Being a brand new parent of a brand new baby who had trouble sleeping longer than an hour at a time I utilized every resource I could find to help me. I met with professional sleep consultants, read popular books about parenting newborns, called the fussy baby network, and of course – scoured online forums for anyone suffering from the same lack of sleep with a trick or idea I hadn’t tried yet.
Here’s what I was dealing with:
- Baby would only fall asleep in my arms
- Baby would wake up when I tried to put her down
- Baby would only stay asleep for an hour at a time
- When she would wake in the night, she would want to stay awake instead of going back to sleep
I discovered that a tip from here and an idea from there brought impressive results.
1. Fill That Belly
Think of the time when you are most interested in having a good long sleep. Most likely that time involves having a nice, satisfying meal right beforehand. To create a state of contentment, and to keep it that way for a few hours, make sure your little one has a nice full belly before trying to send them off to dreamland.
2. Pre-Flight Sleep Checklist
To sleep for a longer stretch of time ensure all of the following are taken care of after a nice, full feed:
- Burped to prevent mid-sleep gas pains
- Gas drops if needed
- A fresh diaper
- Adequately dressed – being too hot or too cold can cause wake-ups
3. Set the Sleep Cues Part I:
Emulate the Comfort of the Womb
Setting up specific bedtime or naptime cues lets your baby know: “Oh, it’s time for me to have a nice, big sleep.”
The simple comfort cues that worked the best for me are:
- A tight swaddle
- Rocking motion
A lot of newborns feel most contented in a cozy setting that resembles the womb. A tight swaddle and heavy bouncing may seem uncomfortable to adults, but babies are used to being compressed into a little ball and jiggled constantly. Perhaps you remember your baby being the most bouncy when you were trying to sleep at night? Stillness makes babies unsettled!
4. Set the Sleep Cues Part II:
Emulate the Sounds of the Womb
Along with a snug squeeze, the womb was loud – as loud as a vacuum cleaner – with the sounds of mom’s heartbeat, lungs, and belly growls. After your baby is gently jiggling in a snug swaddle give her some familiar, pacifying background noise.
The sounds that worked for me are:
- Fan or white noise machine
- A special sleep-time song
After putting the noise machine on the loudest setting, I wrapped everything up with a special song just for sleep time. It was usually something I just made up on the fly with a soothing rhythm. Give it a try – it may only take a few times for your baby to recognize their special sleep song with heavy eyes when you start singing.
5. And Then You Wake Your Baby Up…
Yes, I know this sounds crazy. When I heard this I thought to myself, “I am trying to get this child to SLEEP! How is waking her a good idea??” However, when you think about it, this is the perfect time to get your baby to learn how to fall asleep on their own– baby is full of milk, swaddled, comforted, and heavy with sleep. The best method (tried and true by me, I swear!) is to gently wake up your baby before putting them down in their sleep area.
The Reasoning: It’s easy for your baby to fall asleep in your arms – being gently rocked against a warm body – the soothing sound of a heartbeat – what’s not to love? It’s tempting to just let the little nugget remain peacefully asleep on your chest. Just keep in mind if this is the only way you let your baby fall asleep, this could cause a dependency on mom or dad to get them back asleep during wake-ups caused by noises or mild hunger.
Yes, at first this could take a few tries. I remember having to pick my baby up and soothe her back to a calm state at least five times before she fell asleep on her own. But she learned – and now I can lay her down in her bassinet after two rounds of the special sleep song when her eyes are heavy and starting to close and she falls asleep. On her own. Just like magic.
6. Bonus Tip: Rock n’ Play Your Way to Victory
Putting a baby down on a still surface can wake them right up. I struggled with this for weeks – I tried everything and nothing seemed to work. Every sleeping setup I tried was so different from rocking in the warmth of moms arms.
That is until I was told about the Fisher Price Rock n’ Play by my lactation consultant.
At first I was skeptical. Another baby contraption I had no interest in buying let alone cluttering up my already small city apartment. It sat in the box for a few days and then after I put it together I was reluctant to try it. But let me tell you – IT CHANGED MY LIFE.
After my baby was fed, burped, changed, and rocked to sleep in my arms, the easiest transition was laying her down in the Rock n’ Play and gently rocking her back to sleep. So easy, so light – it works like magic.
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents