Another sleepless night? Those can be hard to get through. The baby cries and cries, no matter what we do. Here are some advice that we have found helpful and tips to help your baby sleep better and longer.
Some nights are harder than others. Those long, dark nights when the baby cries and nothing seems to work. I've been there. Oh, my, how I've been there. In fact, most parents have. The mornings after are even worse, when you sit by the kitchen table and all you can do is hope that the second cup of coffee will wake you up. But then the baby smiles and giggles and you forget all about it.
However, there are a few things that you can do to help your baby sleep better and longer. Most of these you're probably doing already. Somehow, these things seem to pass on from mother to daughter, only to be solidified with scientific research. After all, we know our babies, right?
When I had my first my mother came to me and said: "Make sure to you keep schedule. Babies love routine." And I still remember when my baby girl was 4 months old, after a week of sleep deprivation, I phoned my mother up, exhausted. She calmed me down and asked what our sleep routine was like. After a short pause, she explained to me what my sleep routine had been, one she had learned from her mother.
By setting a short and simple sleep routine from about three months, you teach your baby when it is time to go to sleep. Half an hour before I put my baby girl to sleep I turned off the TV and bathed her. While we bathed I sang or talked to her, then put her into her pajamas. After I had put her to bed I sang a lullaby and kissed her. All in all, this took about 30 minutes. And by golly, did it work!
A consistent bedtime routine will gradually let your baby know that it’s time to go to sleep. Finish the bedtime ritual in the room where your baby sleeps.
My mother-in-law is a piece of work. She raised four boys mostly on her own (my father-in-law was a seaman) and she's as tough as they come. There was one thing she taught me that made wonders to my baby girl's sleep habits. And in fact, it's so simple yet brilliant.
Make daytime feeds social and lively, and night-time feeds calm. Your baby will learn, simply by watching your behavior the difference between night and day. This will also help your baby set her body clock.
She was adamant in that there were no deviations from this, because mothers needs their sleep as well. And I can imagine, having a lot of boys running through the house would make my hair turn grey, not to mention if I was also sleep deprived.
Make daytime feeds social, night-time feed calm and quiet.
Here's something I found out for myself! Ok, you've probably discovered this as well. I was young when I had my first, so wet behind the ears (weren't we all?) and I had no idea how, why, when or what of anything. I had my mother on speed-dial and I swear, I could sometimes hear her rolling her eyes on the other end of the line. When I called her to ask for how long I needed to boil water, she firmly told me to relax. Otherwise I wouldn't enjoy these first months of the baby's life.
So, I gave it a try. Whenever my girl started crying in her crib I would be at her side to see if everything was alright. Some nights I even lay awake, just to hear her breathing because I was terrified she might stop. But, I needed to relax and take it easy. And I did.
What astonished me was, that my baby didn't need me as much as I thought she did. Sometimes she would wake up and fall back asleep on her own. Other times she would wake up but settle again by herself. If she cried, sometimes all she needed was to feel the touch of my hand.
Give your baby chance to fall asleep on her own. Wait to see if she settles by herself.
Ok, this is perhaps something new to you, but did you know that babies have incredibly strong sense of smell? I did not know that when I had my first. Your baby can recognize you by your smell, so having something near it that has your smell can actually soothe the baby. How awesome is that? Just keep in mind, do not have anything loose in the crib when they are little. Safety is important.
What's also interesting is that studies have shown that the sound of heartbeat and breathing can calm and sooth babies. After all, they've spent up to 9 months in the womb, listening to their mother's heart, voice and breathing. The Lulla doll is designed with this in mind.
Renowned pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp and specialist in the field of infant sleep thinks white noise is vital. "Even for easy babies, white noise is a must. It makes good sleep even better. And it helps prevent the sleep disasters that may ruin your life between four and twelve months!" He says it is very common for an infant’s sleep to suddenly fall apart after threee to four months of age. Apparantly because a) the calming reflex fades away, b) babies become super social and wake up when they hear little noises in the middle of the night, c) they are weaned off being swaddled, and 4) they are teething. He says that all four factors can lead to a surge in sleep problems. However, he claims that using white noise can help sidestep these problems.
Use scent and white noise to calm and sooth the baby.
Now I have three kids. And I've come a long way. I no longer phone my mother every 90 minutes or so and I've come to trust my feelings and instinct. I guess that ist probably the most valuable lesson that I've learned. I've spent so much time with my kids, I carried them inside me, I've changed their diapers and feed them. I know these tiny human beings.
But I've learned more. I don't need to do this all, my husband helps me and we share the responsibility. I kindly ask him... ok, to be honest, I kick him under the covers and growl: "It's your turn!" when our youngest wakes up in the night, i.e. when it is his turn. It also helps teach the baby boy that there isn't always food involved.
And I admit, I sometimes break my own rules. Sometimes I don't follow the sleep routine and just cuddle up in our bed with the baby boy. Simply because I need it. Just keep in mind, if your baby is six months or younger, the crib is the safest place for her to sleep.
Tune in to your baby's needs. Let your partner share the role of comforter.
I hope that these advice and tips to help your baby sleep better and longer have been helpful. I'm not a doctor or specialized in this field. I'm just a mother like you.
- Contribution by guest blogger Anna