As a new parent, you are overwhelmed with a plethora of baby sleep advice. Everyone from your mom, mother-in-law to the sweet old lady at church wants to give their 2¢. You’ve heard it all. Don’t hold your baby too much or you’ll spoil them. Don’t use a pacifier or you’ll have a hard habit to break. Rice cereal in baby’s bottle will help them sleep longer. And the list goes on and on. In this 5 part series, I’ll bust common baby sleep myths and provide you with the REAL DEAL so your family can enjoy more sleep.
Baby Sleep Myth #1: Keeping your baby awake all the day will help them sleep well at night.
Real Deal: If you want your baby to sleep longer at night it is imperative they are taking good naps throughout the day. PERIOD. Babies have natural sleep needs that should be honored. When these needs aren’t met, babies become overtired and wired. I know you’ve been told by EVERYONE that you have to keep your baby up all day but it’s simply not true. Just to give you an idea of how much sleep babies need, here’s an example sleep routine for a 4 Week Old:
7:00 AM Wake and Feed
7:45 Light Play
10:00 Wake and Feed
10:45 Play or Outing
1:00 PM Wake and Feed
1:45 Play or Outing
2:15 PM Nap
As you can see this little tyke has already taken 3 naps and it’s not even 3pm! Mind blowing, I know. But this is truly how much sleep babies need to grow healthy and strong. And just think. When your baby is sleeping you’ll have time for yourself. Remember that life you had before baby arrived? You can start to reclaim it during nap time. Lunches with girlfriends, Pilates class or just good old fashioned sleep can be yours again but you’ll have to address your baby’s sleep needs first.
How do you know if your baby is overtired?
Here’s what to look for:
- Baby is cranky, upset and difficult to settle for sleep
- Baby cries escalates and feeding does not solve the problem
- Baby startles awake shortly after falling asleep
- Baby takes 20-45 minute “catnaps”, wakes up crying and cannot fall back asleep
- Sidebar: Babies 3 months+ who only “catnap” are stuck in a cycle of sleep deprivation and will need your help lengthening their naps
If my baby’s so tired, why doesn’t she just fall asleep?
Without getting too technical, here’s what happens. Your baby get’s tired and starts to yawn, whimper or rub their eyes. Ideally you’d put baby immediately down for a nap and enjoy a couple of hours to yourself. However, if you miss these sleep cues you’re baby will get a “second wind” and seem full of energy. This displaced energy has no where to go so baby will likely fuss, whine or cry. Once this stage passes, baby will enter meltdown territory. In this phase babies rub their eyes, pull their ears/hair or begin to pull on or scratch you. No matter what you do, they never seem to settle and will fight sleep with all their might. Your baby is exhausted and you throw your hands up in frustration.
I got it. My baby’s overtired, now what?
To help your little one get more sleep, here’s what I suggest. For the next 7 days, just focus on watching for your baby’s sleep cues. That’s it. Nothing complicated. No need to sprinkle fairy dust around the crib and negotiate with the Sandman for a good night’s sleep. Just watch for the cues. The moment you see an eye rub or yawn, get your little one ready for bed pronto. Your goal here is to PREVENT a meltdown and help your baby fall asleep with ease. See a sleep cue, get them ready for bed. Easy enough, right?
One myth down, 4 more to go. Tune in next time when we’ll discuss Good Sleepers: Fact or Fiction.
What’s the craziest baby sleep tip you’ve been given?