One day, my husband I decided we are tired of having a clean house, sleeping in, and doing whatever we want, so we had a child. But in all seriousness, what a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy and childbirth goes against everything that is usually recommended for a healthy lifestyle. You gain a lot of weight, you experience a lot of stress, and getting eight hours of sleep will seem like a foreign concept. Unless you mean getting those 8 hours of sleep in three nights in a row – that sounds a lot more likely with a newborn. Now, I LOVE sleep! Actually, not only do I love it but I consider getting the right amount of sleep per night essential to my well-being. I feel like my whole day gets thrown out of whack when I am sleep-deprived, I cannot focus and somehow eat a lot more in order to get energy from somewhere. According to a study from UC Davis, “sleep deprivation stimulates the brain to increase overeating of sweet and fatty foods, which turns binge-watching into binge eating. The theory is that people consume more calories when sleep deprived in order to give the body more energy to stay awake.” So you can imagine how eager I was to get my little one to sleep through the night. I visited a sleep training class when he was born and successfully had my little one sleeping through the night since he was 2 months old. Here a few tips and tricks on how your baby and you can get in those zzz’s.
No napping after 5 pm
Newborns sleep up to 18 hours in a 24 hour period which means they pretty much sleep all the time. They usually wake all 2-3 hours for a feeding and diaper change. In the beginning, we were inclined to just have him wake up and fall asleep whenever mainly because we didn’t know better. It was almost like time did not exist and it did not matter if it was day or night since we were always up. After my husband and I started getting dark circles so big that we looked like pandas, I decided we need to get back to normalcy. My baby needed to start understanding the difference between day and night even if that meant that he would still wake up for feeding at night. Hands-down the best advice I received is to keep him up after 5 pm. It made him so tired that he would be in bed by his 8 pm bedtime. He is 2 and a half years old and I still stick to the no-nap-after-5 rule and the same bedtime. It is very important that you do not even let them have a quick cat nap so that they are so tired out by 8 pm that they will easily fall asleep.
Create a bedtime routine
Another important piece of advice I got was to create a bedtime routine. Babies are creatures of habit and will quickly get used to their bedtime if you practice the same routine every single night. It is best to do soothing activities before they go to sleep. I would usually bathe my son closer to bedtime because the warm water would calm him down and make him sleepy. I would massage the lotion onto him and put him into snuggly pajamas. Right before he would go to sleep at around 7.50 pm, I would either give him a warm bottle or nurse him. The warm milk makes babies very sleepy and a full tummy makes them sleep for longer periods of time. However, here a few things to avoid: make sure they are not dependent on tools to fall asleep. The goal is to have them fall asleep on their own. They should NOT NEED a bottle, nursing boob, pacifier, soothing machines to fall asleep. As a matter of fact, you should make sure that they don’t fall asleep with milk in their mouth as this can cause teeth decay and other dental problems. Once your child has its first tooth, it is important to brush their teeth before going to bed. But you do not need to wait until they have a tooth, there are finger brushes that you can use from 3 months on which is recommended so your baby can grow some healthy pearly whites. Moreover, you should try to phase out the pacifier as soon as possible. A lot of babies have the habit of needing a paci for falling asleep which is detrimental to the teeth as well. Once you put your baby down in his or her crib, it is a nice bed time routine finisher to read them a good night story. Not only will this make them sleepier but it will also have a positive effect on their brain and speech development. It is super important that you actually put them in their bassinet at your chosen bedtime not only to get them used to sleeping in there but also because it is the safest way for them to sleep. Even if you would love to snuggle with the little one on the couch and have them fall asleep on her shoulder, you should refrain from doing so. Not only is it safer for them but also gives you the chance to enjoy a movie or dinner at home with your partner or to have some me-time if you are a single parent.
Comfortable PJs and sleep sacks
Last but not least, in order for your little one to fall asleep comfortably and stay like that throughout the night is that you make sure he or she only comes in contact with soft materials that are gentle to the skin. You want to make sure to not use any rough or coarse materials that could irritate their skin. Moreover, use pajamas that have zippers and not buttons to save yourself the hassle of having to unbutton a bazillions buttons in the middle of the night which could wake your baby even more and interfere with his sleep. Avoid using blankets for newborns to avoid choking accidents or SIDS. A great alternative to blankets that will keep your baby just as warm as sleep sacks. My absolute favorite sleep sack of all times is the one from Baby and Sunshine. This ultra-soft 3-layer bamboo baby sleep sack is a lot softer and higher quality than the regular sleep sacks you can buy. Even though my son is already 2 years old, he loves his sleep sacks. He doesn’t like blankets and just kicks them off. Thankfully, this sleep sack is fairly big and keeps him warm throughout the night. What’s another super cool feature is that you can zip it open at the bottom so that you can do a diaper change at night without having to take the entire sleep sack off. In addition to that, I highly recommend Baby and Sunshine’s Baby PJs as they only use high-quality products like bamboo or organic cotton making the material extra snuggly and soft.
These tips and tricks might work for your baby or they may not as every baby is different. I found it very helpful to visit a sleep training class that was offered complimentary at my son’s pediatrician. Afterward, I implemented the above steps, and ever since my son is two months old, he sleeps through the night. I am also sure the healthy South Florida ocean air attributes positively to is sleep as well. After a beach day, I see him sleeping extra well and early. Try out what works for your baby and use your motherly instinct for intuition. I also avoided listening to advice from other moms as each child is different, e.g. I was often given that old-school advice to add cereal to my son’s night-time milk in order to get him to sleep through the night. I found that completely unnecessary given that it just adds extra empty calories. So I decided to be patient instead and shortly after he slept through the night. So go by your gut feeling and professional advice instead of some old wives tale. I know you got this, mama, and will soon go back to a great night’s sleep every night!