We aren't sure who coined the phrase "sleeping like a baby" but we are pretty sure they never spent much actual time with any babies. Most newborn babies definitely do a lot of sleeping in those early days but sometimes need a little help with getting a lot of sleep without waking themselves up before they've had an adequate stretch of sleep. While sometimes they are able to settle themselves back to sleep, they will often wake and cry, breaking up their sleep cycle (and yours!). While this is completely normal there are things you can do to help baby sleep a little more soundly and for possibly longer stretches.
1. Meet basic needs
Feeding your baby and making sure they have a clean diaper before settling down for a nap will help lengthen the time they may sleep. Burp baby frequently during and then after the feeding to help move any gas bubbles through the body.
2. Swaddle baby
All those startle reflexes are true to their name and they do occasionally startle your newborn into waking up. One recommendation is to swaddle your baby. There are so many on the market and a lot of variations on how to swaddle baby. You don't, however, need a special swaddling blanket. A regular receiving blanket will do just fine when your baby is brand new. We like this how to video from Aden + Anais. Be sure to keep any loose parts of the blanket from your baby's face. Always swaddle with baby laid on their back. When your baby begins to roll over on their own you will need to transition out of the swaddle.
3. Wake a sleeping baby
Wait, what? I thought we were talking about keeping a baby asleep?? We are! It's best practice to feed a newborn every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night. We know a lot people (re: our mothers) who say never wake a sleeping baby but it is a good idea to make sure they eat frequently during the day to help them stretch a little longer at night. Most pediatricians say to feed a new baby at least every 4 hours at night until they are back to their birth weight and gaining well. All of this to say that a baby who has had a good caloric intake will likely sleep a little more soundly and a for a bit longer.
4. Use white noise
Babies seem to really enjoy white noise. Apparently it creates a noise environment similar to that of a womb. You can find lots of white noise apps out there to download to your phone or tablet. There are also devices out there that are made specifically to produce white noise. Many of our clients enjoy the Dohm.
5. Stay calm and count to 100
Babies are smart and can sense when you are anxious. If you hear baby wake up and are already worried about how you're going to get them back to sleep, take a deep breath. Exhale. Rinse and repeat. Now, count to 100. I can't tell you how many times I woke my own baby up just by rushing in to try and settle them at their first peep. Newborns make lots of noises. They may grunt and sigh and even cry out for a second. This is all very normal. Very often they will stay asleep even though they are making these noises. Of course, if baby starts truly crying and waking, don't hesitate to comfort them!
The old saying of "Sleep begets sleep" definitely rings true for typically developing newborns. We hope these tips help you and your baby to #getsleep! If you need some help facilitating infant (and parent!) sleep, our Postpartum and Infant Care Doulas are ready to support you day or night. Don't hesitate to contact us today!