement to no movement. My advice is to sit still no large movements – your body becomes the mattress and you do a movement on your baby that can be replicated in a cot. I call this cupping and you can see this on a video that you can purchase from my website called settling.
Give your baby and yourselves a good environment to sleep in – this means a pitch black room not partially or in a lighted room. Yes, they will sleep anywhere perhaps up to 6 week when they have their 1st PROGRESSIVE MILESTONE and yes they sleep anywhere in arms as most of them have buried their faces into your body to find sleep but remember melatonin is produced in the dark – think of this when adults work night duty and they have to re train their bodies to sleep in the day – they either use eye masks or blacken their rooms.
Check out my website for both temporary and permanent black outs – Screenaway is the only 100% blackout blind in NZ. The temporary static blinds are also good and can be found on my website as well.
I am a great believer that sleep breeds sleep and again it is how they fall asleep and stay asleep that is also important.
I think the most popular question I get is when is too early to put our baby into a routine.
As soon as your baby is born they are in a routine.
They wake and cry
You feed, burp, change and snuggle
Your baby sleeps.
Then from that simple answer I look at how long their wake cycles are. All my information is a guideline only and then you as parents need to work it out. If I have a client that comes back to me and says it’s not
working and they have crossed all the t’s and dotted all the I’s then it’s not going to work. You take the information that are given or researched on the internet and check the person’s credentials to ensure their way of parenting is similar to how you wish to parent.
0 to 6 weeks wake cycles are 45 minutes to 1 hour
6 to 12 weeks 1 hour to 1 ½ hours
A wake cycle is when you take your baby out of their cot and start the next wake cycle and finishes as you are swaddling and placing into their cot.
A nap cycle is when you place your baby into their cot and then finishes when you pick them up and say it’s wake time. It is not from the time they fall asleep as self-settling is part of their sleep cycle the same as resettling is. It is the length of their naps that dictate how often they feed. So if someone says your baby needs to be on a 3 or 4 hourly routine for feeding take this on board but in reality that is not how it works.
Remember Babies need TWO NUTRIENTS FOOD AND SLEEP if they sleep well then they feed well and if they feed well then they sleep well.
Feeding to Sleep
We are all lead to believe that feeding to sleep is bad, however it isn’t and out of all the props that parents use this one can actually be done in the cot if need be. I believe that feeding to sleep is a ‘good’ prop as you are nurturing your baby, however the question I always ask is how long do you want to do this and if you aren’t okay about feeding to sleep until they no longer need it then I suggest working on changing it before you don’t want to do anymore. Also remember how they fall asleep is how they will want to re settle as well. Also when she wakes overnight some babies tend to look to resettle how they settle, however this is not always the case.
This is often a debatable subject and today’s advice is not to swaddle. However in my experience there are babies that need to be swaddle and it is about encouraging healthy swaddling techniques rather than saying NO swaddling.
The reason it is recommended today not to swaddle is that our babies are born with some amazing natural reflexes while still growing in the womb. The modern thought is that it is important that babies use their startle reflex, which help to remind babies to reset their heart rate, breathing and temperature. It is said that by swaddling you are inhibiting all these reflexes.
The reason why I swaddle is twofold. The first is to avoid baby’s s full startle reflex (Moro Reflex) which may disrupt their sleep. The second reason is the security it gives your baby by representing a cocoon — similar to the feeling of the womb. It is important to do your research about the risks and benefits of swaddling, so you can make your own informed decision with all the information in mind and based on the needs of your own baby.
If you swaddle your baby either with arms across their body or the hands up swaddle the swaddle will minimise their strong startled reflex but will still startle so they can still reset their heart rate, breathing and temperature. This is hard to do if they are in the arms down beside them unless they are in a stretchable swaddle material which will allow their arms to move towards their chest as they fall asleep.
White noise is a mixture of sound waves extending over a wide frequency range, providing a constant background noise. It is believed to replicate the sound of the noise in the womb and has been proven in many cases to be very soothing for a baby.
In my experience continuously played white noise may encourage light sleeping and it is important that your baby learns to sleep through household noises. Think about why you are using white noise. If you are using it because of loud outside noises then I suggest drowning them out by placing the machine closer to the window and for those early morning noises, such as birds singing, try putting the white noise machine on a timer.
If you are using it because you have a noisy toddler or a noisy household, then I suggest using the white noise machine outside the bedroom door which allows the volume to be set louder. Ideally the recommended level of white noises is played between 50 to 75 decibels and a study conducted by a Canadian research group recommends that the devices may be capable of creating sounds loud enough to cause hearing loss after prolonged exposure, and they suggest the following guidelines for families to encourage safer use of the machines:
- Place the ISM as far away as possible from the infant and never in
the crib or on a crib rail.
- Play the ISM at a low volume.
- Operate the ISM for a short duration of time.
Self-settling – start of the sleep cycle
When you first swaddle your baby and they are ready for sleep I suggest that you place them in their cot wide awake . This is when you will step back and allow them the ability to find their sleep. You will only step back for up to a minute and this can be less than a minute as well. If settling in arms then you would pick up your baby and engulf and hold to sleep, however if you are trying to settle in their cot then you would pick your baby up do a quick burp and then back into their cots and touch. Touch and presence is important as your baby is talking to you and you have just started to replace your body(mattress) with their cot mattress. To see how to self-settle, this is explained clearly in both books and in particular my second book.
When comforting your baby and instead of doing a large movement then I recommend you do a movement on their body which I call cupping. Cupping is doing movement on their lower torso and this hand does this movement without removing from their body. Your other hand is on their chest and it is important not to do cupping or movement on their chests – this is done on their lower torso.
Whatever you do to encourage them to fall asleep in arms again I repeat it is important to be able to replicate this in the cot.
Resettling – keeping your baby asleep
Resettling will be either in the cot or in arms and ideally at this age it is better to intervene before they stir as it is easier to resettle a sleeping/drowsy baby than a wide awake one.
Resettling is continuous cupping. An example is that your baby wakes at 40 minutes so you can enter the room before this and ideal just listen until you hear a movement and then start the resettling or you can touch lightly – one hand on chest, one hand on lower torso.
Once you feel a change in the baby then start your cupping. If your baby starts to stir move and is moving towards waking then it is okay to pick your baby up and resettle in arms. Again constant cupping (small movements on your baby) and this can take 45 minutes. It can be constant, it can be constant then off and on. Ensure you are doing a movement on their body like they would feel if you were walking or rocking – the difference is that cupping can be done in the cot as well.
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WHEN DOING MOVEMENT ON YOUR BABY THE MOVEMENT IS ON THEIR LOWER TORSO NOT THEIR CHEST – the chest hand is stationary.
If you can’t resettle then start the next wake cycle which begins with a feed. If your baby is cap napping through the day and sleeping well at night ask yourself why is my baby doing this. One of the most common issues is the difference of darkness between day and night. Remember at night you baby doesn’t need a night light on to see what is going on – if you need it then remember to use it when you are in the room and turn off when you go back to bed.
These are ‘parent led’ feeds and in my opinion, if the baby is sleeping there is no benefit to the baby in having this feed.
Obviously, dreams feeds are one aspect of routines you need to work out for yourself. It may seem a good option when you start doing it, however I have found that a lot of sleeping (in particular night waking) and feeding issues from around 4 months onwards are a consequence of the ‘dream feed’. Just because you may have decided you no longer want to do a dream feed or that you think your baby no longer needs it that doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will feel the same and it can be a very
difficult element to drop from your babies routine.
Another aspect to consider when opting to dream feed is that a baby’s brain and body grows and develops while sleeping and when picking a baby up while they are asleep for this feed you are in fact disturbing their growth time.
Make sure you are well informed on this and do your research and then make your own decision.
With self-settling and resettling it takes time – babies do not have the tools on board to self soothe or resettle until 12 to 16 weeks – some babies take longer as well.
It’s okay for a baby to cry – this is communication – it is not okay to ignore the cry.
It’s okay to hold a baby to sleep – just remember your body is the mattress so keep still – yes it takes longer but it is easier than to transfer your baby to a cot
At the end of the day do what you feel is right, you are your BABY WHISPERER and BABY EXPERT, not the experts – I am the person who can listen to you, guide you and support you while you find the answers.
Remember CRYING IS COMMUNICATION AND COMMUNICATION IS WORDS AND WORDS WE ALWAYS STOP, LISTEN AND ACT – the act is what is my baby telling me, where am I when my baby is talking to me, am I doing too much for my baby (i.e. large movements, plugging to stop the crying), am I not doing enough and then answer all these questions and anymore you ask yourself and then take the next step. It also takes TACT – time, acceptance, consistency (80%) and touch (presence).
Dorothy Waide, in case her name is new to you, is a Karitane Mothercraft Nurse, and has over three decades of experience and expertise with babies. Dorothy is an author of two books – You Simply Can’t Spoil a Newborn and Simply Parenting from 12 weeks to 12 months. Dorothy has also worked alongside OHBaby! magazine as their Sleep Expert for over 10 years. She has regularly appeared on TV morning shows and the Parenting Squad on 1ZB.