How great would it be if your little one came with a user manual..... or could tell you clearly when they're tired!!!! Those early days finding your way with this new little bundle becomes a blur or nappies, feedings an tiny little sleep suits. It's easy to miss the little ways our babies use to communicate with us.
While sleep training should not be done prior to 4 months, sleep shaping can be started immediately! I personally started some elements in the hospital (unfortunately i was kept in for an extended stay. Sleep shaping isn't about depriving your little one of any love, cuddles or interaction. It doesn't involve leaving your little bundle in a cold cot to cry them selves to sleep alone, contrary to what you might be led to believe.
Sleep Shaping, is simply setting in place positive sleep habits that are sustainable for the future sleep.
Sleep like anything is a skill, skill we can teach our little ones. Without knowing, we can set up poor sleep habits or positive sleep habits. The methods we use in the early days to get our little one to sleep might not remain sustainable as they get heavier, as they get more mobile, as we as parents lose the stamina for the 2hour long battle at bedtime.
Below is 5 of our top tips to set the ball rolling for peaceful, positive, restorative sleep!
Learn their Sleepy Cues
Learning your little one's sleepy cues can be hard for many reasons, your tired, you've other children in the house, your feeling overwhelmed, your healing are just a few! You're not alone if you feel a little lost, but your little one is communicating with you from the minute they're handed to you. Below is a list of common sleepy cues in newborn's.
Sleepy cues progress and intensify, sometimes this happens gradually , other times it can be quite fast. You might notice the blank stare, then the yawning starts, and eventually, they might start crying. Other times, your little one may seem to move from tired to overtired in the blink of an eye. Notice the "I'm tired" column in the middle is your sweet spot. In order to have time to get your little one swaddled and ready for a nap by that time, we need to start acting when you see those “I’m Tired” cues.
Beware of wakeful windows
Wakeful windows is the amount of time your little one is awake between one sleep to another. As you can see in the diagram below, this time changes with age. One way to help prevent an overtired newborn is to know about your baby’s wake windows.
With newborn's we always look for sleepy cues first but being aware of your little ones wakeful windows will help you figure out when to look out for them. Aiming for full, age appropriate wake windows will help your baby to fall asleep easily and stay asleep longer.
Disassociate feeding from sleeping
This one can be very hard in the early days. If your little one is always falling asleep while feeding its worth checking for feeding issues such as a tongue tie. A tongue tie can make it difficult for your little to get a proper latch
Day and Night confusion
Day and Night confusion is a really common occurrence in newborn's for variety of reasons,
Life in the womb is very dark, for that reason, newborn's simply do not respond to light the way we would like them too initially.
Life in the womb during the mother’s daytime hours, generally is very active. This means alot of rocking and movement while mommy is up and about throughout the day, the result is a very relaxed and sleepy baby. Therefore, babies start kicking LIKE MAD when poor mommy is trying to rest or get some sleep, especially in the early hours of the morning, the motion stops, and they simply wake up!
Its easy to see the your little newborn have established their own sleep pattern, although not the same as an older child. The circadian rhythm is still immature, which happens around 4 months corrected age.
So, what can we do to correct this??
There is a lot of ways to address this imbalance, with some suggesting sleeping your infant in a completely dark room for all naps and bedtime sleeping and others suggest keeping the daytime bright and the night-time dark to identify the difference to the infant. Both options have their merits but all we really want to do, is help kick start the newborn's sleep pattern and functioning in a more sustainable way.
One of the main reasons your newborn wakes is hunger. To your newborn, it doesn't matter whether they consume their calories in the first or second half of the 24hr period, they simply wake when they are hungry and sleep when it suits, if left to their own devices. As parents with an established circadian rhythm, where melatonin drives our sleep patterns, this is a problem!
The best way to interrupt this pattern, is to wake the newborn from their nap at the appropriate time. This is the scariest thing to do, I KNOW! But trust us, this works! We discuss more in the programs about the age-appropriate wakeful windows, and implementation of them.
By waking the baby during the day from their naps, we encourage them to stay awake longer during the day and save the longer spells of sleep for the night-time hours.
It’s important to note, we are not attempting to keep your little one awake for extended stretches during the day, instead we are gently swaying the balance.
Set the scene for sleep
Prior to the 4th month, settling your baby fully to sleep is something you can choose to do as long as you are encouraging good sleep habits at the same time.
An important habit to encourage, is your little one going to sleep in their own bed (next to me crib, moses basket etc), especially at night.
Throughout the day, depending on your families’ circumstances, the ideal situation is to have baby sleeping in the same environment/ place every time. This should be conducive to sleep!
Ideally the room would be quiet, baby would not be under direct bright lights,
The room does not need to be dark during daytime napping but is encouraged at night.
The room should be an ambient temperature, approx. 18-20degrees. The following is setting the scene for bedtime sleeping. This should the same EVERY night and as close to the schedule times as possible. Getting this one thing right at this point, will set you up for success while moving through our Sleepy Tots Program. Whether your baby is sleeping in the room with you or in a nursery, following the tips below will lead to the best results.
Although we don't need complete darkness for our daytime naps, we ABSOLUTELY do need this for our night-time sleeping. This can be achieved with blackout blinds, a dark sheet or blanket under or over the existing curtains. You want to cover any light that might be sneaking in around the edges of the curtain. Babies do not fear the dark, and generally don't start to until they develop an imagination.
Avoid the use of nightlights, in particular those that emit blue light, as these can be stimulating to babies, making it hard for them to settle. If a night light is needed, warm tones in red or orange are best suited.
Avoid turning on light's during the night when tending to baby, by keeping the room as dark as possible, you are keeping the comforting, soothing, sleepy zone throughout.
This is a fantastic, settling and sleep tool for babies. White noise triggers the calming response in babies, especially if they are overtired, overstimulated, or crying. In addition to this it has also been shown to reduce the risk of SID's. White noise helps to reduce babies crying. Therefore, mothers for generations have used shushing sounds to settle babies. The shushing must be loud, louder than the babies crying in order reduce crying.
During the sleep cycle, as your infant drifts from one to another, the constant sound of the white noise is a gentle reminder of the safe, comforting sleep environment their in. It offers comfort and avoids your little one rousing completely between cycles.
Using a swaddle for babies up to 4 months or until the baby can roll over, is proven to help settle and increase sleeping, as it recreates the tight, confined feeling of the womb. Swaddling also reduces the baby’s ability to wake themselves up with their startle-reflex.
In general babies like to be swaddled, although we do hear from parents that their baby "doesn't like being swaddled" but more often, it is because the swaddle isn't quite tight enough. Always ensure your baby is dressed appropriately during swaddle to avoid overheating.