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Posts tagged ‘bedtime routines’

6 Tips for Sweet Newborn Sleep

Nothing can prepare you for the changes in your sleep when you welcome a newborn baby into your family. Experienced parents will issue dire warnings and tell you to sleep while you can during the last few weeks of pregnancy. (And you will think, yeah right, there’s a large boulder resting on my bladder, and sometimes it kicks for good measure.)

But then the baby arrives, and your world changes forever. Sleep disruption is one of the most immediate and dramatic changes associated with parenthood. It isn’t just that you’re getting less sleep; it’s that your sleep is suddenly dependent on this baby sleeping. And even though newborns sleep a lot – as much as 16-18 hours per day – it feels disorganized and unpredictable.

The thing is, babies, even brand new ones, actually do have organized sleep, it just isn’t organized like yours. But under the surface, baby is working towards being more like you in his sleep. During the first few months, you have no choice but to go with the flow and sleep when the baby sleeps (something I was never good at), but it can help to understand the inherent patterns in your baby’s sleep/wake cycles so that they become more predictable. Your goal is to work with your baby’s biology, find some time for your own sleep, and support your baby in his natural development towards more mature sleep patterns.

In the research for my book, I’ve buried myself in research papers on infant sleep, trying to glean some knowledge that can be helpful to parents in these first few months of baby’s life. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Understand newborn sleep cycles. Newborn sleep alternates between active and quiet sleep (akin to REM and non-REM sleep in adults). During the first few months of life, infants usually begin each sleep period in active sleep. Then, after about 25 minutes, they’ll transition to a cycle of quiet sleep, also about 25 minutes long. During active sleep, babies will twitch and flail their limbs, grunt and sigh, and maybe even cry a little. Their eyes move beneath translucent closed lids and may even open from time to time. In quiet sleep, babies breathe slowly and rhythmically, and their bodies are still 1,2.

Why care about the biology of sleep? Because it can help you in these practical ways:

  • Babies wake easily from active sleep, so if your baby falls asleep in your arms, wait until you see signs of that deeper, quiet sleep before you try to move him.
  • Around the 45-50 minutes mark, baby will be finishing up that first active/quiet sleep cycle of 45-50 minutes. Transitioning from one cycle to the next can be tricky for a new baby, so if he wakes during this time (particularly if it’s after just one cycle), see if he wants your help returning to sleep before assuming that he’s ready to eat or play.
  • Active sleep is noisy. Parents often mistake the normal vocalizations of active sleep as the baby waking, and in their efforts to soothe the baby, they’ll actually wake him up. If you think your baby is waking up, pause and watch him for a moment. He may just be dancing in his sleep, or he might be waking briefly only to return to sleep on his own.

IMG_42252. Help your baby find a rhythm. We are adapted to Earth’s 24-hour cycle of light and dark, and our physiological circadian rhythms help us to feel awake during the day and sleepy at night. Newborn babies, on the other hand, sleep just as much during the day as they do at night. It takes them some time to develop rhythms to match our day/night cycle. You can help by sending baby strong environmental and social cues about day and night. Read more

Mama, Talk Busy Day?

Cee was sick about a month ago – sick in a flu-sort of way with fever, cough, stuffy nose, and general misery. We threw our regular sleep routines out the window. There was a lot of back rubbing and singing to help her to sleep and more of the same when she woke burning with fever during the night, needing some reassurance from Mama or Daddy and another dose of ibuprofen.

Once she was better, Cee had a bit of a hard time transitioning back to our regular routine of books, song, and goodnight. She said, “Mama, lie down?” wanting me to stay with her until she fell asleep. I couldn’t get into that habit.  I had humored her a few times, and I knew how it went. I would lay down next to her until her breathing slowed and she was still, but I’d still be afraid to budge for another 20 minutes to be sure she was in a deep sleep. By that time, I would either fall asleep myself or at the very least have lost all motivation to do anything productive for the rest of the night. Plus, I hate the sneaking out thing. It makes me feel like I’m not being honest with her. Cee knows how to go to sleep on her own.

mama and ceeInstead, I stayed with her for a few extra minutes. I held her hand and talked quietly about her day, full of friends at daycare, walks outside, time with mommy and daddy, meals, bath, books, and all the regular mundane things we do together. It was a busy day, I told her, and tomorrow would be another busy day. Time to rest, little girl. Night night. I kissed first one hand and then the other and then her forehead, now thankfully cool now since the fever was gone. It was a good bedtime. She fell asleep, and I got to work.

The next night, as I was kissing her goodnight, she said, “Mama, lie down?”

“No,” I said, “I’m not going to lie down with you. I need to go work upstairs.” (She actually accepts this response. It seems to make sense to her.)

She had another idea.

“Mama, talk busy day?”

And so began our new bedtime tradition. It’s Cee’s favorite part of bedtime now, and mine too. She asks for it with anticipation every night. When Husband is home at bedtime, he shares in it as well. We snuggle together in a Cee sandwich and recall the day. Read more