Are you desperately tired with a baby that just won’t sleep? Read on to find the solution.
One of the biggest problems that most parents face is sleep, or lack of it. Newborns are notoriously good at keeping their parents awake all hours of the day and night, but many parents report that their babies of all ages still wake repeatedly when they really wish they would sleep. It is hard, really hard. If you are one of these parents, it will leave you feeling like a zombie and wondering how you will ever function as an actual human being.
The truth of the matter is, that these babies generally do get enough sleep, it’s just that this sleep is spread over a 24 hour period, rather than in a block of sleep at night when their parents would like to get some shut eye. So why is this? And what can we do to encourage our babies to let us get a bit more slumber? Although some night waking is to be expected in the beginning in order to ensure that your baby is properly fed, there are steps that you can take to ensure that your baby is having the majority of their sleep at the same time as you. Read on to find out how……
Think About It
If you were sleeping for most of the day, would you want to sleep all night too? (I’m not talking about tonight. If you’re reading this, it is probably because you are desperate for sleep, so a the moment you probably feel that you could sleep all day and all night.) Usually, a person, baby or adult, will need a certain amount of sleep within a 24 hour period. So how do you gently encourage your baby to have the majority of their sleep during the hours of darkness? And enough consecutive hours for you to be able to function as a normal human being in the morning?
It’s Not Just About When They Sleep
It’s about when they eat too. I remember when my youngest son was
Imagine I had taken this a step further
If I had started eating full meals during the night, would I have been hungry enough to eat my normal sized meals during the day? Probably not. So I would have ended up in a situation where I was not eating enough during the day and would be starving at night. It would become a vicious cycle and, eventually, I would be consuming most of my calories at night, rather than sleeping. Babies are no different.
So how do we fix this?
It’s All About Routine
If your baby is eating at the right time and sleeping at the right time during the day, their night time sleep will naturally improve.
It is important that your baby is;
Eating at the right times – your baby needs to gradually be encouraged to consume the majority of their calories during the day.
Not sleeping too much during the day – if your baby is sleeping too much during the day, they will not want to sleep at night when you need to sleep.
Sleeping at the right times during the day – nap times need to be structured to encourage your baby to be ready for a block of night time sleep come bed time.
Not sleeping enough during the day – an over tired baby will often resist sleep, even though they desperately need it.
Can Newborn Babies Follow A Routine?
Newborn babies are not yet ready for a routine, but can follow a schedule. They need to be fed every 3 hours from the beginning of the feed between 6am and midnight, this is the only way to help them thrive even with their tiny tummies.
To start with, you should offer 5 minutes on each breast. Increase this by a few minutes each day until your milk comes in. Once your colostrum is replaced my milk, encourage baby to suckle for longer at the breast. Make sure that the first breast is emptied before moving to the second breast and increase suckling time gradually each day. You should aim to feed baby for around 25 minutes of the first breast, then offer 5 -10 minutes in the second. For more information about breastfeeding, check out my Things That Every Parent Should Know About Breastfeeding post.
When Can Your Baby Move On To More Structured Routines?
Before you start a “proper” routine with your baby, make sure that your baby;
- has regained their birth weight and you health visitor is happy with their weight gain.
- is feeding well and being encourage to empty the first breast before being offered the second. This will ensure that they reach the calorific hind milk. You can read more about this in my Doing This One Thing While Breastfeeding Will Help You Get More Sleep post.
- is going 3 hours (counted from the beginning of the last feed) without becoming distressed due to hunger.
What Sort Of Routine Should Your Baby Be Following?
If your baby is feeding most of the night and has little or no routine, structuring your baby’s day time feeds would be a good place to start. Timings for babies of different ages will vary, but as a general overview, babies will need milk feeds;
- 7am – when they wake for the day
- Mid morning
- After their lunch time nap
- Tea time (younger babies)
- Before bed
- Dream feed (younger babies)
For full details of the specific feeding times that suit babies of various ages, you can download my handy printable routine sheet.
Again, babies of various ages will need different amounts of sleep, but as a general guide, babies will need the following naps;
- Morning nap – a shorter nap
- Lunch time nap – the longest nap
- Afternoon nap – a shorter nap (for younger babies)
Babies will need to shorten the length of each nap as they get older, dropping the afternoon nap first, then the morning nap. The lunch time nap is the core nap and will be the very last nap to be dropped as your baby becomes a toddler.
So give it a go! Download the PDF guide and start following the timings with your baby. If you are new to routines, or your baby’s sleep has taken a backwards step, start with the youngest age bracket routine that your baby will fit into. Start with eating at the right times and waking them up at the right times. Gradually, if you follow the routine, your baby will start to sleep less in the day and for longer stretches at night (so that you can too).