It is impossible to prepare any new parent for sleep deprivation ~ it is by far the biggest issue I see in my consulting practice. It is possible to problem solve what the problem is by sensible and practice advice, gimmicky methods and fads do not work. Fact. We do birth classes, teach new mothers ‘how to breathe in labour’ when for all of her life she has been breathing although we forget to teach new parents about parenting. You are in labour one day but parenting is for life. Our society is now geared to have not only the perfect birth, the perfect mother post birth with a perfect body but along with that must go the perfect baby. It is not possible, what is possible is a happy mother with a healthy baby ~ that is the best outcome.
Some babies are easier than others. Some are more challenging and this is due to a variety factors. All babies are different which is true, we have so many books and untrained experts trying to teach new parents parenting by using different “tricks” to get the babies to sleep. Some parents with 3-4 day old babies (still in hospital) are taught by professionals to say “shush in their babies ear and this will soothe them”. What a load of rubbish!!! New babies need to be fed, they need food and plenty of it…you can’t overfeed babies. We also have ‘sleep schools’ that have a waiting list as long as your arm all geared to teach new parents how to get the baby to sleep all night by patting and shushing their crying babies that are far too young, too light in weight and I believe many mums leave sleep schools with their souls destroyed. How sad is that? That is not how we should be teaching our new and young parents.
News Flash…not all babies sleep all night.
The expectation for a baby to sleep starts in hospital and there are so many factors that leave new parents feel they have failed with a new baby. Women are not taught how to breast feed properly in hospitals, they are encouraged to express or pump far too much and too often with mothers going home not even having had the baby attached to the breast. Expressing or pumping is not sustainable mentally or physically and a lot of women give up breast feeding feeling like they have failed as they have a screaming baby, unhappy and crying mother and a confused partner and extended family all happy to give an opinion…this is not what bringing a new baby home is supposed to be like.
For your baby to sleep there are a few things you need to understand.
1. The baby – your baby is an individual. He or she will not sleep like your friends baby, your sisters baby, your neighbours baby or even your other children…they are all different. By going by a sleep routine set out in a book will not work for the majority of babies. The newborn baby often gets days and nights all mixed up, this is normal. A baby cannot sleep all day then go and sleep all night. They need a huge amount of feeding in the first 6 months to grow. I would expect a newborn baby in the first six weeks to be feeding 3-4 hourly during the day at at the most sleep 4-6 hours after midnight.
2. A routine – a routine is not possible until the baby weighs at least 7-8 kgs or is about 3-4 months. And this routine to sleep usually is a night time routine…day time is often 2-3 small sleeps of 45 mins. I advise all of my new mums and dads to start the Midwife Cath Bath, Bottle & Bed routine from the first day home from hospital. It is the first step to getting your baby to sleep. One of the biggest traps new parents get into is bathing a newborn baby at 6 pm every night which is far too early for a new baby (read Midwife Cath Bath, Bottle & Bed routine)
3. Reflux – if the baby has gastric reflux they do not sleep at all until the diagnosis and treatment is in place. Babies can be diagnosed at 2-3 weeks after birth. These babies squirm, arch their back, scream, cry when they lay down and are only happy if they are feeding and or being held upright. If any adult has suffered from reflux they will understand how uncomfortable the baby is and why a baby with reflux can be labelled as a “difficult baby”.
4. Wrapping – babies need to be wrapped from birth for all feed and all sleeping in large light muslin wraps. I invented a way of wrapping new babies that is safe, secure and babies love it (see Midwife Cath’s Wraps). Many years ago babies slept on their tummies and loved it. Then with all the evidence of SIDS we now know that it is safer for the baby to sleep on his back. Once we started putting babies on their back to sleep the babies found it difficult to go to sleep as the moro reflex (one of the newborn primitive reflexes) is very active and disturbing to the baby if he is on his back unwrapped. Wrapping lets the baby feel he is back in utero, safe and calm. Cath’s Wrap that I invented ensures the baby is wrapped, with hands and arms bent up (as every baby loves to sleep like this) and also so his hip and legs are flexed and capable of full movement. It has been proven that babies who have their arms wrapped by their sides do not like it and fight the wrap and end up with their arms our and scratching their face. Also it has been proven that it is detrimental to babies if their legs are wrapped straight tightly with the hips not able to flex. Wrapping is the key to good feeding and sleeping. No sleeping bags, use a BIG soft lightweight muslin wrap.
5. Food – babies need to be fed…end of story!!! Breast feed your baby. From side to side, hour to hour…keep going. The baby will go to sleep when he has had enough to eat and not before. You cannot successfully rock, shush, pat your baby to sleep or put a dummy in his mouth and expect a baby to go to sleep (a dummy is fine in some cases but it does not have any calories…and the baby needs food). You can carry a baby all night who is screaming but in the end he needs food. If there is not enough breast milk give your baby some formula. Don’t sit and pump and pump and pump your milk, if your baby is hungry feed him. There is a full on scare campaign against formula. It’s food made for babies, not for anything else…made for babies. In the early days you will be surprised how frequently you have to feed a new born baby. Feed him. What is the alternative?
6. Feed your baby to sleep – yes it’s not a crime!! Feed your baby, wrapped and feed him to sleep. Think about it. What is more natural than to feed your baby till he is sound asleep and put him to bed calm and fed? Another scare campaign is that if you feed your baby to sleep he will never sleep alone again. There is nothing wrong keeping your baby close and again I ask the question – what is the alternative? Let him scream to sleep?
I know I have not solved all your sleeping issues here as it’s such an individual situation…but I can at least give you some sensible advice. If you wish to consult with me make an appointment through my website and within an hour of talking to you I can problem solve what the issue is with your baby…this is my work…this is my full time job that I have dedicated my life’s work to. Make a time to talk to me.