Embrace…The Sleepless Nights

For centuries families have relied on advice passed down from generation to generation on a vast number of things, and raising babies is one of them. Chances are when you were expecting you were given many tit-bits of information and advice to guide you through- whether they were helpful or not is another matter! The point is that we humans need that interaction, support, and guidance to help us build confidence and to feel empowered in our daily endeavors. And when it comes to raising a baby, nobody is born knowing it all. We learn from our parents, grandparents, friends, and communities. We then pass that knowledge on ourselves, because we want to help and because we know how valuable learned advice can be. With this in mind, I’d like to share with you some newborn sleep tips you need to pass on. I promise it will make you feel good, and that friend who just had a baby will appreciate it too.

Newborn sleep patterns

A newborn’s sleep patterns are very different from our own. They experience many more sleep cycles per night, and as a result, go through many more REM phases too. This means that there is more potential for waking, and more chance that they will need some help getting back to sleep. Newborns don’t get into the deepest of sleep; they bounce around the lighter sleep cycles, sleep is immature, and initially, all sleep is a nap, longer stretches of sleep are not typical. Newborns don’t produce melatonin, which is a hormone which induces sleep. Add to that the fact that a newborn baby’s tummy is only tiny and needs filling regularly; then you have some idea of how they’re going to sleep at night.

Newborn babies do NOT need a daytime routine…

So many books and websites and well-meaning friends will tell you that routine is the most important thing when it comes to babies and sleep. I do it myself! A good, solid routine is vital if you want your child to develop good sleep habits that last. BUT newborn babies are totally different.
Newborn babies have different needs to older babies and children, and for one, their sleep cycles are completely different too. They will wake at least every 2-4 hours to feed, and sometimes they will wake more frequently or sleep for a little longer. Your guess is as good as mine! Trying to get a newborn baby into a routine for this reason alone is futile. And let’s also consider the fact that your newborn baby is changing so rapidly during the first 12 weeks of life too. One day she may wake at 7, and you might think that could be a wake-up time the whole family could get on board with… and then the next morning she may wake at 5. Or 8. There is no real pattern for most newborn babies, so don’t stress over it. Sleep evolves as your baby grows and trying to get your newborn into a routine will only end in tears.

Your newborn baby isn’t the same as everyone else’s newborn baby

Each and every one of us is an individual, with individual needs and individual temperaments. And even newborn baby sleep is affected by all of these things. Right from the moment she is born, your baby has her own personality, and this is going to have an impact on how she sleeps. So if you do read the books and scour the website for advice and information, it’s worth keeping in mind the fact that YOU know your baby best, so, by all means, take the advice, but don’t sweat it if your baby doesn’t fit into a particular box.

Sleep will change…this too shall pass

The newborn stage can be challenging, you and your baby are finding your normal, you’re getting used to each other. As your newborn grows, their sleep will begin to develop and change dramatically. Don’t panic if you are finding sleep a challenge right now; it won’t always be this way. Rest when you can, accept help from your family and friends and don’t forget to stop and breathe.

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Rebecca Michi

‘Rebecca Michi is an English gentle children’s sleep consultant and author based in Seattle. Rebecca works with families who have children under 6 years old and uses only the gentlest techniques and encourages parents to use their instincts when helping their child sleep. Rebecca uses many different gentle sleep training techniques, and never uses cry-it-out. For more information or consultations, find her at her website.

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September 18, 2019