There is nothing more exciting and joyful than bringing home your baby from the hospital. Nine long months of awaiting their arrival, the planning, dreaming and excitement all builds in anticipation for your family to finally be home together. And the arrival home is worth the wait! Getting to show your new love baby their home, their room, the place they now call home is such a tender moment. You unpack all your bags from the hospital, set up your flowers and gifts you receive and settle in to discover your “new normal.” Family and friends drop by with food and love for the new baby, you take turns with diaper changes and feeding if possible. Everyone else goes home and it’s finally just Mom, Dad, and baby, last feeding and diaper change for the day and you all turn into bed for your first good night’s sleep as a family. It sounds lovely doesn’t it? But not quite accurate! As new parents, you’re lucky if that first night of sleep lasts until two a.m. Thus begins a string of sleepless nights for Mom and Dad.
Never Quite The Same
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll and found that over 76% of parents surveyed were experiencing sleep problems frequently. No matter their age or stage, we just don’t sleep the same once we become parents. Whether they are newborns and up eating every 2 to 3 hours or teenagers out driving for the first time, we are always concerned for our kids, their well-being and safety. So “sleep” becomes a luxury when becoming a parent. Sleep is a pretty broad term for rest. There are several stages of “sleep”, so before we can figure out how to achieve it, let’s take a look at what encompasses a restful night.
The 2 Different Kinds Of Sleep
We like to define sleep, or “good sleep” as an uninterrupted night of not waking, being “out of it.” In reality, there are actually 2 different types of sleep patterns: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) , and Non-REM.
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM) – Usually lasts around 90 minutes, the time of sleep when you dream, categorized by the quick movement of the eyes.
- Non-REM – is made up of 4 different stages. In these stages of NREM sleep, the body takes an opportunity to regenerate cells and tissues, constructs muscle and bone, and enhances the depth of the immune system.
- 1. First stage of NREM is the tired, drowsy stage where you are very relaxed but mostly still aware of your surroundings.
- 2. Second stage – Eye activity and body movements stop and brain waves decrease. This second stage is most commonly known as falling asleep.
- 3. Deep Sleep – You are breathing in a normal pattern and are not consciously aware of your surroundings.
- 4. More deep sleep – Restoration of tissues, bones, muscle and immune system.
Not having enough (or any) REM sleep can cause you a whole world full of issues. Loss of memory, confusion, brain fog, the list is endless. Sound familiar to any new parents out there? It’s not a hopeless situation, it’s only temporary. So how do you get some good REM sleep with a new baby? You start by learning what baby sleep patterns are like and brace yourself, they are NOTHING like adult sleep patterns, To improve your sleep, learn ways to improve the baby’s sleep!
A baby’s sleep sequences are in no way comparable to that of adults. Babies sleep experiences come at a higher rate of REM. At age 3 months, a baby sleeps with 50 to 80 percent of their sleep time spent in REM, where an adult will only be in REM 20 percent of their sleep time. Sleep rhythms are also extremely different. Little ones experience 50 minute baby sleep rhythms compared to 90 minutes for adults. So basically, babies wake up very easily, sleeping in shorter periods than adults do (3-4 hours at any given time, including night time), and they can keep this up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! No kidding! The good news is around 3 months of age, babies will start to produce the chemical melatonin which will help to regulate their sleep patterns and get them into more of a normal rhythm.
You Can’t MAKE Baby Sleep, But You Can Help!
There are countless methods that parents have found, over time, that help their baby fall asleep and stay asleep. Which ones work best? That all depends on your baby, all babies are different. Try some (or all) of these and see which ones resonate the best for your child.
- Most important – try and allow your baby to learn to fall asleep on their own so they are not depending on you to enter their sleep time. This will help them also to learn how to soothe themselves back to sleep when the baby wakes during the night.
- Wrap them up in a blanket (swaddle them) so they feel warmth and sleep well. Make sure their legs are able to bend so their hips are not restricted. Whenever a blanket is being used make sure you are nearby in case they break free of the swaddle, you want to make sure the blanket never ends up on their face, restricting them from breathing.
- Teach them about the differences in day and night. During the daytime let them see the sunshine, turn the lights on when they are awake, let them see normal daytime activity. At night, keep the house lights to a minimum, let them see and become accustomed to darkness and the quiet of night. Try to avoid television, loud noises at night, this way you are training them daytime is for light and activity, nighttime is for dark, quiet and sleep.
- Set up a bedtime routine as early as possible and make this time one with little light and little noise, preparing them in a calming way to fall asleep.
- Don’t let the baby sleep too long in their afternoon nap or they will be awake WAY into the hours of the night.
- Try your best to make sure the baby gets the most out of their last feeding of the evening.
- If you think nighttime silence might be an issue for your baby, there are several white noise machines available that you can purchase. These create background noise that some babies find soothing. Keep in mind it’s not a good idea to run these 24 hours a day. It’s best to run them at nighttime for babies that are used to sleeping during the day with household noises in the background.
Tag Team The Night Shift
With a newborn baby at home you are going to need help. It’s a fact and by no means are you weak if you ask for help. You need help to get through this time. Let your partner or close friend or family member help walk you through this time. Here’s some ways you can “tag team” care for the baby which will give you both some much needed rest!
- If at all possible, take turns on nighttime feedings and diaper changes. If you are breastfeeding and cannot pump then let your partner do the diaper changes and get the baby to sleep so you can get back into bed. Every little ounce of rest helps!
- You’ve heard it a thousand times but its so true, sleep when the baby sleeps. Morning nap, afternoon nap, any kind of nap your baby takes, take one too! It’s so tempting to use nap time to catch up on housework, but housework will wait, sleep deprivation doesn’t wait! If the baby is sleeping you can be sleeping too!
- Just because the baby wakes in the middle of the night and makes a noise you hear on the monitor doesn’t mean you have to get out of bed and run in there. You will know their cries and when they need you. If the baby is just making noise or moving around, let this be an opportunity for them to learn how to soothe themselves and fall back to sleep.
- Take help, any of it, That friend that wants to bring you a meal, your parent that wants to do the laundry for you, your spouse that wants to go get groceries and make dinner for you, the friend that wants to hold the baby so you can take a shower, LET THEM DO IT!!
There Is A Light At The End Of The Sleepy Tunnel
So many great and helpful tips and solutions, medical research, products to try, ideas to be explored, at the end of the day, you will find the BEST solution for your baby. You know them better than anyone and you will see what provides the best results. At the end of every day your child will eventually go to sleep in their bed and so will you.
There is nothing more peaceful and beautiful than a sleeping baby, and all parents agree. Newborns need more sleep. So parents and parents to be, take heart, they WILL SLEEP! And the days of them waking up all hours of the night don’t last forever. If you are in the middle of that season you may feel that way, but this time will move so much faster than you think it will. When your baby does start to sleep through the night you will find yourself waking up and panicking that you haven’t heard them in awhile and you will run to check on them. That’s when you’ll find them, finally, sleeping like a baby.
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