I believe the most important role of a parents is to keep their child healthy and safe. We are their Health and Safety Czars!! The two best ways to ensure good health for your child is to provide healthy nutrition and adequate sleep. So what does that look like for a baby? Clearly, ensure that breastfeeding is going well. With Obama care, you ought to get a free lactation consultant visit, so have her come over and check on you!
Okay, nutrition covered! How about sleep? It’s probably the single most frequent complaint of parents. We just don’t know how to do this. Here is what I recommend trying.
1.Forty Days and Forty Nights in Bed.
Up to 6 weeks or 40 days, baby is home on the floor bed with parents joining baby there for nursing and bonding. These 40 days together with Mom and baby together in bed is a common, global practice. I like for baby to be in his own room on a floor bed because he is getting acclimated and accustomed to where he is going to be sleeping for years.
Let him learn the smells and sounds of his own room. Don’t make him get used to your adult room which has very specific sounds and smells (breast milk for one) and then have to put energy into adjusting to a whole new environment.
We have an expression in Montessori, “Open The Door Slowly” meaning a baby starts with a protected relationship with Mom, then Dad and other siblings enter, then extended family, then neighborhood, community, etc. We start small, so as not to over stimulate and we add on from there. As he grows, mom can begin to leave when he’s sleeping. After 40 days or so, Mom can begin to move out to her own bed when baby is asleep. And baby can BEGIN to move toward a routine where he is asleep for at least two hours and awake for no more than two hours. (I’m a big fan of Dr. Weissbluth’s book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child)
2. Associations, Not Props...
If you write down your baby’s eat and sleep times you will begin to see a pattern. Using that pattern of times, you’re going to move slowly toward a maximum of 2 hour awake times. Also, if you see that your baby is getting sleepy (having learned the Dunstan baby language of cries) you can begin a routine of changing into a sleep blanket, closing the curtains, turning on the humidifier or diffuser so that baby can associate certain cues with sleep. Sleep your baby on her tummy as she oxygenates better. If you wear a sleep sack and have a firm mattress, your baby will not suffocate.
Make sure your sleep cues are those you can live with for the long term as What We Give Them, They Come to Expect, and Then They Need so be sure they’re not associating sleep with nursing, rocking, bouncing, sucking, etc.
3. Routines, Not Schedules
So again, while writing down sleep and eat events, we begin to move slowly moving toward a routine. Children like to know what to expect. We give them a routine, an order of events, rather than a schedule. Though we will eventually have a GOAL of awake no more than 2 hours, and naps of at least 2 hours, with 12 hours of sleep at night, we start with a predictable order. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
As part of your routine, remember this acronym: STEP which stands for Sleep, Toilet, Eat, Play. Repeat. So the day begins to take on a pattern and may move toward looking like the table below. At 5pm you may want to “cluster feed” whereby you feed at five and again before bed at 7 to get ready for a night sleep. Remember this is something you are moving toward slowly. I highly recommend the book 12 Hours by 12 Weeks for more info. Your day might begin to look like this:
7am Awake Toilet, Eat, Play
11am Awake, Toilet, Eat, Play
3pm Awake, Toilet, Eat, Play
5pm Eat, Play, Bath & Massage
7pm Eat, Sleep
*(11pm Dream Feed by Dad while Mom Pumps)
*This is the recommendation of Tracy Hogg in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer but Suzy Giordano in 12 Hours by 12 Weeks suggests something different – weaning off last nighttime sleep first and then the middle and then the first.
If you think you would like to hire a sleep consultant, I recommend Pam Nease at http://pamneasesleep.com. These are the books from which I take all of my recommendations (in no particular order). You might want to read the reviews on Amazon and see if any one resonates for you. I do think the first one is the one that provided me, personally, with the most helpful and scientific information.
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth
- 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano
- Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
- Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi Mindell
- On Becoming BabyWise by Gary Ezzo