Sleep: such a simple thing and yet a complete preoccupation for so many new parents. What’s the magic formula? “Cry it out”? Get a sleep trainer? According to the Welcome Baby Care Professional Postpartum Doula team, getting babies to sleep isn’t rocket science. But these baby whisperers also know that there are some definite tricks of the trade.
Helping your baby to be a happily sleeping baby starts long before bedtime. That means doing whatever you can to decrease the amount of stress hormone that is flowing through his little body. You know how hard it can be to sleep if you’re anxious or if you’ve experienced a surge of adrenaline—same goes for the little ones. These practices help to decrease stress in babies, which in turn (generally), leads to better sleep patterns:
- Applying tummy pressure
- White noise
Doulas have a routine and they recommend that parents have one as well. Here one Welcome Baby Care doula shares her pre-bedtime checklist:
- Bathing or another nighttime activity that includes touch and massage
- Fresh diaper and night clothing
- Quiet, close feeding (don’t overfeed—more food does not equate with longer periods of uninterrupted sleep)
- Soft, gentle burping
- White noise
- Rocking, walking, or gentle movement
- Laying of babe very gently in crib/bassinette with feet touching crib/bassinette end wall, without letting go completely
- Placing hand on babe’s tummy/chest with slight pressure.
- Watching for signs of deep sleep, gently releasing hands
- Standing and staring at this incredible miracle for several minutes
- Slowly and quietly leaving the room
A few things to remember: first, every baby is different. If your baby is a more ‘active’ sleeper, waking up several times a night, it doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong, or that your baby is suffering some sort of anxiety. Babies develop through sleep and each has his own little pattern. This is NOT a reflection of your parenting.
You want to do what you can so that your baby is calm and relaxed, but that may or may not translate into a particular sleep pattern. Soothing techniques that work at one stage of development may or may not work a month or two later. That’s okay. Helping your baby to sleep well is sort of a dance. You try different moves, two steps forward, one step back, responding to their cues and doing what you can to soothe.
Few babies or parents should actually require professional help. You are learning to respond to her needs, patterns, and personality, and she will learn to respond to your soothing. Don’t stress about it too much. Though your mommy friends might want to compare notes, remember: the number of hours your child sleeps at a stretch is not indicative of his health or your skills as a parent. Each baby develops his own sleep pattern. The most skillful parent is the one who learns to adapt to that pattern.