Every day I am in Facebook “mom groups”, where tired, exhausted mamas often talk about their new baby’s sleep. Some of these poor mamas are really struggling and it’s causing overwhelm, anxiety, and sometimes depression symptoms. Any woman who’s had any number of children will tell you that the “4th trimester” (ie 3 months post birth) was a blur of sleeplessness, not eating well, not feeling well physically and mentally, not showering as often as we’d like to, and just feeling pretty crappy overall. This isn’t to say that we don’t love our new babies, because oh do we love those little bundles of joy! But, that doesn’t negate the fact that the first few months postpartum is tough.
Most new moms know that the first few months will be semi-sleepless, and most know think that they will need to wait until the 6 month mark to do some sort of sleep training to fix everything that went wrong up until that point. For some reason, parents are made to think that nothing can be done about their child’s poor sleep habits until at least 6 months and that is SO wrong! Here’s a concept for you…what if you worked on creating good sleep habits early on so that you didn’t have to change them at 6 months or after? Sounds awesome, right?!
When people see that I have a Newborn Package on my website, I know they are cringing because they think that I’m going to tell them that they need to let their 2, 3, or 4 month old “cry it out” (CIO). But that couldn’t be farthest from the truth! While we’re on the topic, there is plenty you can do before you would get to a true CIO scenario. I would never recommend that anyone puts their baby in their crib for the night and doesn’t come back until the morning!
So what can you do with a baby who’s up every hour at night and will only sleep on you for all of their naps? A lot more than you think! In my Newborn Package (and now course), I show you how to do “sleep teaching” with your baby vs sleep training. This method is all about developing good sleep skills early on so that you don’t have to do sleep training to correct things later on. It’s really pretty awesome!
There are so many factors that can affect sleep, like room environment, daytime schedule, bed/nap routines, timing of feeds, how baby goes to sleep, etc. This means that there are lots of things that a new parent can do to create the best scenario possible to help their baby sleep. When baby sleeps well, so do you! And if you’re one of those parents who thinks (or has been told) that not sleeping is just “what you signed up to do when you decided to have a baby”, please stop! Yes, we know we will be getting up a few times a night to feed our new babies, but that doesn’t mean that we should be up every hour or staying up for hours on end throughout the night. Our bodies are not meant to do that for long periods of time!
It’s so important for both you and your baby that you’re getting good, quality sleep. The majority of physical growth happens when you’re baby is sleeping, so it’s vital that they get all the sleep they need. And let’s face it, you’re not the best possible person/parent you can be when you’re constantly sleep deprived either. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing postpartum depression, as well as affecting your immune system, large/small motor skills, concentration, hand/eye coordination, emotions, and more!
Not convinced yet? Well, let’s say you’re okay with the amount of sleep you’re currently getting (even though it could be better), and that you don’t mind having to feed baby to sleep for every nap, bedtime, and night waking. As long as you can transfer them to their crib afterwards, all is good, right? What if I told you that it can all change for the worse once the 4th month hits? A lot of new moms have heard of the dreaded “4 month sleep regression“. If you haven’t, then you should click the link to learn more about it. But the short version is that this is a sleep milestone for your baby, which can very much feel like a sleep regression for you. Your baby will likely start to revolt at being transferred to the crib after you help them fall asleep. Now, once you move your sleeping baby into their crib, they will wake up and cry. You either need to re-feed or try something new, like bouncing, rocking, patting, etc. Sleep will now become a bit of a nightmare, because of this. But rest assured (pun intended) that there is a solution though!
If you teach your baby how to fall asleep on their own before you reach the 4th month, you will likely move right through the 4mo regression period unscathed! All you have to do is sleep teach your baby beforehand and they will be sleeping like rock stars in no time! And because I know some of you are wondering, no, sleep teaching does NOT involve cutting any night feeds. Sleeping is (and should be) completely independent of feeding your baby. That being said, making some daytime schedule changes, as well as changing how you’re putting your baby to sleep, can not only keep you from sleep training later, but you may also see your baby decide to drop some of their night feeds on their own. Of course, this will depend on your baby’s age and their physical feeding needs, but if they’re waking at non-feed times, or they no longer need a particular feed, you would see those disappear all on their own – bonus!
So, to recap, sleep teaching is when you actively and slowly teach your newborn how to sleep independently (at least some of the time). This is not an aggressive approach by any means! It should be slow and steady and without many or even any tears. You’re teaching your baby “something” every day when it comes to sleep (ie you need a bottle, patting, rocking, a swing, car seat, etc in order to go to sleep), so why not teach them things that you actually want them to continue on with as they get older??
*If you’re interested in learning more, I have a great new course called Sleep School for Newborns that you should check out! It’s a 14 day online video course that will walk you through all the things I mentioned above, as well as learning how to teach your baby how to fall asleep on their own at just the right times. It’s packed full of tons of great info that you can do at your own pace. If, however, you feel like you would rather have me give you the plan and info directly, I still have my Newborn Package, as well. This is a 3 week program, where I will give you a plan of action and guide you along the way. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!