Dispelling Motherhood Myths about Babies and Sleep.
One of the biggest problems facing new mums is putting your bub to sleep. As a practicing clinician with over 30 years experience I’ve seen even the least confident of new mothers succeed in sleep. All you need to arm yourself with is the right knowledge.
During pregnancy women take birthing classes and learn how to breathe during labour, but we forget to teach new parents about parenting itself. You are in labour for one day – parenting is for life. It’s impossible to prepare any new parent for parenting, and even harder to prepare for the sleep deprivation that comes with early parenting. It’s by far the biggest issue I see in my consulting practice.
As new mothers we’re pressured with expectation. For the perfect birth, the perfect post-baby body, but also the perfect baby. It is not possible. What is possible is a happy mother with a healthy baby – that is the best outcome.
We can problem solve about why your baby isn’t sleeping with sensible and practical advice. Gimmicky methods and fads do not work. Many books and untrained experts try to teach parenting by using different “tricks” to get babies to sleep. Some parents with three or four day old babies (still in hospital) are taught by professionals “shush into your baby’s ear and this will soothe them.” I can tell you without question that this is wrong.
What new babies need is food, and plenty of it. You can’t overfeed babies. ‘Sleep schools’ have a waiting list as long as your arm and are geared to teach new parents how to get their baby to sleep all night. Some of the methods they teach are patting and shushing crying babies that are far too young and too light in weight. Many mums leave sleep schools with their souls destroyed. How sad is that? That is not how we should be teaching new and young parents.
News Flash…not all babies sleep all night. Some babies are easier than others. Some are more challenging and this is due to a variety factors. All babies are different. The expectation for a baby to sleep starts in hospital and there are so many factors that leave new parents feeling like they have failed.
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 friend’s baby, your sister’s baby, your neighbour’s baby or even your other children. They are all different. Adopting a sleep routine set out in a book will not work for the majority of babies. The newborn baby often gets days and nights mixed up and this is normal. A baby cannot sleep all day then sleep all night. They need a huge amount of feeding in the first six months to grow. I would expect a newborn baby in the first six weeks to be feeding every three to four hours during the day and at the most sleep four to six hours after midnight.
2. A routine – A routine is not possible until the baby weighs at least 7-8kgs or is about three to four months old. This routine is for nighttime while daytime is often two to three small sleeps of 45 minutes. 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 6pm 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 two to three weeks after birth. These babies squirm, arch their back, scream and cry when they lay down and are only happy if they are feeding 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 “difficult”.
4. Wrapping – Babies need to be wrapped from birth for all feeding and 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, but with all the evidence of SIDS we now know that it is safer for the baby to sleep on their backs. Once we started putting babies on their back to sleep they found it difficult as the moro reflex (one of the newborn primitive reflexes) is very active and disturbing if they are on their back unwrapped. Wrapping lets the baby feel they are back in utero, safe and calm. Cath’s Wrap ensures the baby is wrapped with hands and arms bent up (as every baby loves to sleep like this) and their 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, ending up with their arms out and scratching their face. It has also been proven that it is detrimental to babies if their legs are wrapped straight without the hips being 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 they have had enough to eat and not before. You cannot successfully rock, shush, pat your baby to sleep or put a dummy in their 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 screaming baby all night but in the end they need 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 them. There is a worrying scare campaign against formula but it’s food made for babies, not for anything else. In the early days you will be surprised how frequently you have to feed a newborn baby. Feed them. What is the alternative?
6. Feed your newborn baby to sleep – It’s not a crime! Wrap your baby and feed them to sleep. What is more natural than to feed your baby till they are sound asleep and go to bed calm and fed? There is another scare campaign that if you feed your baby to sleep they will never sleep alone. There is nothing wrong with keeping your newborn baby close and again I ask the question – what is the alternative? Let them scream to sleep?
Sleeping issues are an individual situation with varied solutions, 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. Make a time to talk to me.
Written by MIDWIFE CATH, who will hold a Sleep Master Class in Perth on Monday November 3rd and in Melbourne on Monday November 11. To buy tickets or for a phone consultation head to www.midwifecath.com