There is a reason that every new parent gets asked the question, are you getting any sleep? Newborn babies, while very sweet and precious do sleep a lot but they also wake up a lot. Yes, it’s not just your baby that is waking up every hour. I’m sure you are wondering why every hour? Is my baby okay? Am I doing something wrong? Can I do something different to help my baby sleep more?
All new parents second guess themselves. I know everyone tells you to follow your instincts and you definitely should but nobody tells you that it will take a bit to get to know your baby and learn what your baby likes and dislikes. That’s when you get good at following those instincts!
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The good news is that there are some great ways to help your baby sleep longer now. The better news is that your baby will be growing and changing fast and before you know it will be sleeping long stretches and you will finally start to feel like a human being again.
Here are some key things you will want to know to help your baby sleep better and to understand why he/she is waking up.
- Newborn babies have tiny tummies! They grow rapidly in size but in those early day’s their little tummy fills and empties very fast. So yes they just ate and yes they are hungry again. Your baby is growing at an amazing rate and needs the fuel to do it. So feed on demand or at least every 3 hours to keep that little tummy full. Here is a size chart so you know what to expect. Try to get a nice burp out after every feeding as well and sometimes even twice is better. They need the help getting those bubbles up for awhile. Old fashioned cloth diapers are the best burp clothes! Super absorbent!
- Your baby is gifted with something called the Moro Reflex(startle reflex). Which means your baby will startle or wake her/himself up as a primitive reflex thought to help a newborn cling to their mother. In modern day this means your baby will fling her/his arms when you lay them down, as they are starting to fall asleep or if they hear a loud sound. Which is why your baby keeps waking up every time you set her/him down or as he/she is almost asleep. Frustrating, I know! A swaddle blanket can be a great option! Most babies can get out of a swaddle, that does not mean they don’t like it. Again that is instincts and reflexes. If you can settle those for your baby then your baby can get some extra sleep and so can you! Try these swaddle blankets that can actually get your baby sleeping through the night or at least for a long chunk of time.
- Gas and/or constipation. Newborns have very immature GI tracts in their tummy as well as immature cells. Which is why they don’t eat food until they are 4-6 months old. As it is asking them to digest that milk is hard work and something new for that tiny little body. This is another thing that newborns outgrow but in the interim, they can become very uncomfortable and fussy. Something I tell all new moms about is Infant Probiotics. These are a life saver! Seriously! A few drops on your baby’s tongue and it’s like magic they can poop and toot all on their own and their little tummy isn’t hurting. Of course, always clear a new medicine with your pediatrician before giving it to baby. Every doctor I know is a strong supporter of probiotics in infants. Read more about how to soothe a gassy baby here.
- Many newborns are born with their days and nights mixed up and it is your job to teach them when it is nighttime and when it is daytime. The best way to do this is set the stage. A bedtime routine of your choosing… it can include a warm bath, lullaby, feeding, massage, book or whatever you choose. For my babies, it has been a bath, book, lullaby, swaddle and feeding. It should be calm and quiet when you are doing this and the routine should remain the same every night. I like to use black out curtains to keep it dark and a white noise machine to drown out extra sounds as well. This helps stimulate an environment like the womb with continuous sound, darkness, and a secure feeling. When baby wakes up during the night if you need to change a diaper try to do it quickly and quietly in dim light. Avoid talking and playing so that your baby learns that during that time of day it is time for sleep and not play. During the daytime hours make sure to talk lots, though! Get plenty of play and tummy time while baby is awake so they can learn and develop!
- Overstimulation is a big one for little babies. Everyone is so excited to see your new baby and surely you will want to share your precious bundle with everyone you know. Keep in mind though that babies can’t handle too many people and places. If your baby is out in a new environment or around a lot of people he/she may become overstimulated. You will see signs of this from crying, fussing, closing eyes, turning head away. Try to watch and take your baby to a quiet room to feed or snuggle.
- Sometimes newborn babies need the comfort of mommy or daddy a warm body and a heartbeat. It is something they have had in utero and they find great comfort from that. Your baby may just be telling you they need you. If you are worn out or need to get something done try using a baby carrier. They are amazing! I love to use a soft one with newborns as it feels more comfortable to me to be able to see and position baby differently. Once they are a few months old this one is the way to go! It’s amazing great support, easy to use and you can change positions. Try getting out for a walk and fresh air or get something done around the house you need your two hands for. Baby will usually sleep right through whatever it is you need to do because they have your warmth, heartbeat, and movement to lull them to sleep. Also great for running errands and keeping a happy baby.
If you have met all your baby’s needs(fed,changed,burped, sleep) and baby is still fussy there may be an underlying issue. Try to pay close attention to anything out of the normal and be sure to check in with your pediatrician. They are used to lots of calls and visits! Always better to be on the safe side.
Newborns babies are the most amazing gift and also the most exhausting one as well. When people tell you it takes a village to raise a baby, they are right! So listen to them! Use your village to get a break. Grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, the sweet neighbor lady down the street. No one will think of you as less of a parent for needing a break. If you don’t have a village I suggest finding one quickly! Join some mom groups or grab a great nanny or sitter here!
Please join my village and share your secrets to a happy and sleeping baby below!