The birth is over and now all that’s left is to bring your little one home. But ‘sleeping like a baby’ will be a phrase applied more to baby than to you as your sleep will be on the rampage.
You’ll soon discover that baby has very different sleeping patterns to you. Newborns typically sleep a lot, up to 18 hours a day, but only about 3 to 4 hours at a time. Don’t be surprised that baby spends his life falling asleep and waking up, because of these patterns, during the first months baby will fall asleep and wake up during the day and night.
During the first weeks, whenever your baby wakes up you should pay attention to him straight away, don’t take more than 30 seconds to a minute to do so. Many newborn babies are very restless as soon as they wake up, so it is necessary to hold your baby as soon as he wakes up. Later, when he is about 2 to 4 months old you can stop running to comfort him, and try to let him calm down on his own.
A newborn baby can wake up for any number of reasons, but it is mainly because he feels hungry or has a dirty nappy. Over time you will get to know your baby, and with this knowledge you will instinctively know the right response to his crying. However, note that a very marked change in baby’s sleep pattern could be a warning sign of a possible illness or even teething pains.
Spot the signs
While you may be tired and thinking that tiredness may get the best of you, be aware of your baby’s behavioural patterns. Learn when your baby is sleepy. Many babies get cranky, some rub their eyes, some cry themselves to sleep, some fidget a lot in their ears and sometimes they even get a listless look. As soon as you feel your baby showing signs of sleep, put him to sleep, rather than letting him get agitated because you feel he can’t sleep.
Place and conditions of baby’s sleep
There are recommended positions and places to put your baby to sleep, and to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) always put your baby to sleep on his back, not on his stomach. The baby must have a firm mattress, without pillows, toys or loose blankets, as these loose objects can contribute to the baby’s suffocation. The place where baby sleeps should neither be too hot, nor too cold, but should have a temperature between 18 and 21°C.
Help him to regulate his sleeping patterns
Although during the first weeks of his life your newborn baby is very unpredictable, you can help him to understand that during the day it is time to be active and during the night it is time to sleep. To do this, when baby sleeps during the day keep the lighting and sounds at a normal level, as opposed to sleeping at night.
During the day, after changing his nappy or breastfeeding him, stimulate him by talking to him in a gentle but expressive way, move his hands and legs and show him toys to keep him entertained. At night, do the opposite, turn off the lights, feed him and change his nappy in a very calm and gentle way and limit your interactions by only holding him very calmly. You will soon realise that baby’s longest sleeping periods start to occur at night.
Teach him to know it’s time for bed
You can establish a routine early on, as babies love routines and feel very comforted by them. For example, give your baby a regular warm bath, feed him, or rock him just before bedtime. A gentle massage can be a great way to relax baby and prepare him for a night’s sleep.
Take a nap
Take advantage of baby’s naps to catch up on his sleep. As tempting as it may seem to use the baby’s sleeping time to do other things, you’ll be able to look after your baby and yourself much better if you get plenty of rest. During this initial period accept all the help you can get. If, for example, someone offers to cook for you or do your shopping, leave your pride aside and accept the help.
Get used to not making plans that are too rigid, because the baby can change his mind more quickly than you can imagine. This is an essential time for bonding with your baby and him with you, so accept and embrace this new phase of your life, with patience, rest and lots of love.
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