Let's talk about sleep

Sleep. Do you remember what that is? Most new parents claim they've forgotten what it feels like to have an uninterrupted sleep. There are so many questions new mums have about when their babies should be sleeping, for how long and what to do if they just don't want to go down! Here are some of those answers:

How much sleep does my baby need?

The amount of sleep babies require is quite individual. Like us, some require more, and others less. Most newborns will generally feed then settle to sleep for 1-3 hours before feeding again.

This cycle continues around the clock. In older babies, it is common to have increased wakeful periods (from about 3 weeks) so that their patterns tend to be that of feed, play (up to an hour) then sleep.

How do I know if my baby is not getting enough sleep?

Most babies will naturally regulate their sleep according to their own requirements when presented the opportunity to do so.

Babies have certain ‘signs’ they exhibit to let us know when they are tired.

Yawning, facial grimacing, jerky limb movements, ear pulling or face rubbing and whinging or crying are some of the most common signs.

Try settling your baby when they begin demonstrating these tired signs as they will likely settle more quickly and efficiently.

An ‘overtired’ baby is actually harder and takes longer to settle.

Should I try to establish a routine straight away? Are routines good or bad?

Routines tend to suggest a rather black or white, inflexible approach which most newborn babies do not tend to react well to.

Books that promote strict feed and sleep routines tend to have a negative impact on maternal milk supply and infant weight gains.

We prefer the term ‘patterns’ as this suggests responding to your babies natural feeding and sleeping cues however establishing recognisable patterns that let them know that they will be put down to sleep.

Should I let my baby cry themselves to sleep? How do I teach them to self-settle?

‘Control crying’ or ‘progressive settling’ has been advocated in many different areas, both by health professionals and non.

Scientific evidence has really demonstrated that this technique should not generally be used and may in fact be harmful except in rare situations under health professional supervision.

Babies can still be taught to settle without hours of crying.

Decide on a settling technique that all in the family are comfortable with. Consistency is key here. 

Whether you choose patting or rocking, swaddling or singing, it is important that you repeat the same method every time you settle your baby.

Your baby will learn that when you use this method, that you want him to go off to sleep and the amount of time this takes will become shorter and shorter.

Should we stay really quiet while the baby is asleep so we don’t disturb them?

No. Babies learn to sleep in a normal environment. Often the babies that sleep best are in the noisiest, most hectic households.

You want your baby to be able to settle in a variety of settings, including when you are out and about so carry on as normal when at home.

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