Some new parents have difficulty making the transition from having no children to taking care of a small infant around the clock. While these parents may feel alone, in truth thousands of new parents go through the same emotions. Thankfully, there are techniques that can work very effectively to help both parent and infants adjust to their new surroundings. Of course, your newborn will sleep up to 17 hours a day, but in between sleeping they will need to be fed, winded and have their nappy changed. There’s no point in trying to get a baby that’s under at least 4 months of age to sleep through, as they still need to wake for feeds. Some may do it on their own, and that’s fine – you have lucked out there! Others need longer to learn to sleep independently all through the night, and there are many variations on normal.
There is lots of pressure on new parents to get their babies ‘sleeping through,’ which can mean different things to different people. To one parent, sleeping from 12am to 4am is sleeping through, whereas to others it’s sleeping 12 hours from 7pm to 7am. Plus, every baby is different and has different needs. Some Mums like to co-sleep with their babies as they get more rest, whereas others like to try a more strict routine, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few ways to help you cope with sleep deprivation and some techniques to try if you are struggling.
Recognising The Signs Of Colic
Some parents are lucky enough to have a baby that sleeps throughout the night. However, this is few and far between. If your infant becomes extremely cranky, exhibiting a high-pitched intense crying, they could very well be experiencing colic. Colic itself is just a name for prolonged crying with unknown cause, and is thought to be caused by stomach issues. This is a condition that affects both parents and the infant, who can cry up to three hours a day. Colic typically lasts about three weeks, but some infants will continue to exhibit symptoms for up to 5 weeks or longer.
During a colic episode, the infant will be fussy and crying uncontrollably. All efforts will seem futile, because the infant will continue to cry, clench her fists and curl their legs. If you think your baby has colic, there are some medications to try, but it will mostly resolve on it’s own with time. Here’s what you can do to help both baby and you:
Babywearing helps, in a sling or carrier – my favourite is the close caboo for babies under 4 months, then a soft structured carrier like the Ergobaby or for utter gorgeousness in a range of patterns, a Tula. Both the Ergobaby and Tula will last from small baby to toddler size. When you carry your baby in the proper carrier that supports your body and baby, they feel secure and will cry less, settle more, and you get more done.
Colic over the counter medications
There are a few things you can try, but you need to seek medical advice first, in case there is another problem you don’t know about. Some are safe from birth and others aren’t, so always check the label and instructions clearly. Remember crying is their only method of communication, and their survival instinct is not to be left alone and to feed often. Here’s what I recommend to new parents for colic (click on the links for more information and to order):
Infant Massage and Yoga
Baby massage can help if they have digestion issues, CMPA (cow’s milk protein allergy), refulx, silent reflux or just seems unhappy! If baby is gaining weight, has wet and dirty nappies and all other signs are normal, it will pass. My youngest cried so much, unless he was feeding, being held or carried in a sling until he was about 5 months old. He’s now the happiest most loving 2 year old.
Sharing The Bed
The fact that children share the bed with their parents on many occasions is a common recurrence in a lot of cultures. However, you might not know that this is actually an essential part of the child rearing process known as “attachment parenting”. It is the sense of security and safety that makes the child feel comfortable enough to fall asleep with ease. This also makes breastfeeding extremely quick and easy for mothers that are partaking in this practice. It’s important if you do it, to make sure it’s safe. It’s currently advised that the safest way is for your baby to sleep next to your bed in it’s own cot or moses basket for the first 6 months. Many parents to bed share, but to keep safe, remember the safe sleep 7 detailed below. One of the most important factors is a supportive mattress on your bed, be sure to check out https://sleep.reviews for more information.
The Gradual Retreat
If your child likes you to stay with them whilst they fall asleep, try the gradual retreat method. What you need to do is each night sit a little further away by an inch each time and wait until they fall asleep, until you’re outside the door. You need to be consistent with the bedtime routine, same methods each night, perhaps bath, pyjamas, story in bed and then say goodnight with a kiss and cuddle. This is kinder than simply leaving them to cry or dragging them back to bed when they get out constantly, and makes it less stressful all round.
Also known as “I’ll try anything.” Many people have tried this book, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, I myself have tried it and it does work, but it’s a longish story and you have to say certain words with emphasis. There is an audio version which is free with the Amazon Audible trial, or you can record yourself reading it, and then just sit with your child and look at the pictures together as you listen. Be warned you may fall asleep together!
It’s so important to surround yourself with supportive friends and family. If you’re breastfeeding and want to continue, you don’t need people telling you that baby will sleep if you give formula (hint, it doesn’t work as a sedative!). Similarly, if you sleep better with your baby in a separate room, don’t listen to people telling you otherwise. Trust your instincts, but if you’re struggling to find your stride, talk to other parents, friends and family and try different things. It will pass, and you will feel more rested one day. Not everyone instinctively knows what to do as a mother, and sleep deprivation makes it so hard to think straight and make rational decisions. See if anyone can take baby for a walk, or help you with household chores. Get out and about, even if it’s just a walk around the block to clear your head. Join my parenting support group on Facebook, where you’ll always find a supportive virtual ear.
Well, it might not have been quite what you expected, I’m afraid there’s no magic technique or time frame for when your baby or child will sleep through the night, or how to get them to sleep through, just time and patience, and a lot of coping strategies. If there was a magic formula, I’d be a millionaire for recommending it! The best thing I found was to think of each day as new and focus on my energy levels throughout the day, rest when I needed it if possible. If you constantly focus on how little sleep you’ve had and how you’ll never catch up, you’ll just depress yourself. If you find something that you think will work, by all means go for it, but be consistent with what you choose, give it a good go. A consistent bedtime routine works wonders if you can keep it going, at least for getting them to sleep in the first place. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer.
All opinions are my own. Not intended to replace medical advice.
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