Regardless of how much research you do before your baby arrives, there are some things you’ll need to discover for yourself. This usually happens as you are going through the motions – especially when it comes to sleep. You can never fully prepare for things like breastfeeding because everyone’s journey is completely different.
People will tell (read ‘warn’) you about sleep deprivation in those first months (or years for some). I personally think any advice on getting sleep before the baby arrives is completely misleading. You just can’t bank sleep – although isn’t that a nice concept!
Accepting that things like sleep will be a certain way, will help you through this time. Along with understanding how feeding and sleep works hand in hand. One of the biggest misconceptions, is that once you work out the feed/sleep/play pattern – you’re sorted! The reality is, these little people change a lot in their first years.
But you aren’t on the toddler train just yet, so let’s chat babies! They are all kinds of wonderful, and navigating through each development stage is exciting from one to the next.
Since sleep can have such a big effect on most, it’s helpful to understand what lies ahead. Besides the commonly discussed topics such as resettling and swaddling, there are a few other things worthy of sharing.
1. They will outgrow the bassinet faster than you intended and start waking themselves up from hitting the sides
I was the person that had read the SIDS guidelines and planned on having my little one beside me in the bassinet for the first 6 months – and I did for the most part. Having your little one sleep close to you, will not only reduce their risk of SIDS – it will make feeding through the night much easier. As your baby grows, they will become bigger and start to move around a lot more. They will start to wriggle their way out of their wrap or swaddle, and once they start rolling? It’s time to transition them into a sleeping bag.
Whilst there is a process on how to do that, once you make transition your little ones arms will be free. This is when they will start hitting the sides of the bassinet, which can wake them. Now each child will be different with regards to their size and development, but chances are that if your child is growing on the 50th percentile like mine, you have them in a cosy bassinet (the bednest was my choice) and they have started rolling by 5 months – then you are likely going to experience something similar. This is when you will need to make a decision on whether or not to move them into a cot.
2. Right when you’ve nailed wrapping, it’s time to transition to a sleeping bag
Those first few months will fly by. You will feel like you have finally nailed the art of sleep and then it’s time to change things up again. All of your hard work learning to wrap and swaddle your baby, will become obsolete once your little one starts to roll.
This is why we see new parents delay the process of transitioning – nobody wants to mess with a sleeping baby! The reality is, it will be unsafe for them to stay swaddled. They will need to use their arms to turn themselves over for unobstructed breathing. Try not to worry too much about making the transition – the process will only take a few days.
3. Once you start using the dummy for sleep, you will need to put it back in when it falls out. Well at least until they learn to do it themselves!
Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of the dummy when used as a sleeping aid. A lot of people have some pretty strong opinions on them, so I thought I would share mine. I personally don’t use them too early i.e those first days in the hospital. For me, this was always a time where I would feed or comfort my little one. If you are breastfeeding, your baby will be feeding frequently to help your milk to come in. I always bunkered down during this time and just fed and slept on repeat.
As your little one starts to become more aware, they will be harder to settle for sleep. This is generally when I have introduced the dummy, although it was at different times for each one. My firstborn had tummy trouble, so it was at the 3 week mark for her. Whereas my third child didn’t take it at all in the beginning! This is why I introduced it as a sleeping aid around the 3-4 month mark. I always wanted to avoid relying on it when out and about, so simply use it as a cue for sleep. It therefore remains in the cot and is simply used at sleep times. This makes it much easier to remove when needed to.
There will be a (short) period of time, where your baby will lose their dummy and not be able to put it back in themselves. This will result in you having to go in to pop it back in when they become unsettled. This stage generally passes by quite quickly and before you know it, they will be able to soothe themselves.
4. Once they learn how to stand in their cot, they will start protesting when you leave the room
This is a fun one – not! Well it’s cute the first few times but then you will need to teach them how to get back down and sleep. Once they learn that they can stand up and ‘call out’ for you (getting a reaction no doubt), it can turn into a nice little game.
Your response to this will be dependant on age but it’s likely to start once your little one learns how to stand. Our Mothercraft Expert, Chris Minogue suggests treating this like you would with any other resettling technique. Don’t race in and pick them up, instead keep calm and tell them that it is time for sleep. You may need to help them go from standing to lying down again and repeat this a few times. Don’t worry, they will soon get the hang of it – consistency is key.
If your baby is older, it may have become more of a learned behaviour. This is when they realise that they can get you back into the room. Try to leave them for a few minutes, so they get the hint that it’s time for sleep. Of course if they become too unsettled, you can go back in to reassure them. This can be done by helping them back down, use any sleeping aids and telling them it’s time for sleep.
5. You might want to take advantage of that extra long nap during the day but you will pay for it overnight
This is the juicy stuff that you quickly learn on the job and one of the big reasons I created Kiindred. Once you learn how their developmental needs change and how the feed/sleep balance works – it’s a game changer. I have definitely been in situations where I wanted to take advantage of an extra long nap during the day, only to pay for it at night.
As with anything, it’s important that you do what’s right for your family. if you do want to learn more about your baby’s feed and sleep needs we have ‘Daily Rhythms’ broken down by development stage in the Kiindred App. These will give you useful tips on what sleeps work best for ‘catnaps’ and what sleeps work best in a bed, where you can support them through resettling.
Feeding also plays a big part in this, as you will want to be sure that they aren’t waking due to hunger. It’s definitely a learning curve! Having the info on hand will make you feel more confident in navigating through each stage. Remember though – there are always plenty of support groups around if you feel you need a little extra help.