Newborns & Creating Sleep Schedules
Here’s to a good night’s sleep!
Preparing to enter the parenting world can seem as if you are gearing up to explore an entirely new planet. You read all the books, you test out all the gear and you listen intently to the experiences of those who have already braved the waters. Your beautiful little one arrives and immediately you are more in love than you ever imagined. Here is a perfect little human that you have only just met, but you already know every inch of their face by heart.
…And then, about ten to fifteen seconds later, you are buried in advice, suggestions, and information.
Your loved ones obviously have the best intentions, but it is overwhelming nonetheless. I can’t imagine the number of times I heard the words, “You should,” “You’ll want to,” and “You’ve got to.” If there’s no such number as a “bagillion,” it should be created specifically in order to measure the number of suggestions a new mother receives in her first year of motherhood.
So today, I want to focus on my area of expertise, that being sleep, and try to shed some light on a few frequently asked questions I’ve seen in parenting forums, heard from Mom groups I’ve talked with, or discussed with my best friends over a glass of wine…(a BIG glass).
- Will sleeping too much during the day keep baby up at night?
Not likely, except in extreme cases. Unless your little one is sleeping practically all day and up all night, you probably don’t need to concern yourself with the length of their naps. Newborns especially need a ton of sleep. In fact, up until about 6 months, I don’t recommend that your little one be awake for more than about 2 – 21/2 hours at a time. For newborns, that number is more like 45 minutes to an hour.
- Can you teach newborns good sleep habits?
Yes absolutely! Unfortunately, as much as we wish we could, you can’t teach a child to be sleepy. What can be taught, however, is the ability to fall back to sleep independently. The typical “bad sleeper” isn’t less in need of sleep, or more prone to waking up. They’ve just learned to depend on outside assistance to get back to sleep when they wake up. Once your little one has figured out how to get to sleep without assistance from outside sources, they will start stringing those sleep cycles together and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night” as most parents understand it.
- Will my newborn naturally dictate their own sleep schedule?
Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t provide us with a ready-to-run babies like she does with say, the baby Giraffe. (Remember Ollie the Giraffe? Standing within 30 minutes after birth? Out running with mom within 10 hours? Our babies are cuter, but clearly not as prepared for battle straight out of the womb.) Our babies need extensive care and help in their development, and their sleep cycles are unbelievably erratic if left unregulated. If they miss their natural sleep cycle by as little as a half hour, their cortisol production can increase which causes a surge in energy, and things quickly spiral out of control. So as much as I wish babies could just fall asleep when they’re tired, it simply doesn’t work that way. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t respond to their cues, but you shouldn’t rely exclusively on them either.
- Does sleep training affect the parent-child attachment?
Nope. And this isn’t just me talking here. This is the American Academy of Pediatrics. If there’s a more reliable source of baby health information, they’re astoundingly bad at marketing themselves. And according to a 2016 study conducted by eight of their top researchers, behavioral intervention, (A.K.A Sleep training) “provide(s) significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey(s) no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” Not a whole lot of gray area there.
- Are sleep regressions a real thing?
As a professional sleep consultant, I hear the term “regression” used in regards to just about every imaginable circumstance. Essentially, if baby doesn’t sleep well for a couple of nights, parents start dropping the ‘R’ word. Some people subscribe to the idea that there’s an eight month regression, a 9 month regression, a 1 year regression, as well as teething regressions, growth spurt regressions, and so on. Others see these as simple hiccups caused by extenuating circumstances. But the four-month regression, everybody agrees on, and for good reason. It’s the real deal, but it’s survivable.
Our little ones need our expertise and authority to guide them through their early years, and probably will for decades after that. This is especially true when it comes to their sleep. Now is the time to teach them the skills they need to develop independent, prop-free sleep habits without any need for nursing, rocking, or pacifiers. Of course, some kids are going to take to this process like a fish to water, and some are going to be a little more resistant. If yours falls into the former category, count yourself lucky and take delight in your success!
For those of you in the latter camp, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Just visit my website or give me a call and we can work on a more personalized program for your little one. I offer a free 15 minute evaluation so I can get to know the specifics about your little one’s situation, so book a call now and we can move forward as soon as you’re ready to get your little one sleeping through the night!