By Elizabeth Pantley,author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution
Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. This is aglorious time in your life – and a sleepless time too. Newborns have verydifferent sleep needs than older babies. This article will help you understandyour baby’s developing sleep patterns, and will help you have reasonableexpectations for sleep.
Read, Learn, and Beware of Bad Advice
Absolutely everyone has an opinion about how youshould handle sleep issues with your new baby. The danger to a new parent isthat these tidbits of misguided advice (no matter how well-intentioned) cantruly have a negative effect on our parenting skills and, by extension, ourbabies’ development…if we are not aware of the facts. The more knowledgeyou have the less likely that other people will make you doubt your parentingdecisions.
When you have your facts straight, and when you have aparenting plan, you will be able to respond with confidence to those who arewell-meaning but offering contrary or incorrect advice. So, your first step isto get smart! Know what you are doing, and know why you are doingit. Read books and magazines, attend classes or support groups – it all helps.
The Biology of Newborn Sleep
During the early months of your baby's life, he sleeps whenhe is tired, it’s that simple. You can do little to force a new baby to sleepwhen he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him upwhen he is sleeping soundly.
Newborn babies have very tiny tummies. They grow rapidly,their diet is liquid, and it digests quickly. Although it would be nice to layyour little bundle down at bedtime and not hear from him until morning, this isnot a realistic goal for a tiny baby. Newborns need to be fed every two to fourhours — and sometimes more.
Sleeping “through thenight”
You may believe that babies should start "sleepingthrough the night" soon after birth. For a new baby, a five-hour stretch isa full night. Many (but not all) babies can sleep uninterrupted from to (Not that they always do.) This may be a far cry from what you may have thought"sleeping through the night" meant!
What's more, some sleep-through-the-nighters will suddenlybegin waking more frequently, and it’s often a full year or even two until yourbaby will settle into an all-night, every night sleep pattern.
Falling Asleep at the Breast orBottle
It is natural for a newborn to fall asleep while sucking atthe breast, a bottle, or a pacifier. When a baby always falls asleepthis way, he learns to associate sucking with falling asleep; over time, hecannot fall asleep any other way. This is probably the most natural, pleasantsleep association a baby can have. However, a large percentage of parents whoare struggling with older babies who cannot fall asleep or stay asleep arefighting this powerful association.
Therefore, if you want your baby to be able to fall asleepwithout your help, it is essential that you sometimes let your newbornbaby suck until he is sleepy, but not totally asleep. When you can, remove thebreast, bottle, or pacifier from his mouth, and let him finish falling asleepwithout it. If you do this often enough, he will learn how to fall asleepwithout sucking.
Waking for Night Feedings
Many pediatricians recommend that parents shouldn't let anewborn sleep longer than four hours without feeding,and the majority of babies wake far more frequently than that. No matterwhat, your baby will wake up during the night. The key is to learn whenyou should pick her up for a feeding and when you can let her go back to sleepon her own.
Here’s a tip that is important for you to know. Babies makemany sleeping sounds, from grunts to whimpers to outright cries, and thesenoises don’t always signal awakening. These are what I call sleeping noises, and your baby is asleepduring these episodes.
Learn to differentiate between sleeping sounds and awakesounds. If she is awake and hungry, you’ll want to feed her as quickly aspossible so she’ll go back to sleep easily. But if she’s asleep – let hersleep!
Help Your Baby Distinguish Dayfrom Night
A newborn sleeps sixteen to eighteen hours per day, and thissleep is distributed evenly over six to seven sleep periods. You can help yourbaby distinguish between night sleep and day sleep, and thus help him sleeplonger periods at night.
Have your baby take his daytime naps in a lit room where hecan hear the noises of the day. Make nighttime sleep dark and quiet, except forwhite noise (a background hum). You can also help your baby differentiate dayfrom night by using a nightly bath and a change into pajamas to signal thedifference between the two.
Watch for Signs of Tiredness
Get familiar with your baby's sleepy signals and put herdown to sleep as soon as she seems tired. A baby who is encouraged to stayawake when her body is craving sleep is an unhappy baby. Over time, thispattern develops into sleep deprivation, which complicates developing sleepmaturity. Learn to read your baby’s sleepy signs -- such as quieting down,losing interest in people and toys, and fussing -- and put her to bed when thatwindow of opportunity presents itself.
Make Yourself Comfortable
It’s a fact that your baby will be waking you up, so youmay as well make yourself as comfortable as possible. Relax about night wakingsright now. Being frustrated about having to get up won’t change a thing. Thesituation will improve day by day; and before you know it, your newborn won’tbe so little anymore — she’ll be walking and talking and getting intoeverything in sight…during the day, and sleeping peacefully all night long.
Excerpted with permissionby McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution:Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley,copyright 2002 http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth