Sleep Tips From a Baby Whisperer

Sleepy and frazzled new parents all over the world are all wondering the exact same thing: When will my baby sleep longer at night?


Don’t fret! As a certified Postpartum & Infant Care Doula, I am here to talk to you about ways I help shape healthy sleep habits for my clients’ newborns.

The circadian rhythm of a newborn baby doesn’t mature until about 16 weeks, which is why sleep experts advise against any type of sleep “training” until after 3-4 months of age. But, the good news is that you absolutely CAN form healthy sleep habits for your baby before resorting to “sleep training” or hiring expensive “sleep coaches” by following a few simple, healthy practices and daily routines as your newborn gets older. Here are ways that I personally set my clients up for success while working in their home:

  1. Avoid over-tiredness. Babies do not have much melatonin until about 3-4 months of age. Melatonin is the calming hormone that helps to facilitate sleep. It’s important for babies to nap often and take advantage of the melatonin that they do have in order to keep cortisol at bay. Cortisol, the stress hormone, rises when a baby is tired and can’t sleep, thus increasing crankiness and restless sleep. Sleep begets sleep. So, keep naps consistent and put the baby down to sleep before the over-tiredness creeps in. Have a fussy baby? Click here for tips on soothing them.
  2. Sleep environment. Being consistent in keeping the sleep environment will help in creating sleep routines and also help with deeper, longer stretches of sleep.
    1. A nice, dark and cozy room to sleep in will help to increase melatonin and promote a deep and restful sleep. Black-out shades help with this, even for napping.
    2. Keep the temperature comfortable. You don’t want it too cool so baby has to work hard to warm up, but not too warm either because being too warm is not promoting deep sleep and is also a SIDS risk factor. Keeping temps in the room between 68-72 degrees works well.
    3. White noise. The noise-muffling sound of rushing water, waves or loud static (yes, LOUD) will help keep baby sleeping soundly even with noise in the background.
    4. Arms-in, nice and snug swaddle. I’ve never in my experience as a doula and caring for hundreds of babies came across a baby who didn’t love to be snuggled safely and securely in their swaddle blankets. You may think that your baby hates the swaddle, but just give them a minute after you pick them up and bounce a little. They will calm down and realize that they are safe and secure and feeling that nice warm snugness of what they had while in the womb. They love it!
  3. Lay baby down sleepy. At about 6-8 weeks of age, you can start to put the baby down while sleepy but somewhat awake. If your baby gets upset, go ahead and pick him up and put to sleep like normal. Just getting in the practice of putting them down while not fully asleep is helping to shape sleep. You are giving them the chance to show you that they can do it on their own. If they fall asleep before you can put them down, you can put them down in a way that wakes them up a little then after a few seconds they’ll start to fall asleep again.
  4. Dream Feeds. When your baby gets to that 3-month mark you can try doing some dream feedings. So, right before YOU go to bed for the night you would feed your baby a little amount. If you’re nursing, just nurse for 5 minutes or so and if you are bottle feeding, just feed them a couple ounces. It’s important to note that this feeding is not in response to crying, you are feeding them before they are awake and crying. You are only giving them some extra calories to eliminate a night feeding or delay it and get a longer stretch of sleep. If your baby still consistently wakes again, try setting an alarm clock prior to that usual wake time and dream feed again.

So there you have it! My top tips and advice for helping to shape those healthy sleep habits. This is a huge bonus of having a Postpartum & Infant Care Doula. We help the families we work with pave the way to happy, healthy sleep routines.

Sweet Dreams,

Heather

Photo credits: @jessiedphoto

 

 

 

I Soothe Fussy Babies! Learn How!

Hands up if you are trying to soothe a fussy baby! Parents all over the world are finding the best ways to calm their crying newborns. I’m here to give you my go-to’s in soothing those babies!

 

Are you knee deep in “The Witching Hour”?You’ve come to the right place!

I’m going to give you all my go-to steps for calming fussy babies. Once you know that they are not crying from hunger, a dirty/wet diaper, or a burp that needs to come out I always do the exact same things in this order:

  1. Swaddle: I reach for the largest and stretchiest swaddle blanket I can find and wrap your baby snugly. I always swaddle with baby’s arms in. I’ve never met a newborn who did not like an arms-in swaddle. Click here for my favorite swaddle blankets.
  2. Movement: I lovingly scoop your baby up and get moving. Whether it’s a sway, walking, swinging, or bouncing (Keep that birth ball accessible, babies love it). Even if you are exhausted, sitting on the edge of the couch you can still sway and rock. You may have to change the way you’re holding them here and there too. Up over your shoulder, cradled, or laying on your forearm. Switch it up if needed.
  3. Sucking: Babies have a sucking need even if they are not hungry. If you are against a pacifier or aren’t ready to introduce one yet, you can always use a clean finger for baby to suck on.
  4. Patting or Tapping: Gentle, rhythmic patting or tapping with fingers on baby’s back or bottom sends them into a zone that will not only help curb crying, but induces sleep.

Now you have my favorite fail-proof soothing techniques. Have you had luck with any of my fail-proof tools? Postpartum & Infant Care Doulas are here to save the day or night!

-Heather

 

10 Ways to Soothe a Fussy Baby

Let’s face it – all babies have their moments of fussiness. As a doula, having worked an abundance of families and helping them get to know their babies, learning their cues and what works and what doesn’t in regards to soothing the fussiness or getting them to sleep is a big part of the first few months of parenting. Sometimes the most simple movement, step or sound is just what you need. Other times, you need to add a few more tricks to what you are doing. Sometimes babies fuss the loudest right before they fall asleep like they are fighting it. As long as you know your baby is fed and has a clean diaper, you can go to your arsenal of tricks to help soothe your baby. I have compiled a list of my favorite 10 ways to soothe a fussy baby:


1. SWADDLE: This is the very first soothing technique I go to every time. The first 3 months of life should be treated like the fourth trimester, trying to recreate the womb as Dr. Harvey Karp says. It really works for me every time. Your baby may fuss during the swaddling, or right after (it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like being swaddled). Once they realize they are safe and secure just like they were in the womb, they calm down. See my favorite swaddle blanket here. Dr. Karp is known for the techniques he developed for calming infants – The 5 S’s: swaddling, side/stomach, shushing, swinging/swaying, & sucking.

 

2. YOGA BALL: Besides a big muslin swaddle blanket, this is my second go-to and must-have for pregnancy and parenting. This $10.00 ball will likely be the greatest investment during this time. Gentle bouncing on the ball while holding your baby is all you have to do. Sometimes depending on the degree of fussiness, you may have to incorporate some of the techniques listed above. If you are expecting, I recommend getting one to have in the living room while you are watching TV, it’s great to do figure 8’s on to loosen your pelvis, or gentle bouncing closer to your due date to possibly help encourage baby to engage into the pelvis. This video gives you some other ways to use your yoga ball during pregnancy and labor.

 


3. BABYWEARING: Keeping your baby close to you while you work around the house or out walking or at the store helps to keep them happy, plus there are so many benefits of babywearing. Some of the best naps for my own babies have been while being worn. There are lots of options out there in regards to what kind of carrier – check out this gorgeous Tula Ergonomic Carrier at locally owned Baby Sweet Pea’s Boutique or wrap will work for you and your needs. Luckily, we have Babywearing International of Cleveland to help us figure all this out! Monthly meetings, experienced educators helping you learn to wear safely and fit you with the carriers, lending library and more. I highly recommend attending a meeting near you if you think babywearing is for you.

 


4. GET OUTDOORS: Sometimes just getting out of the house for some fresh air and to listen to the sounds of nature for a bit are just enough to entertain baby for a bit. Whether you use a stroller (I really enjoy this one: City Select Jogger ) or baby carrier. Soak in a bit of vitamin D and go for a walk, or just sit outside for a bit.
5. WHITE NOISE: White noise is great, whether coming from a vacuum, water faucet, an app on your phone, or a sound machine – the Marpac Hushh is awesome since it’s portable and nice and loud. It not only drowns out other noises that could disrupt sleep, but it is soothing and relaxing to listen to.
6. SWING: The constant motion from a swing or Momaroo is helpful for soothing and napping (under supervision, of course). I like the Graco Duet Oasis because it can be turned and swing side to side instead of front to back and it vibrates. The Momaroo has lots of different motions, even one that mimics bouncing (remember #2) and white noise choices!

 


7. PLAYMAT: Occasionally, your baby may just want a moment to stretch out. Playmats and activity gyms are great for letting baby stretch, kick, look at toys and do a little tummy time. Eventually, baby will start to play with (bat at) the little toys that are hanging from it. How adorable is the Emily & Meritt Activity Gym?
8. OLDER SIBLINGS: Older children, toddlers, even fur-brothers and sisters make good distractions for baby. Babies love watching other kids – whether they are talking to them, singing, or playing with a toy in front of them. The older your baby gets, you will notice them become more and more interested in other kids.

 


9. ROCKING CHAIR: Going back to the good old-fashioned rocking chair is a soothing motion, plus baby will have the comfort of being held. Whether you have a nice wooden rocking chair like the Bakersfield Rocking Chair or a comfy glider, try it out! It’s a great place to read a book too!

 


10. SNOO: The Snoo is pretty much the Cadillac of bassinettes. Completely recreating the sounds and motions of the womb that baby loved so much. The Snoo sack has safety clips that keep baby on their back all night long. The Snoo chooses the best motions like low swaying for sleep and faster jiggling for upsets, and the best white noise like rain for sleep or womb sounds for crying.

 

For more information on how your doula can guide you and support you and your soothing techniques Contact us today!

Happy Soothing!  -Heather