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Bringing home a new baby, whether it is your first or fourth, is a time of absolute joy and bliss. The greatest challenge for most parents is the lack of sleep. Yes, the adrenaline is going and you’re living in your newborn bubble but it’s hard to function when you’re sleeping in two-hour increments.
To care for your newborn is already tough but to also have an older child to care for when you’re deliriously tired is icing on a tetering pile of exhaustion, mom brain and poopy diapers. When your baby is lacking sleep, you are lacking sleep and this is where I believe a lot of the problems can arise.
When my daughter was at the 2-month mark, we had terrible issues with naps.. they were so darn short. We were still waking up every 3 hours at night for feedings. Not only were her naps short but it took almost double, sometimes triple the time to get her to sleep. By the time she fell asleep, I was exhausted! I needed a moment to recover mentally from a screaming crying baby, then I wanted some time to rest physically but she would wake up.
What is the Issue with Baby Sleep?
When your baby doesn’t sleep, you don’t sleep. Sleeping is a huge regulatory system-reboot that your body needs to function properly. Sleep in its different stages helps you restore physically and mentally. Depending on how much sleep and how much of each stage you spend in your sleep can affect your mood, outlook and energy levels for the day.
Your baby also needs that sleep to rest from everything that their tiny body and mind are going through. It may not seem like it but your baby is growing, changing, developing and learning so much, daily. They need that rest for proper growth and development.
However, being tired doesn’t have to be the norm. It is a common misconception that all parents with babies are just going to be tired all the time. Don’t get me wrong, you will be getting much less sleep than normal but you don’t have to be functioning on empty.
Why do Sleep Issues for Babies Happen?
Your little babe has gone through a lot. Adapting to life on this side of the womb is not easy. It is cold, uncomfortable, and all-around much harder for them. They now feel hunger, when it is too hot or too cold and they have to wear a diaper, they can feel when they soil themselves. Some babies adapt well and for others, the transition is harder and takes longer for them to adapt.
With all these additional changes, sleep is much harder for them too. They are also so tired during the first 3-4 months of life. It is exhausting for them to feel all these different things outside the womb.
Many things can cause sleep issues but here are a common few.
Lack of comfort
Your baby is used to the snug, warm, and cozy womb and suddenly they have all this space and feel alone.
There is a lot of opinions regarding swaddling but I personally believe in swaddling. It provides warmth and comfort to your baby like they’re back in the womb. When my husband and I first became parents, it took us a while to get the swaddling thing right. My daughter would always manage to get her arms out. This caused her to stir and wake. When in a nice tight (but not too tight) swaddle, your baby feels safe and it also suppresses the startle reflex.
In the womb, the baby received all their nutrients through the umbilical cord, now they have to get it from the breast or bottle. This is also a learning curve. They will likely take in a lot of air with their milk and will feel gassy and have reflux which can cause pain and much discomfort.
My daughter didn’t have many problems with gas but there was one night that she just kept crying and crying. From 9 PM in the evening she cried when we put her down, when we held her, she just kept crying. We had fed her, changed her, everything we could think of. We didn’t know what to do.
Finally, at 2 AM we called our midwife’s helpline desperate for some answers. The midwife said it’s likely gas and suggested some things to help alleviate it. So, at 2:30 AM, my husband got dressed and went to a 24-hour drug store. At home, alone with a crying babe, I held her upright and patted her back while bouncing. She let out a loud belch, softly sighed, and fell asleep in my arms. I proceeded to swaddle her gently and put the sound sleeping baby into her bassinet. The baby and I were both asleep by the time my husband got home. If you’re looking for a probiotic to help with reflex, I recommend this one.
In tv shows or movies, you see people “shushing” when a baby is asleep but in fact babies are used to a lot of noise. When in the womb, the baby could hear mom’s voice, her heart beating, her blood pumping through her body and other bodily noises. This is not to be mistaken for sudden loud noises but babies are accustomed to constant dull background noise.
Best Products to Overcome Issues with Baby Sleep
These are products I have personally used and found helpful.
White Noise Machine
I highly recommend the Rohm portable white noise machine. It is amazing.
We first introduced some kind of white noise when my daughter was 1-month old. Our bed had a terrible creaking whenever we moved and since her bassinet was in our room it often caused her to stir and in some cases wake up. We were always tiptoeing at night. We used a white noise app on our old phone but even though it was on airplane mode my husband and I always felt a little uncomfortable having it so close to her head. So that is when my friend recommended the Rohm. Since using the Rohm we’ve had many restful nights.
Not only does this sound machine block out external noise that the baby could be startled awake by but the white noise it makes also mimics the sounds inside the womb. It soothed my daughter and helped calm her and once she was asleep she stayed asleep.
During our bedtime routine we would have it on in the background and it would prompt my daughter that it is sleep time. She had made a positive association that the white noise meant to sleep. So when we were on the go and couldn’t bring in the other sleep associations like story time or swaddling, the sound machine worked wonders.
The Rohm is travel size so it is small, compact and so light. We had it with us all the time for naps in the carrier and the car seat. I was also very impressed with the battery life as it would last all day off the charger. In the evening for my daughter’s big sleep, we had it running all night plugged in. It has three different sound settings, high frequency, low frequency, and ocean waves. My mom-friend and I use the high-frequency one as it worked best with our babes.
The Right Swaddle
After a few months, my daughter got too strong for the traditional swaddle. No matter how tightly we swaddled her she was always able to wiggle her arms out because she needed her hands to self-soothe to sleep. However, she was not ready for the sleep sac due to the startle reflex. The solution was the Love to Dream Swaddle Up!
The Swaddle Up is a swaddle that allows the baby to sleep with their arms up around their head. This is the natural position for babies in the womb. For my daughter, it was the best position as she was able to bring her hands to her mouth for self-soothing but the swaddle was tight enough to mute the startle reflex. The wide base of the swaddle also allows for natural hip and leg flexion as well as a snug fit around the torso for comfort.
We got amazing nights of sleep in the Swaddle Up. When we transitioned my daughter into the Swaddle Up she started getting 11-12 hours of sleep! I can’t recommend it enough.
They come in different colors, sizes, and also one that has zippers on the arm area for when your baby starts rolling over and can be used as a sleep sack. The material is stretchy and breathable so it helps maintain a comfortable temperature for your babe and allows easy movement. Another great feature is that it has two zippers. You can see in the picture with my daughter sleeping, that zipper really comes in handy when you have to do those nighttime diaper changes.
Taking Cara Babies
Finally, I recommend the First Five-Month Bundle from Taking Cara Babies. You know what they say, knowledge is power, and what I learned from the Taking Cara Babies courses really helped me be a more confident mom. I was able to take the knowledge I got from the course and implemented it and it made me feel empowered. Too corny? Well, true nonetheless.
A major concern of mine when I was about to become a mom was sleep. I knew if my daughter didn’t sleep, I wouldn’t sleep. I am one of those unfortunate people that need a lot of sleep to function properly. So before my daughter was born I was drilling all my mom friends with questions and looking up sleep issues, transitions, solutions, everything I could think of.
There is a lot of information out there about baby sleep but I didn’t know how to implement what I was reading and learning or what I was facing at my baby’s developmental stage of sleep.
That’s when a friend recommended Taking Cara Babies. I ended up purchasing the First Five-Month Bundle. The course laid out practical tips and science-based methods of laying healthy sleep foundations so that your baby gets the rest they need but also learn to fall asleep on their own. It covers methods for when your baby wakes in the middle of the night, how to soothe them, and also covers you for that first inevitable 4-month sleep regression. I felt comfortable with Cara’s methods and advice regarding baby sleep because she made sure that it was tried and true, backed by science. She is also an experienced neonatal nurse, married to a pediatrician and a mom of three children.
Taking Cara Babies also has other sleep courses for babies after 5 months to toddlerhood. If you’re having issues with baby sleep and your baby is outside of the 4th trimester.
FAQ About Baby Sleep Issues
When should I start a bedtime routine?
A bedtime routine can start as soon as you want. With a baby so young it’s hard to have a rigid schedule but a loose routine every night and even a mini version of your bedtime routine for naps help settle your babe and prepare them for sleep.
To be honest we didn’t start a bedtime routine until my daughter started sleeping larger chunks during the night. As soon as she started sleeping 4-5 hours we started a bedtime routine. We called it the 4 B’s (bath, book, boob, bed)
Is it bad for my baby to fall asleep during feeding?
This is hard to answer with a yes or a no. The major concern for many parents regarding feeding your babe before sleep is that they will come to rely on it to fall asleep.
I fed my daughter to sleep many times and there was no negative sleep association. When your baby is so young, I personally don’t see anything wrong with feeding them before they sleep, however some babies can rely on it as they get older but you can always adjust your routine.
Newborns sleep in shorter chunks and require feeding often, so I wasn’t concerned with my daughter. However, if this is something you worry about then separate the feeding and sleeping by feeding as soon as they wake or feeding then a short (quiet, soothing) activity then sleep.
There is no real right or wrong answer. I gave my daughter what she needed when she needed. However, at night, we did try to separate feeding with sleep a little. My husband took my daughter to burp her, hold, and comfort her before putting her down in her crib.
What do I do during sleep regressions?
Sleep regressions are tough. Sleep regressions are changes in your little babe’s sleep cycles and can be associated with their development and growth. They can affect naps or night time sleep and sometimes both. It is important to be consistent with your bedtime routines during this time. They may cry a little harder and a little longer but consistency will help them get through it much faster. Being consistent will also prevent too much backtracking on the healthy sleep foundations you’ve been laying down.
Going through your established bedtime routines help so much. It prompts them that it is sleep time, it is familiar and comforting. That is when those sleep aids like the Love to Dream Swaddle Up or the Rohm sound machine comes in handy. And of course, during this time, give them a little more love, cuddles, and comfort as they need. Rock them a little bit longer because sleep regressions are tough on your little one.
What if my baby only falls asleep in my arms?
Mama’s arms are the most comforting for our babies. However, having to rock your baby to sleep in your arms only to have them wake up when you put them down is completely exhausting for mom. There will be times when your baby might need that extra comfort of mom’s arms. However, for many parents, it is the goal for your baby to be able to fall asleep on their own.
We had some nights when our baby would fall asleep in our arms and she got used to it. It took a while and some painful nights but we were able to help her adjust. The downfall of your baby falling asleep in your arms is that as they get older when they wake in the middle of the night, they will cry for you because they can’t put themselves to sleep without being in your arms.
Taking Cara Babies courses address this very well. She has a “no-cry” method, to lay those healthy sleep foundations for a GREAT, and here is the keyword, INDEPENDENT little sleeper.
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Baby Sleep Issues
I hope these products help you as they have helped me. I have a great little independent sleeper and she has been one since she was 2 months old. A good little sleeper means you get the sleep and rest you need to be the best you.
There are many factors that can cause sleep issues for babies but having the tools you need to handle them makes all the difference. Remember that each baby is different when it comes to sleep issues but I have addressed some of the common ones.
Comment below with any sleep issues you are facing with your babe. Let’s help each other out!
Also send me some of your best mom tips to be featured on my blog!