I have never come across a family who’s sleeping patterns have not changed after having a baby. It is inevitable. Not many of us are accustomed to getting up 2,3,4 times a night, let alone actually having to care for another tiny, hungry, sometimes screaming human in the wee hours. Occasionally people will be blessed with little ones who sleep for big chunks of time right from the start – but I believe they are in the minority. But how long should a baby sleep? And at what time of day?
There is a mantra that is well known in the baby world – Never wake a sleeping baby. Sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it? Of course you wouldn’t! Especially if you’ve been up half the night and are exhausted and well ready for a nap yourself. But when you are sitting there staring at your beautiful sleeping creation, with bursting bossums, sometimes you need or want them to wake up so you can feed or play. Then there is the anxiety about “are they getting enough food?” and “are they breathing?”. I thought I’d share some knowledge about when is the right time to wake or leave a sleeping baby.
The saying exists for a lot of good reasons. Babies need to sleep. They do most of their growing when they are asleep. They will be happier and easier to feed and settle if they have enough sleep and are not overtired. It’s a common occurance for new parents in the first few days and weeks to stay awake at night longer than usual, worrying about the baby when they are asleep. But it is really important that you sleep. This is the time that you get rejuvenated so you have the energy to care for them when they are awake. If you have followed the SIDS guidelines for safe sleeping, you have done the best thing you can do, there’s no need to worry and worrying will just make you more tired!
Here’s a rough guide of Do’s and Don’ts for sleeping babies, but most importantly, if you don’t like any of the points, remember to follow your mummy instinct – you know yourself and your baby better than anyone else!
- Follow the SIDS guidelines for safe sleeping
- Sleep while the baby is sleeping
- Leave baby sleeping overnight for longer periods than the day (5-6 hours is fine if you’re lucky enough to get a stretch that long)
- Wake baby 3-4 hourly over night if there are any concerns about weight gain/loss, jaundice or if you have been advised to wake baby for any other reason by a health profession.
- Stay awake waiting for baby to wake
- Set the alarm to check that “baby is ok” (they’ll tell you if they need something)
- Leave baby to sleep for longer than 3-4 hours during the day (more about this below)
- Let the mower man get away with coming at nap time – yell, scream and kick if you have to – daytime naps are important and precious for you and baby!
Babies take about 6 weeks to start to distinguish day from night. They also do a huge amount of growing and learning in this time, which is why they often feed 2-3 hourly or sometimes more often, round the clock in the first few weeks. Here are a few tips on how you can help them learn day from night:
- Feed frequently during the day (this is when you DO need to wake a sleeping baby every 3-4hrs)
- Don’t let a baby sleep for longer than 4 hours during the day (if you do it is highly likely you’ll be playing catch up with the feeds overnight)
- Put the baby to sleep somewhere that is not completely dark and quiet in the daytime (in a bassinet in the lounge room or in their room with curtains open and music playing)
- Don’t tip toe and whisper around sleeping babies (they are used to sleeping with all your body noises going on around them, it’s noisy inutero!)
- At night put them to bed where its dark but not completely quiet (leave a radio on with soft white noise or lullabies)
- Little to no eye contact at night when feeding and changing.
I’m sure there are a few more tips, so if you think of any be sure to leave a comment! May the sleeping fairies be kind to all you mummies and daddies out there
One of my sleeping cherubs in his favourite position since he’s been able to roll!