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Tips on Getting Your Newborn to Sleep
Sleep? What Sleep?
Chances are if you have a newborn at home you are pretty tired. You know that although sometimes it can seem like they will sleep all day, a lot of the time it can be quite a chore to get those little bundles of joy to take a nap or go down for the night. They can cry and fuss and full out scream. They get themselves overstimulated and overtired to the point where they just can't calm down to sleep no matter how tired they are.
I have been through 5 newborns in the past 10 years and I can tell you that no one trick will work for all babies. But over the years I have tried many, many different ways to get my babies to sleep- and stay asleep. So if you are out there trying to get your baby to sleep and are at the end of your rope give a couple of these a try and see if it does the trick for your baby!
Noise, Noise, Noise!
Remember, your baby has spent the last 9 months snug and warm and close to the sound of your heart and body. The noise of the outside world was muffled and there was never a completely quiet moment. And now your baby is trying to sleep in a new world, with all sorts of quiet and sudden noises. It's a hard adjustment. Here are a couple things to try to keep nap or bedtime not so silent.
- Vacuum the room: This goes against most beliefs when it comes to naptime, but it works! Many times I have put a too-tired infant in a bouncy seat, bed or sling and vacuumed the house. They calm down right away and often go to sleep.
- Music: This one can go either way, but my kids always sleep with music on. It's the only way to break up those sudden noises that come with siblings running through the house. Soft music, classical music, any music will do. I found my daughter has a thing for Taylor Swift. If she heard the songs in the car she would instantly calm down. So I got the CD and gave it a try. She loved the song Never Grow Up and would go to sleep to me singing it, and stay asleep longer if it was on repeat. Who knew?
- White Noise: This was a life saver with my colicky second born. He cried. All. Night. Long. But one night I turned on the baby monitor on the wrong channel and out came loud static. And he stopped crying and went to sleep. That monitor was my best friend for months. We just slowly lowered the volume every night once he was asleep. They make machines specifically for this purpose, but static worked for me.
- Turn on the shower: A hot shower is even better since it produces soothing steam. Just turn it on, stand there and let the noise surround them. Don't worry about wasting water- anything goes if it means the screaming baby goes to sleep!
- Any old noise: Use your imagination- dry your hair, shush them, turn on the TV. Eventually you will come across something that will help.
Keep it Moving!
Remember being pregnant, and going to sleep at night only to be woken up by the acrobat inside you? All day long your baby was rocked to sleep as you went about your day, and when you laid down he was ready to move. Now the baby is out and is expected to sleep still in a bed. No thank you! So what can you do?
- Get a Swing: 4 of my babies took all of their naps in a swing as newborns. For the first 4 months to be exact. It was easier, and once they were used to being outside of me, I could work on sleep training in their bed.
- Bounce! This was the life saver for my 3rd son. Get on that big exercise ball and bounce, bounce, bounce.
- Rock: This is a classic one, you know the rocking chair in the nursery. I never had one, but if you do- give it a try!
- Go for a walk. Set them in a stroller and take a walk around the block or down the road. Even up and down the driveway over and over again (I did that one many times!) The outside air, nature to look at and the movement all work together to help lull the baby to sleep.
Snug and warm inside your womb. Snug. Snug is not a word I would use to describe the outside world, and I doubt your baby thinks so either. They go from tight, comfy and warm to cold and arms flailing. So try and recreate the feeling of the womb by getting them snuggled back up.
- Sling them: The sling can be a new parents best friend. Your baby gets to be nestled next to you and you still get both of your hands. There are many types of slings out there, so do your research and find one that fits your style. I like ring slings and used them exclusively.
- Swaddle them: If you watched the nurses when your baby was born you would have seen them tightly wrap your baby so their arms can't get free. I never mastered the swaddle of the nurses, but I could get my babies wrapped well enough to stop that dreaded startle reflex from waking them up when I finally got them to sleep. You can use cotton receiving blankets or ones specifically made for swaddling, but getting their arms tight it key.
- Sleep with them: Co-sleeping isn't for everyone, and I didn't do it exclusively. But there were many nights that I would lay down and cuddle them around me until they were good and asleep, then moved them their crib. They want to feel warm and safe- and that is you.
- Nurse them: If you are a breastfeeding mother, you know that nursing is not only about food, its about soothing too. The sucking reflex is very strong in newborns, so even if it's not been that long since they last nursed, do it again. Especially at night, I let my babies nurse until they are asleep- now if they stay asleep or not is a different story.
He's asleep!! Now what?
Success! The baby is asleep!! But, he's in the sling, in your arms, in the bathroom with the shower running, etc. Now what do you do? This is the tricky part- getting them into bed and not waking them up. Here are a couple tips to help get them into bed without having to start over at square one:
- Make sure they are swaddled to keep their arms from flailing around
- Keep a hand on them for a few minutes after putting them down to help reduce the risk of the startle reflex
- Keep your body with them. When placing them in the crib or bed, bend over as far as you can go with them. The sudden feeling of being dropped and the blast of cold from leaving your warm arms can wake them back up, so hold them as close to you as you can while placing them into bed.
- Ease off the noise slowly. Turn the volume down on the static slowly over a period of 10 min or so. Gradually vacuum farther and farther from the bed. Walk away from the shower while it is still on. Sudden changes in volume should be avoided.
- Gradually stop movement. Again sudden changes should be avoided. If you were bouncing, put a bounce in your step as you walk to the bed. If you newborn is in a pack and play type bed with a bassinet insert the bassinet usually swings a little and can be rocked once the baby is in bed to help keep them asleep.
- Pray. And hope. And repeat "please don't wake up, please don't wake up" over and over again.