Bringing a newborn home is one of the most exciting albeit terrifying days of a new parents life. You’ve waited 9 months to meet this little person and now you are completely responsible for their well-being and are required to cater to their every whim. So what happens when sleep deprived parents can’t get baby to sleep without fighting and carrying on? A lot of what ifs and a lot of frustration are likely to ensue. It’s okay though, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed and at a loss for a solution. That’s why articles like this one exist, so you don’t have to wake up your doctor at midnight pleading with him to give you a remedy for your sleepless child. There is actually a course you can take online that will give you hints and tips for things you can do to make your transition home a smooth one. Check it out in this Bringing Baby Home course.
Real quick, before we dive into the reasons why your little one is sounding all alarms, it’s good for you to be aware of baby sleep cycles. For the first six weeks or so you can expect no real sleep schedule. Baby may sleep hours upon hours to the point where you just want to wake them up so you can enjoy their barely open eyes. And other times you may be pulling your hair out, or it’ll just fall out from lack of sleep because they are up every 45 minutes. Oh the joys of parenthood. The hours you can expect the most fuss are somewhere between 7PM and 10PM – dubbed by some as the “witching hour”. Luckily (for some) this craziness will peak around 6 weeks. This isn’t to say that at week 7 your infant will be obeying all of your silent sleep wishes, but it should start to improve. The rule of thumb for required sleep time according to Healthy Habits, Happy Child by M. Weissbluth, M.D. is as follows:
|Age||# Naps||Duration of Naps||Time Between Naps||Bedtime||Hrs of Sleep @ Night||Total Hrs of Sleep per Day|
|Birth – 6 Weeks||4-8||15 minutes – 4 hours||45 min – 1 hour||Variable but often late 9:00 – 11:00 PM||8-14||14-18 hours|
|6 Weeks – 3 Months||3-4||30 minutes – 2 hours||1 hour – 1 hour 45 minutes||Variable but often late 8:00 – 11:00 PM||8-13||11-15 hours|
|3-6 Months||3||1-2 hours||~2 hours||8:00 – 10:00 PM||9-12||12-14 hours|
|6-9 Months||3||1-2 hours||2-3 hours||8:00 – 10:00 PM||9-12||12-14 hours|
|9-12 Months||2||1-2 hours||~3 hours||7:00 – 8:00 PM||10-12||12-14 hours|
|12-18 Months||1-2||1-2 hours||3 hours||7:00 – 8:00 PM||10-12||12-14 hours|
|18 Months – 3 Years||1||1-2 hours||NA||7:00 – 8:00 PM||10-12||11-14 hours|
Again, this is just a guideline but it’s a good guideline. Knowing this you can try and diagnose what may be causing your baby to be so cranky. There’s also a calming theory about knowing your baby’s on and off switch to counter all those hours of crying. Learn more in this The Happiest Baby on the Block course.
The most common reason for a sleepless child is simply over-exhaustion. Babies aren’t exactly the best at vocalizing their needs – their communication skills are reduced to crying and wailing – but they are usually trying to tell you something. And in this case this “something” is I’m really tired. You know when you’re overtired you can get a little edgy and sometimes feel like crap. Well babies are no different except they get tired a lot quicker and they don’t necessarily know that sleeping is what needs to happen. So what are you to do? Well, there are a couple of things to consider.
Sleepless, fighting babies are usually so tired that under the right conditions they’ll be out quicker than you can say time-for-bed. However, saying time-for-bed is key – babies won’t just put themselves to sleep when their tired, that’s what you’re there for. You can’t just coddle your infant until they knock out and then praise the sleep god’s and put baby down in their crib. See, for the first ten minutes or so of snooze time babies are incredibly light sleepers. They don’t reach deep sleep cycles until after a solid ten to fifteen minutes of being unconscious. So when you lay baby down only two minutes in, the likelihood of them waking up, alone, and still oh-so-very tired (and cranky) is rather predictable. Instead, mom or dad should continue to cradle their sleeping child or at least not move them from where they’re sleeping until the window of waking passes. Once they’re good and out, moving them to their more permanent sleep place will be a much more successful venture. This means, finally, you can get some R&R – at least for a couple of hours – you hope.
Too Much Sleep
Much like overtiredness, babies can sleep too much (don’t you wish we could have that problem!). When babies are napping all day and then are put down for a full night sleep they can become restless and dazed and of course – whiny and troublesome. Try to adhere to the sleep chart provided above to prevent this from happening. If you can’t get your baby to fall within the recommended sleep amounts and frequency, don’t panic and don’t think that you’re not cut out for this parenthood thing. It’s okay. Every baby is different but understanding your child and trying to stick as close to these suggestions is the goal. In rare cases, sleeping too much can be caused by an underlying medical issue. This isn’t too be of grave concern but do take note of your baby’s sleeping schedule so you can trace patterns to bring to your pediatrician. They can tell test for things like sleep apnea and celiac disease that can cause sleep disruptions and nutrient deficiencies respectively.
A lot of new parents fight swaddling their baby. It’s understandable because sometimes your newborn may resist or cry and it feels like you’re “doing the wrong thing”. You’re not. Swaddling is great for a newborn but at about three months you can discontinue this practice as your baby is probably ready for some arm freedom. Reasons to swaddle? There are a few, to decrease the rate of SIDS, to soothe the baby (it takes time for them to get used to it but it does work), and longer sleep cycles because the baby won’t swing an arm in the night and wake themselves up (which inherently means more crying). Yes your infant may cry and cry even louder than they were crying before when you wrap their little bodies up in a warm blanket but they will eventually become used to this practice and it will become a sleep-associated ritual that lets baby know it’s nap time. Don’t let their wailing deter you, fight the urge to unwrap them and see how swaddling works for a few nights. You’ll probably be impressed.
Noise White Noise
You know how you carried that tiny little person around in your womb for months on end? Remember how you did a lot of things that were noisy and motion-filled? Well, your baby got used to this. They got used to be in tight quarters (swaddling) and they got used to falling asleep with muffled noises surrounding them. Use this perspective as a tool to getting your baby to stop fighting sleep. A silent room is likely going to be uncomfortable and cause sleeping issues because it’s eerie, unfamiliar and non-rhythmic noises like voices, cars or general movement can stir your sleepy baby. Find some white noise CD’s or online streams to put on for your baby and watch the magic happen. You want to moderate the kind of white noise you select and the volume at which you play it for a few nights. This is just to make sure you’re not blasting sound bytes that drive your baby crazy, but that you find the perfect concoction for your little bundle of woe. Something else to consider is taking this course in child development and sensory functioning. It’ll give you insight into why your baby is acting the way they are and help set the stage for a healthy, happy child in the future.
So there you have it, the crash-course guide to more sleep filled nights for you and baby. While your little one is awake, spend some time bonding with them. This can be done by baby wrapping (wrapping a Moby cloth around you to cradle baby close to your body), breastfeeding or spending time doing some baby massaging. In the course The Gift of the Loving Touch you can learn over 30 baby massage strokes and ways that massage can remedy ailments such as colic, gas and teething. For some more quick tips on getting and keeping your baby asleep read How to Get Your Baby to Sleep.