I have had many of my sweet friends ask how I started out implementing sleep techniques with my babies from the beginning. With Kye, I did not learn about Babywise until he was three weeks old. But with Brittlynn, I started from birth by using some of these tips:
- Focus on Full Feedings: Nothing else during the first two weeks matters. Just do your best to keep your baby AWAKE while eating to make sure they get a FULL feeding. You don't want them to be snacking all the time...so tickle their feet, wet their little heads, do what you have to in order to keep them awake while they eat! (Baby struggling to stay awake? Here's my tips for keeping a sleepy newborn awake for feedings)
- Feed On Demand: Whenever Brittlynn woke up, I fed her. Since I did focus so much of my effort on full feedings for her she fell into a natural 3 hour eating routine pretty early on. The better you do with the full feedings, the less often they will wake up hungry!
- Wake the Sleeping Baby: Sleep is important, yes, but in the early days keeping your supply up and getting in those full feedings is TOP priority. Make sure you are feeding your baby 8-10 times a day in a 24 hour period. In the first few weeks they shouldn't go longer than 3 hours between feedings (except after the late-evening feeding where you cross your fingers and hope they give you a little more rest!).
- Eat-Awake-Sleep Cycle: A sleepy newborn is a common thing but even at the hospital I tried to have this cycle in place. After she ate I would try to keep her awake before putting her to sleep. Even if just for a few minutes! Literally, sometimes it was a quick second of her eyes being open before she went to sleep...but it counted ;) Again, keeping the baby awake during feedings helps with this cycle. The only time you don't want any awake time between eating and sleeping is during the middle of the night feedings!
- Put the Baby DOWN to Sleep: I never held Britt to sleep. Even in the hospital I always put her down in her little crib when she was sleeping. At home we always put her in her crib or pack and play or bassinet to sleep...never in our arms! If she woke during nap I would move her to the swing to finish the nap but resisted ever rocking her/holding her to get her back to sleep. It did happen sometimes, but was always a last resort. That's a beautiful thing about nursing...you get LOTS of cuddle time!
- Avoid Sleep Props: With nursing you really want to avoid introducing a pacifier anyway, but I think it's especially helpful for sleep training to not give the baby any type of prop. My son was a pacifier baby and was also a terrible napper up until we weaned him from the pacifier at age two. Brittlynn never took the pacifier and has been able to self-soothe so much better than Kye ever did!
- Attack the Gas: Gassy babies struggle to sleep because they are in pain. Britt was a gassy baby and it did cause her sleep issues. During her (brief) awake times I would make my #1 goal helping her get rid of gas. There are all kinds of burping techniques and other tricks to relieve a gassy baby (I loved to pump her little legs! Always did the trick!) and you can also give gas drops when needed to help. A gas free baby is a happy baby ;) Need help with a gassy baby? Here's my post with my tips!
- Respect the "Schedule": For the first couple of weeks there is NO set schedule. However, when she slept I didn't wake her for visitors and such. People want to see the baby but I told them she was sleeping and let them know when I thought she'd be awake again if they wanted to stay. And even when she was awake she pretty much ate the entire time anyway so they could really only see the back of her head while I nursed her ;) I would always let visitors hold and love on her as soon as she got done feeding, during those few rare awake moments!
- Keep Sleep Conditions Consistent: We swaddled Brittlynn at the hospital and continued to do so as soon as we got home. We swaddled her every time she slept. We also made sure that wherever she was sleeping (in her room during naps, ours at night for the first couple of weeks) that it was kept very dark and that we had white noise of some kind. It's important during awake times (feedings too!) to have the conditions be noticeably different than they are during sleep times (have it bright, no swaddling, etc).
- REST: It is hard to do but you have to take care of yourself. Giving birth is no joke and you need your rest to be able to fully recover and give your best self to your baby. Whenever I wasn't nursing Brittlynn I would try to soak in a bath or SLEEP. People will WANT to help you...let them. You need it! By taking care of myself I was better able to take care of her and give her what she needed to allow her to thrive :)
Emily is a mother of four who is obsessed with deal hunting and all things Disney! She blogs over at www.journeyofparenthood.com