As I’m assuming that you’re reading this in utter desperation at 4:00am in the morning, I’ll keep this post as clear and concise as possible.
You can go through many articles from said gurus if you prefer as I’m going to say this out straight: I don’t believe in sleep training.
Why? Because I don’t believe it’s a normal parametre to expect a newborn baby to sleep on their own from day one.
Regardless of whether you co-sleep or not, having your baby closer to you will eliminate possibilites of endless night waking and crying.
That said, we know that’s not the only reason baby won’t sleep. So first, let’s dive into some possibilites of why baby is having trouble settling down for the night.
1) Baby is overtired
Yup – this has taken top of my list as for me it has been the game changer. Getting your baby down at exactly the right time before he becomes cranky is not an easy task as it requires listening and attention from your part.
However, some signs you can watch out for before reaching the over tired stage are:
- baby scratching her ears/head
- moving wrestlessly
2) Baby is hungry
Depending on whether you bottle feed or breastfeed, the hunger cues will be different.
As a rule of thumb, you want to feed baby upon waking up to ensure he gets a decent amount of milk (assuming baby is 0-6 months)
Other hunger signs in breastfed babies include:
- Rooting – this can look similar to baby shaking her head searching for milk
- Sucking fingers
- Licking lips
3) Baby has a bad tummy
We often seem to forget that our little ones have an under-developed digestive system, that can easily get irritated at the drop of a hat.
The main reason is that their tummy size is just so small that they sometimes just can’t cope with a high milk intake.
Over time, you’ll find they’ll adjust but for now what you can try is gently massaging their tummy and pushing their legs into their chest lightly as this will help get things moving along in there.
4) Baby wants cuddles
If you’ve tested the above with no success, then the chances are that baby just wants to be with you.
I know it’s hard to have a little being attached to you for hours on end, but remember that for now you’re all she knows and you make her feel safe. And a safe child is a happy child.
Try going skin to skin during nap time and wearing her in a baby sling and going for a walk.
Tips to try with baby:
Though a newborn may have his own rythm, it’s important to try and establish one from an early age.
I don’t mean you have to be a soldier about it, just have some things that you do every evening to help baby associate it with bedtime.
Now I’m not a fan of bathing my baby every day without fail as it can irritate her skin over time so this is not one included in my daily routine with her but I do try to stick to some of these within reason:
- Take baby upstairs to ‘wind down’ at more or less the same time
- Put some soft music in the background (sometimes)
- Nurse her to sleep
Tone your energy down
Trying to put a baby to sleep without success is such a testing time of the day, that it’s difficult not to get caught up in the stress.
Sometimes all you want to do is get her down and have a bit of peace.
However, the more tense you are, the more baby will be as a consequence. I’m saying this cause it’s happened to me to go into despair and want to pull my hair out.
Babies are really sensitive – more than we think – and pick up on your energy so try and stay as calm as you can. If you can, take turns with your partner – sometimes all you need is a breather to try again more refreshed.
If it’s you more than the baby that you have to calm down, read below for some tips on how to cope with the frustration.
You’ve probably heard this before, but baby has spent nine months in your lovely warm belly like a cocoon.
While he’s in there, he is constantly feeling you move about – so much so that it becomes a real soother.
It’s only logical then to think that babies like to be rocked to sleep, because it reminds them on some level of that safe cocoon.
The best thing you can have is a baby scarf or carrier – I personally prefer the scarf, at least during the newborn phase because you can have them really close to you.
So, if all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with a little night walk around the block and slip them into bed.
If not, you can always try the classic rocking in your arms – I personally was never very good at this but my partner does the job pretty well!
Don’t be afraid to nurse to sleep
I know this is a controversial topic as a lot of sleep professionals say that the more your baby gets used to sleeping at the breast, the harder it will be for her to sleep any other way.
I’m going to ask you a question now: is this a problem for you right now? If it’s not, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with nursing to sleep. Your baby will be well fed and well cuddled.
If, however, you would like her to able to sleep without night nursing because you’d like to be able to go out and leave her with a sitter or something, then you can try alternating nights and see what works for you.
If you want more positive information about feeding baby to sleep, you can find in this post.
This is a real soother, whether baby has an upset tummy, is fussy or just generally trying to calm baby down for the night.
I like to use a warm bath whilst talking to her calmly with some relaxation music. Though these days, she’s discovered splashing, so those baths aren’t so calm anymore.
If you’re lucky enough to have a bath tub and not just a baby bath, you can pop her in with you. You soothe baby and have a wash yourself – two in one!
Wait until you feel ready to take her in with you, or have a partner help you if you feel unsure. Also make sure to have a good bath mat for when you get out so that you don’t slip.
Following the warm bath, 90% of the time I give her a massage afterwards with some coconut oil.
I just find it so relaxing! I will cover how I massage my baby perhaps in another post but to keep it short here:
- start with the legs, in a gently pulling down motion
- repeat with the arms
- move onto baby’s chest and make light clockwise rotations
- place baby on her tummy and massage her neck and spine
- pick baby up for a gorgeous cuddle!
I know that a fussy, colicky baby can be so tiring and frustrating. We must remember that this is the only communication method baby has to tell us that something is wrong.
Our little ones rely on us to make every wrong right in those first few months – actually scrap that, years!
So it may sound dumb, but just try and remember that baby isn’t crying endlessly to piss you off, rather that something is wrong and he doesn’t know what to do.
The more you understand her and give her love, the more chance you have of calming her down.
If you ever feel angry or resentful to her, pop her down in her bed or somewhere safe and walk away for a few minutes. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to tackle the crying again.
How to cope with the lack of sleep
So we’ve covered some tips on how to get the baby to sleep but what about you, mama?
When you think about it, yes baby needs sleep but she’s also got a whole lifetime to catch up ahead of her – especially those teen years!
Okay, I’m just kidding. Baby sleep is vital for her growth and brain development, we get that.
But if you don’t get an ounce of sleep at night either, you’re going to be leaving your own brain behind in that pasta bake you’ve popped in the oven.
I always say and I’m a firm believer that being a mom is no solo job. I mean, sure no one can replace our role with our children, but what I mean is that we need support.
The problem arises when we morph into these superheroines juggling housework, nursing baby and endless piles of laundry.
Set yourself up for the day
I know that night time you’ll feel the most shattered but if you can get some things done the night before to prepare you for the next day, I guarantee you that things will run a lot smoothly.
One idea is to have the laundry already loaded in the washer ready to hit the ON button as soon as you get up. Phew! One less thing to think about.
Wake up to clean dishes by putting the dishwasher on or washing the plates from last night’s meal – even better, send your man in to do so! (There’s nothing sexier than a man’s arms soaked with dish soap suds)
It will just set you off on the right foot to feel like you have everything under control (even when it feels the exact opposite). You may not be able to control the amount of sleep you’re getting, but at least you don’t have a pile of dishes awaiting you.
The last thing I like to do to prepare ahead is to write down a simple to-do list for the next day.
Doesn’t matter if you haven’t got anything super ‘important’ to do, you can even note down play with baby, take a shower if you like. Those words are a powerful reminder to look after yourself in the midst of sleep-deprived chaos.
Eat filling meals
Remember the days where you used to wake up with a hangover and raid the entire house for food?
That wasn’t because of the alcohol, that was the lack of sleep. If you aren’t getting much shut eye at night, you have to make up for it somehow.
You need filling, nutritious meals to help you survive when the going gets tough.
If you take one thing away from this post let it be this: all visitors wanting to get any cuddle time with baby must bring at least one freezer meal.
We’ve already got all the baby essentials one could possibly need, but we ain’t got time nor the energy to be cooking twice a day so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need!
Another thing that works well is to take turns with the cooking with your spouse. I don’t want to hear any ‘He can’t cook’ excuses. Anyone can boil up some pasta. Let the man learn!
Preparing beforehand is a great life-saver when you’re struggling to even keep your eyes open, let alone get a meal together.
Pick one day of the week where you cook together a few meals (yes mama, you don’t have to do it single handedly!) and put them in the freezer for later.
Now all you have to do is take the meal out in the morning to let it defrost and heat it up for lunch.
A one pot is also a great idea.
Shift your mindset
I’m sure that when you became pregnant, you were bombarded by people telling you how much you miss out on certain things once baby is born.
You will experience life as a new mom so much differently if you know that you’re going to make some sacfricies.
I knew that I wasn’t going to go out in the evenings for a few months – and you know what, I was happy with that! I’m not saying that I haven’t had my fair share of crisis moments, but I knew what to expect.
I assume that if you’re planning on having a family, you know what comes with having a baby. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on everything – just adapt around it!
My partner and I have been out to friends houses or barbeques with our baby, and always find a way of getting her to sleep if it’s late. I think it’s good for her to have new experiences once in a while.
Find new activities you can all do together – that might not be a romantic date at the cinema, but a day trip out to an aquarium can be a sweet family date too.