5 Simple Ways to Solve Baby Sleep Problems (Newborn – 3 months)
As I write this post, I am 8 weeks postpartum. The weeks dragged on and flown by all at the same time. I’ve had days when I felt like I slept enough to function and days when I felt like a zombie. I don’t know about you, but I like to minimize my zombie days. And the way to do that is to solve any baby sleep problems my son may be experiencing.
In the early days of parenting, sleep plays a great role in both physical and mental health. And maternal mental health is of the utmost importance when it comes to overall family health. Don’t believe me? Then read The Importance of Maternal Mental Health and start making your mental health a priority. It’s just as important as physical health. Your mental and physical health are tied to each other and often as one declines, the other does as well. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can affect both your physical and mental health.
So how do you get sleep in the newborn days? Well, the truth is you won’t be getting that much sleep. And you won’t be getting sleep in a way you’re used to either. No matter how good of a sleeper your baby is, their sleep patterns are not the same as an adult’s. They sleep lighter, wake easily, and need to be fed every few hours. (If you’d like to learn more about normal baby sleep, you can check out this article by Stanford Children’s Health.)
Learning to Recognize Hunger and Sleep Signs
So how do you go about ensuring your child sleeps the most hours they can in a day? Well, you should work on recognizing your child’s hunger and sleep signs.
Typically, when your baby is in the early stages of hunger, they will root, turn their head and yawn. As the hunger progresses, they might start crying a bit and eating their fists. Please, feed them at that time. It doesn’t matter if they ate an hour ago, if they’re hungry feed them. (In the first 3 months you don’t need to worry much about your baby being on a feeding schedule. In fact, putting baby on a schedule may sabotage your milk supply and inadvertently make breastfeeding more difficult. So feed on demand.)
Once they’re satiated, they may either fall asleep at the breast (a.k.a. Milk drunk) or be awake and want to play. However, keep in mind that newborns are not designed to be awake for a long period of time. They tire quickly.
So, it’s important for you to learn your baby’s sleep signs. For example, my youngest son starts whining and doesn’t stop when I pick him up when he’s sleepy. He also pushes my breast or bottle away. That’s how I know he needs my to go to sleep.
My eldest son on the other hand never gave me any signals and would just pass out where he was playing, if he was sleepy. But for the most part he just fell asleep after nursing. You just need to watch your baby and figure out their sleep signs.
But, I also keep an eye on the clock. If it was about an hour since baby awoke last, then it may very well be time for him to go to sleep. So, while you should not put baby on any schedule, you should use the clock so, that you are becoming more aware of what type of schedule your baby maintains on their own.
Just remember that even though it’s tempting to ask in Facebook groups about sleep training your baby, DON’T. Your baby is not meant to be sleep trained till at least 4 months old and even that is a tad early. 6 months should be the recommended minimum, as that is the time when their nervous system more resembles one of an adult, and their sleep patterns start to look more adult as well.
I understand that it’s hard to be sleep deprived (I’ve been there twice) but you need to power through for a bit. Make sure you share the load with your partner. It should not be just one person getting up at night. If your partner can’t, then asking a grandparent for some relief may be a solution or hiring a night nanny. Do whatever you need to get enough sleep to function.
Set the right expectations (your baby will wake up every couple of hours to feed) and focus on your health and your baby’s health. So, while you can’t make baby magically sleep, you can use these 5 items to solve the most common baby sleep problems.
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Baby Sleep Problem #1: Wakes Themselves Up with Jerky Movement
Swaddles are a great tool to use to help your newborn sleep longer and be more rested. The reason why swaddles work so well for soothing is because your child is used to being in tight quarters. They spent close to 10 months inside of you and it got pretty cramped towards the end. But they loved it!
Also, newborns have what is called the Moro Reflex, which is when they spread their arms out when they sense a loss of support. Basically, this happens every time you try to transfer your baby into bed and they wake up. A swaddle greatly helps with that, since their arms are close to their body and won’t wiggle free to startle them while you’re putting them down into their bed.
There are a few types of swaddles you can use. You can go old school and just use a muslin blanket to wrap your baby up. Or you can use a swaddle like Halo Sleep Sack that has velcro. Whatever is easier for you. I personally prefer using muslins but that’s just a preference. The most important part is that your baby is bundled up snugly and it’s easy for you to do.
Baby Sleep Problem #2: Wants to Constantly Suck
A lot of newborns have a need to suck, and it’s not always tied to hunger. It’s just a reflex that allows them to self soothe. My son needs to suck on a paci when he tries to calm himself down and get to sleep. On the plus side, they are inexpensive and can be easily found anywhere. I would highly recommend getting pacifier clips to go along with them. There is nothing worse than looking for a paci when your baby is having a meltdown.
Baby Sleep Problem #3: Room is too Quiet
Solution: White Noise Machine
I think we’ve all known a family or two where once the baby was asleep everyone had to be dead quiet. They had to tip toe around the house and make sure nothing woke the baby. But this can be avoided. You don’t have to stop breathing just because your child went to sleep. In fact, you really shouldn’t.
Always remember that your baby spent nearly 10 months inside your belly and it got loud in there. So having dead silence is very odd to them. And that’s where a white noise machine is a perfect solution to your baby sleep problems. I love white noise machines that have a heartbeat setting. It’s the closest sound to what your baby is already used to.
And who knows, it may even help you drift off to sleep if you’re having issues nodding off. Ever since my second son came home, I’ve been falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves. I can’t imagine falling asleep any other way now. Makes me feel like I’m at the beach even though I don’t live near any water.
Baby Sleep Problem #4: Baby Does Not Want to Be Put Down
Solution: Baby Carriers
As I mentioned before with swaddles, babies love being in a snug and tight place. And what’s better than a baby carrier. They get to be close to their caregiver, hear their heartbeat, feel the body warmth, and take in the familiar smell. Plus, while some babies do enjoy sleeping in their bassinet (i.e. my second son), some won’t even remotely entertain that idea until they’re older (i.e. my first son). And you , the parent, want to at least be able to get something done around the house while your baby sleeps. So a carrier helps with that as well.
Baby Sleep Problem #5: Baby Only Sleeps with Movement
Sometimes no matter what you do baby won’t calm down. And you are tired yourself and really need your hands free. That’s where a swing can come in handy. The swinging motion will help baby nod off and you can finally take the necessary break. You can easily set up the swing in any room in the house, provided there is an outlet, so you can see your baby. There is also entertainment for your baby like a reflective surface, mobile, and music.
It’s a great place for your baby to hang out while you tend to other things. And bonus if they fall asleep and have a nice nap in there. One caveat, I would not put a baby in there till at least one month old. And even then use caution. Make sure your baby has at least some neck control and isn’t just slouching down in the swing and cutting off their own air supply.
Final Thoughts on Baby Sleep
These are the 5 things that I found the most useful for both my sons. I hope this shows you that you don’t need a ton of things to help your baby get sleep. And of course, you may find a completely different way that works for your baby, but I would keep in mind the 3 most important things for sleep: tightness, movement and noise. As long as you achieve these at the level your baby desires, you will get some peace and quiet.
Don’t discount the benefits of fresh air and take your baby out for walks. They do sleep very well outside. So invest in a good stroller and enjoy the fresh air yourself.
Please, share in your comments if there is anything else you have found helpful in ensuring your child’s sleep.
Quote of the Day
“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” –Leo J. Burk
Mental Health Tip of the Day
I’m not going to tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s just not realistic. But take advantage of the multiple naps that your baby takes and dedicate at least one of those naps for rest time for you. If you can’t sleep, don’t but do something relaxing. Maybe you can read a book in bed or have a cup of hot tea, maybe even take a bath. But do something for yourself, the dishes can wait.