It’s no secret that sleep is important for newborn babies. Other than the obvious benefit of having a well-rested baby, sleep also allows for proper brain development and supports baby’s physical growth by helping him gain weight and grow in length. Sleep helps nurture a healthy happy baby and increases the chance for good general health and emotional stability in later life. It also makes for a happy, well-rested mother too!
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- Surviving birth for first-time dads
- Why won’t baby stop crying?
Here are just a few of my top tips for helping your newborn sleep well in those first few months.
Almost every ‘baby expert’ in the world recommends swaddling as a key to getting a newborn baby to sleep and most attribute it to helping them to sleep for longer as well. I too am a big believer in swaddling newborns and here is why – it replicates the womb. By the end of pregnancy unborn babies are all snuggled into a very tight, warm space with very little room for movement. They feel secure and safe and this is the exact feeling we want our babies to feel at sleep time so that they can peacefully drop off to sleep.
It helps control your baby’s ‘startle reflex’. The startle reflex is one that makes baby suddenly fling his arms in the air. This can startle a baby right out of a peaceful sleep. We swaddle babies to help control this movement so that they don’t wake themselves up by accident before they are ready to actually be awake. Have someone demonstrate to you how to swaddle, making sure that the swaddle cloth is firm around your baby’s arms and chest but that its free around your baby’s hips so that he can easily move his legs. This ensures hip development will not be impaired.
A darkened room
I am a big believer in blackout curtains and making the room your baby is sleeping in as dark and as boring as possible so as to encourage sleep. You want to eliminate as many distractions and stimulating objects as you can – sleep time is for sleep not for play! Having a very dark room is especially good for those very alert, inquisitive babies because they can’t see anything to engage them.
You can purchase removable blackout blinds but another cheap and easy alternative is to buy a piece of blackout material from your local fabric shop, attach Velcro to the outer edge of the window frame and also the edges of the material and then Velcro the material to the window frame – that way no light escapes out the sides.
White noise is another little trick to have up your sleeve. In the womb your baby could hear your heart beating along with the very loud swish of your blood being pumped around your body 24/7 and this is why many babies find loud white noise very comforting and conducive to sleep. There are plenty of white noise tracks you can download off iTunes and gizmos that play white noise but the static of the radio works just as well.
Turn it on in baby’s room and up a little louder than you think, especially when you’ve just put your baby down to sleep. You can always go in and turn it down a little once they are asleep. (Don’t make it so loud that it’s hurting your ear drums though and make sure it’s not right by baby’s ear)!
Of course all these tricks work best when your baby has a full tummy, a clean nappy, is comfortably winded and is neither too hot nor too cold. Listen to your instincts and don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re probably not going to get your newborn to sleep well every single time! Keep up the great work – consistency is key.
Attend a Toolbox parenting course
Toolbox courses inspire and equip whānau. They are bursting with great advice, humour and encouragement, offering practical strategies and insights into developmental stages. Parents leave reassured that challenges are common to all families and that they’re not alone on their parenting journey. The courses are run over a number of weeks in a relaxed and conversational small group setting with a trained facilitator. The five courses – Building Awesome Whānau, Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years, Intermediate Years, and Teenage Years. Find out more and register here.