by Lindsay Loring, sleep consultant
Congratulations on your new baby! You’ve navigated your fertility journey, nourished your body for 9-months and had a successful birth. You did it!
I wish I could tell you that the hard part is over!
But, try not to worry. As a certified pediatric sleep consultant and a Mama to twins, I’m here to tell you that it will get better and you will sleep again.
What to Expect
As a first time Mom to twins, I was blind-sided by the sheer exhaustion and anxiety I felt just moments after giving birth. To my dismay, those feelings did not go away; they only got worse. But that is my personal experience and everyone’s story looks different. I think it’s important to keep the discussion of postpartum depression open and honest. In addition, knowing the effects of sleep deprivation on PPD has fueled my passion for helping families get better sleep.
In the days and weeks after birth, your sole duty is to take care of yourself and your new child. Everything else can wait. Order food, ask family for help and let the laundry pile up. Take the time to bond with your child, but also, it’s okay if it doesn’t feel like a natural journey for you. Speaking from experience, it was actually quite hard to establish a bond with my daughters. But nearly 3-years later, we are closer than ever. Give yourself grace and time to heal. If you feel feelings that do not seem right to you, contact your OBGYN immediately.
Newborn sleep is erratic, and they need TONS of it. But that doesn’t mean you will be getting tons of sleep yourself. Their sleep periods are unpredictable and often their days and nights are confused. Which means, parties at 3AM for hours, and it will only take a few days for your sleep deprivation to set in. Knowing this, I want to talk about what you CAN do to optimize sleep for you and your baby.
But first, I want to always talk about safety.
You may remember setting up your baby registry, and within a day or less you were seeing advertisements for every baby contraption on the market claiming to “help your baby sleep through the night”. What we don’t know as first time parents is the misinformation and harm that some of these products can be responsible for. Graco Rock N’ Play is a prime example. They reported 32 infant deaths over a 7-year period related to the incline sleeper and its improper use.
Where can my baby sleep?
When sleeping unsupervised your baby must be in a sleep space designated as a “crib,” “bassinet,” or “playard” (more commonly known as a Pack n Play.) Be sure to look for these words when you’re shopping!
Products that sound similar or Add-ons that are marketed as amazing sleep miracles (like the Dock A Tot or the once popular Rock N Play) will be labeled as a sleeper and even be visually appealing in their ads. You will see a photo of a shabby chic nursery with eye appealing colors and trends, but if you look closer you will see things like, crib bumpers, incline sleepers, blankets, mobiles, pillows, etc. Be sure to check the fine print. If it’s not one of the 3 items mentioned above, it will clearly say on the product DO NOT USE WHILE UNSUPERVISED.
The AAP has made it simple when it comes to safe sleep. Just remember, ABC= Alone, back, crib or bassinet.
That means no bumpers, no blankets, pillows, loose clothing or stuffed animals. It’s actually quite hard to find photos of safe sleep environments on social media because it appears “cold” or “not inviting”. There is a reason this environment is recommend as pairing these environments with placing baby on their back has reduced SUIDS occurrences as much as 40%.
But hey, I wasn’t perfect. I made some questionable decisions because I was so tired. My husband had to sit me down one morning and make me promise I wouldn’t lay in bed with our 4-week old who was lost somewhere between my arm and my pillow. We vowed to make changes from that day forward, and at 9-weeks we had moved our twins into their room and at 14-weeks I felt comfortable with gentle sleep training.
How long do newborns sleep?
Your baby will sleep 15-18 hours in a 24-hour period. They will need to return to sleep after about 45-minutes to 1 hour. So realistically, your baby will wake, eat, have their diaper changed and be ready to sleep again.
Back is best
If you are wondering if a newborn can sleep on their side, the answer is No. Studies have found that the number one risk reduction factor in safe sleep is placing babies on their back to fall asleep. This should be done each time a baby is being put down for a nap or bedtime. Many babies do not prefer sleeping on their back, which can make this one of the most difficult safety guidelines for new parents to follow. Your baby is used to sleeping in the fetal position, likely on stomach or side while in utero, so sleeping on their back takes practice. The good news is swaddling helps this transition.
There are plenty of different swaddles on the market. My biggest piece of advice here is to be sure it fits very snug with arms down. A common misconception with the swaddle is parents think their baby hates it. Generally speaking, this happens when baby is over tired and parents are having a hard time triggering the calming reflex. Swaddling, in addition to white noise and jiggling can work to calm your fussy child. Transition your baby out of the swaddle at first signs of rolling.
Can my baby sleep in the carseat?
This is important! Yes, falling asleep in the car will happen. It mimics the womb and will soothe your baby almost instantly. Double check that your seat is properly installed, and the harnesses and straps are being used properly. Don’t add any aftermarket pillows or accessories to increase comfort because they could be hazardous.
However, taking the car seat out of your vehicle and placing it on a flat surface is not considered safe. It changes the angle at which your baby’s neck is positioned and can bring their chin too far forward to their chest, blocking their airway.
Want to bedshare?
I recommend using a co-sleeper bassinet that opens up to your bedside or use a crib with one side removed., that is side-cared to your bed. Place your baby in your bed for a feeding and then move them back to their own space to sleep.
How can I reduce risk?
You’ve told me a ton of things I can’t do…What can I do in the beginning?
My newborn guide is perfect for first and even second time parents. In the guide, I’ve laid out actionable techniques and things you can do to help soothe your baby and prioritize sleep. I tell you what to expect so that you aren’t constantly questioning what is going on, which in turn decreases your anxiety and your baby’s fussiness. Shop my newborn guide here.
In addition, the 5 S’s invented by Dr. Harvey Karp is where you want to start. When done right and with intention, you can calm your fussy baby and achieve sleep easier. Triggering your baby’s calming reflex is your end goal. The 5 S’s will help you do that.
The first 3 months of your child’s life will be full of ‘firsts’ and many sleepless nights, but it’s never too soon to create a routine and environment that is conducive to sleep. Implementing a quick bedtime routine along with the soothing techniques I mentioned above will help you lay a path to better sleep.
AUTHOR BIO: Lindsay Loring is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and owner of Tweet Dreamzz. Lindsay is certified through The Family Sleep Institute and has completed studies in baby and toddler sleep, as well as breastfeeding support and SIDS Awareness. You can find Lindsay providing expert sleep tips on her social media accounts and she hosts a FREE Q & A session every Friday.
Sleep is a passion of Lindsay's, and she truly believes it makes up the groundwork of a family's dynamic. Through her personalized coaching, Lindsay designs plans that will ensure the success of the child according to the family's goals. To learn more about Lindsay, visit her at: www.tweetdreamzz.com.