If you have a newborn infant less than 4 months old and are frustrated or confused about your baby’s sleep, we’ve got some tips to help your infant sleep. To get you started on the path to good sleep, we will discuss wake windows, how any sleep is better than no sleep and how you may or may not be spoiling your infant.
Wake windows are the amount of time your baby is awake between sleeps. We often say this is one of the most important things you can work on, especially when your baby is too young to teach independent sleep. In the first 6 months we are focusing on the wake windows and not a set schedule. Babies are not ready for a predictable schedule until after 6 months of age.
The idea behind following your child’s appropriate wake windows is so that your baby is not going to bed too overtired which can then cause them to fight sleep, have short naps and a restless/wakeful overnight sleep.
The thing about wake windows is to use them as a guide. You don’t want to drive yourself crazy and stress about getting your baby back to sleep immediately because that will give you anxiety. Just be mindful of your baby’s need for sleep as you do not want them to be up for hours at a time.
Wake windows are used for the first 6 months. After 6 months we move to the scheduled, more predictable day. We still need to be mindful of that wake window between last nap and bedtime until they are no longer napping.
“An overtired infant may fight sleep, have short naps and have restless/wakeful overnight sleep.”
SLEEPING IN YOUR ARMS IS BETTER THAN NO SLEEP AT ALL!
We worked with a wonderful family who for the first 5 months of their little one’s life, held him for all of his naps and through most of the evening for bedtime. There were concerns from outside of the family that holding the baby all the time would spoil him, cause huge problems down the road in terms of sleep and more. Of course, as a new mom the comments were starting to worry her. Was it really that bad?
Once we started working on teaching independent sleep, this little guy was so well rested that the transition to sleeping in his own space and then falling asleep on his own was pretty seamless. A well-rested baby will learn a lot faster than an exhausted one! Of course, there was some upset here and there that mom responded to right away but this little guy did amazingly well and those first few months in arms certainly helped!
Holding your new baby allows them to get the sleep they need. You do not need to worry about putting them down awake or them having to be in their own space – of course, if they will settle in their own space, definitely keep it up!
If you hold your baby for the first few months, you are not doomed! Enjoy those snuggles and the time you get to sit and relax while they sleep. When you are ready to teach sleep, we can set you up with a step by step plan to make the transition as easy as possible for both of you!
WORKING ON SLEEP WITH A WELL RESTED BABY!
Making sleep changes with a well-rested baby is quite a bit easier than making those changes with a baby who is overtired! So before making any big changes, try to work on getting your baby to sleep however and wherever to get them well rested and then work on where they are sleeping. This is if you are starting to work a little bit on teaching independent sleep, or are working on getting your little one to sleep in the bassinet sometimes. For a few days before you attempt to get them to sleep in their bassinet, work on getting them to nap (on you, in the car, in arms etc) this just helps them become a bit better rested before you attempt the change!
“A well-rested baby will learn a lot faster than an exhausted one!”
WHEN WORKING ON HELPING BABY SLEEP IN A BASSINET
We all want a little freedom sometimes! Also, it is good to start working on getting your little one used to sleeping in their own space at some point. When you are working with a wee baby that likes to sleep on your for all naps to being able to transfer them into their bassinet it is important to note that they will not sleep well in the bassinet at the very beginning. Keep trying! It takes them some time to become used to it. We say that the best time to begin this is for the nap that they are most receptive to. The one that they usually fall asleep easier for. Usually, that is the first nap of the day for most babies. So work on trying that first nap of the day in the bassinet and once they become used to that, move up from there!
INFANTS CAN HAVE UNPREDICTABLE SLEEP
It is important to keep in mind that newborn sleep can be super unpredictable!
What do we mean by this? You may get one long nap a day for 3 days and then you are back to short naps for no apparent reason! Or you may have a baby who is only up once per night to eat and then all of a sudden they are fussier and are up a little more. One day might be great for naps and the other…Not so much!
Try not to let the days that are not as great defeat you (so hard we know!) But just as long as you keep working on things (trying to extend naps and following appropriate wake windows for the most part) you will get the good days back! If all else fails and sleep does not improve as they get older, or things derail for some reason, you can always work on sleep challenges if they arise. There is always something that you can do to improve sleep (especially as they get older as you can sleep coach at 4 months and older!)
FUSSY OR COLIC INFANT?
For those families that are dealing with some extra fussiness or colic, the technique Elisa and Pam outline in this blog post is based on Dr Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s. It works wonders and can even help our infants when they are just having an off day and need a little extra TLC.
Can you spoil an infant? Are you going to spoil them if you let them fall asleep on you? Our answer……Nope! Our infants are just fresh out of the womb. So they need for us to respond to their needs and their need to be warm, wrapped up and close to us the majority of the time. It is common for them to only want to be with us most of the time so that is okay! Of course, if your baby will sleep in their own bassinet sometimes, that is a bonus for you.
If you find yourself frustrated with your baby’s sleep, our sleep coaching services offer guidance and support to help you and your child get the sleep you need. Check out our services page for more about the options we offer.
“There is always something that you can do to improve sleep!”