Without a doubt, the topic that understandably inspires the most intense emotion among parents is how to get a baby to sleep! We have written a few other articles on babies’ sleep problems. Finding sleep solutions is a big issue for many moms, and there is truthfully no single right answer or approach. Different moms have different ways of trying to soothe their babies or get their babies to go back to sleep after waking up during the night, but one of the other important areas to think about is how to help your baby make an easier transition between daytime activities and night. Babies stressed and overwhelmed by “transition times” between different environments and types of activities can be especially evident at bedtime.
There is a real problem with parents suffering from sleep deprivation. We reached out to our Facebook community of Medela moms and asked them to share any techniques that have helped them to get their baby to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
The response was enlightening and encouraging! Our Medela moms helped confirm that getting a baby to go to sleep is the number one challenge that all moms and dads face, and it does not matter if they are new parents, experienced parents with several older children, or somewhere in between. We discovered that parents are dealing with an incredibly diverse array of challenges. This makes it difficult to offer any specific advice that works for every situation – because every situation is different! Some parents have a baby that wakes up every 2 hours; others have a naturally sleepy baby. Some love the discipline of using a consistent ritual process to get the child ready for sleep, while others find just winging it works best. Others find that that they can get enough rest as long as they are sleeping every second that the baby sleeps. Some moms prefer to stay awake during the baby’s naptimes because they treasure the alone time. It gives them an opportunity to get things done, even though they pay for it with tired days.
Parents have tried a variety of tricks. Things like not making eye contact after laying the baby down for a nap, turning out the lights, kissing the baby’s face, keeping the room cool, giving the baby a teddy bear, or using a pacifier. All of these things might work, but the truth is, some babies are just light sleepers. It may also be that your baby is waking up for reasons other than hunger, and although this is a fictional “letter from your baby,” it does describe some things that might be on their mind.
Since this is a real and often serious problem for many parents, whatever can be done is helpful. One single mom in our community mentioned that she had to go back to school and desperately needed more rest. Another mom was going back to work, and her health was suffering because she was getting no more than 4 hours of sleep per night. The whole family is happier and the household runs more smoothly when moms and dads can get enough sleep!
So hopefully some of the ideas offered here will work for you – they may be worth a try. Whatever option works best, please know that you are not alone. The night feeds do become more manageable and you always have our friendly Medela Canada Facebook posts to keep you company! Here are some ideas from our Medela Canada community of moms on Facebook for how to help moms create some rituals or behaviours that will be conducive to creating a sleep environment:
Breastfeed More During the Day
If you are exhausted by night feedings, maybe you can try filling your baby’s appetite during the day. Offer the baby the breast often throughout the day. Kathryn said, “I just give a lot of feeds during the day! 10-12 breast feeds during the day for me means less feeds at night.”
It also might help to make sure that your baby is taking all of the milk from both breasts. Jessica said, “I alternate breasts in quick succession. I always make sure to feed my daughter from one breast and then burp. She then will take the second breast then burp, and then go back to the first breast and then burp again. This takes 30 to 60 minutes.”
Stay Busy All Day
Babies might sleep better at night if you give them more stimulation and activity during the day – that way they are active when you are active, and they are more likely to sleep when you want to sleep. Stephanie said, “I stimulated my baby during the day more so he was up longer during the day and got tired at night. I also bathed him before bed and made sure he had a full tummy. At 4 weeks he was sleeping 6 plus hours during the night.”
Set a Night-time Routine
Babies and small children tend to respond well to routine – they need the simple rhythms of the day to be predictable and calm. Try setting up a consistent process to get the baby ready for bed – doing the same things in order, at the same time every night. Whether that is a bath, a bedtime story, a goodnight feed, or some combination. Brie said, “I read ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle every single night after baths and nursing to all of my kids, and they go to bed and sleep through the night. I don’t know why it works – it just does. My guess is some babies like routine.” Jessica said, “We PRAISE the Bath, Bottle, Bed routine! A nice warm bath with some splashing and some laughs, a good massage with lotion, with a few more giggles, some cuddles and a bottle (or boob for you Breastfeeding mommies) and then lights out for the night!”
Accept This Stage of Life
Some moms never quite find the right combination of techniques to get their baby to sleep soundly through the night – and as tiring and frustrating as this might feel, it’s important to remember that it is all OK! Your baby will not be small forever. Try to have gratitude and appreciate the little moments with your baby, even when you are sleep deprived. Myra said, “I know it sounds very strange, but I actually enjoy the night feeds with my little one. The house is quiet and we are alone together. I know she will grow up very fast and I want to spend every minute I can help her grow.”
The truth is that babies do not know the difference between night and day and the need for food is greater than the need for sleep. After 3 months, they tend to become more efficient with feeding and fill their stomachs, which help them to sleep more soundly. Babies are adapting to a new world and the best advice is to try to help them make the transition. It will move to a new phase within a few months and then when they are teenagers you will be shaking and dragging them out of bed to get to school.
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