Gentle Ways To Get More Sleep With Your Baby
“Is she a good baby?”
It’s the question that sends a shiver down the spine of every new mother. What they’re actually asking is if your baby sleeps for long uninterrupted stretches. And if the answer is “no” then there’s usually an implication there’s something “wrong” that needs to be “fixed”. If you are struggling with your baby’s sleep, read on for some tips on what to do next.
Frequent waking is normal
Before I had a baby I knew parents were sleep deprived. I knew all about the rocking and the walking the hallways. Or so I thought. What I did not know is that you could get that gorgeous little bundle into what feels like a deep sleep only for their eyes to ping open the second you lay them down - or if you are really lucky, 20 minutes later. With my first baby I exhausted myself physically and mentally in the early months despairing over her sleep. Is she hungry, wet or cold? What am I doing wrong? Do I need to buy the $150 baby sleep thingy I saw advertised on Facebook? The answers to those questions were: maybe, nothing and definitely not. Many babies wake frequently well into toddlerhood and beyond. Many don’t like to sleep alone in a cot at all whether for naps or at night time. This is all perfectly normal baby behaviour.
But what do I do about it?
Firstly, stop searching the far corners of the internet for a miracle. The reason all our Rowdy Roo designs depict a baby animal sleeping happily in the arms of its parent is because this is the answer to all your questions. They just want you. It is ok for your baby to only sleep in your arms. It is ok for your baby to only want to sleep with you at night providing safe cosleeping practices are followed. If you’re in the thick of exhaustion this may not be welcome news. But sometimes it is the struggle for “answers” as to why your baby isn’t sleeping which is truly the most exhausting. What if you did just sit there everyday and watch Netflix while baby naps in your arms? Or went for a drive or a walk while they napped in the car seat, pram or carrier? What if instead of getting up countless times at night you just brought baby into your bed?
But what about SIDS?
According to Australian safe sleep charity Red Nose, the safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in the same room as a caregiver. But rednose.org.au also acknowledges: “Sharing a sleep surface with a baby is a complex issue that encompasses many factors. Strategies can be used to reduce the risk in circumstances where parents share a sleep surface with a baby due to parenting preferences, cultural beliefs or unavoidable living circumstances, including instances where a parent may unintentionally fall asleep with a baby.” Red Nose further states that it is much more unsafe to accidentally fall asleep due to exhaustion especially on a couch rather than to intentionally cosleep safely. It also quotes babies under three months of being at the highest risk.
How do I safely cosleep?
Firstly let’s cover when you should not cosleep. A lot of the sleep accidents you may have heard about occur when one of the following things is at play. According to Australian government funded parenting resource raisingchildren.net.au you must not cosleep if you have been drinking, smoking or taking drugs including prescription medications with a sedative effect. Never sleep with your child on a couch or chair. Do not allow pets in the bed and babies should not sleep next to siblings - a responsible caregiver should sleep between children if there are more than one in your bed. Now let’s move on to what you should do. Raising Children says to sleep on a firm, clean mattress which only has light bedding. Your baby should be unswaddled, away from adult pillows or blankets and laying on their back. Dress baby warmly or use a sleeping bag which has baby’s arms free so they don’t need to share your blankets. Do not push the bed up against the wall as there is a risk baby could slip down the gap. Baby should also not sleep between caregivers. Breastfed babies naturally gravitate towards the breast so it’s safest for baby to sleep on mum’s side. If you are concerned baby may roll off, consider putting the mattress on the floor.
Gentle sleep resources
The below list of experts provide evidence based gentle sleep advice.
Pinky McKay is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, bestselling author, mum of five and renowned Aussie baby whisperer pinkymckay.com.au
Professor James McKenna of the University of Notre Dame is considered the world’s leading authority on mother-infant cosleeping in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS cosleeping.nd.edu
Dr Howard Chilton is a neonatologist and for 20 years he held the position of Director of Newborn Services at Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick, Sydney babydoc.com.au
The Beyond Sleep Training Project is an Australian founded movement which provides information on biologically normal infant sleep and supports responsive parenting thebeyondsleeptrainingproject.