Baby Sleep: What Does it Really Mean to “Sleep Like a Baby?”

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  • January 17, 2013
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baby sleepby Andrea Strang, CGSC

Why has “Sleep Like a Baby” become our shorthand for a good night’s sleep? As parents, you may quickly come to realize that your baby’s sleep patterns differ from yours. Babies spend more time in light sleep and less time in what we would call restorative sleep. It is normal and natural for young babies to sleep for short bouts of time or wake frequently for feeds. They may wiggle, twitch, snort, grunt, sigh, and even smile or cry out briefly during their sleep.  Hardly sounds like a good night’s sleep to me, but surprisingly, it is perfectly acceptable for babies.

Some babies will eventually fall into a steady sleep pattern while others will thrive quite nicely on short bursts of sleep ’round the clock. Generally, the baby will get the sleep she needs to be healthy in the first 1-6 months, whichever pattern she develops, however some baby sleep patterns can be overly taxing on her parents and their adult sleep needs.

My suggestion is to do what you can to maximize your sleep in the early months, even if the habits are not ideal in the long-term. Habits can be altered with a good sleep plan fairly easily between 6 and 12 months of age. So if you can hang on until your child is 6 months of age or older you can then gently coach your child in learning long-term sleep skills and habits. If you get to the end of your rope before 6 months, be sure to contact one of the 4 to 5 month specially trained Gentle Sleep Coaches to be assessed for readiness and learn how you might get better sleep sooner. These coaches have an additional 40 hours of training to deal specifically with families in this age range who are desperate for sleep.

Here are some tips that help many families get through those early sleep challenges:

-Understand that your child’s sleep patterns are normal and it will get better. Thinking positively about your sleep disruptions can help you cope better

-Feed your baby when they are hungry during the day and night.

-Allow your child to nap. Naps are important for babies and will generally improve night sleep

-Using sleep aids during this time may be helpful in improving sleep. Infant carriers, vibrating chairs, white noise, safe co-sleeping, and swings have all been used by many families to help improve and lengthen sleep

-Try tag team parenting. Spell each other off so that each parent can get optimal sleep

-Outsource where possible. Hire some help to take the load off household responsibilities where you can. Enlist family, friends and/or neighbors for a few hours of babysitting so you can catch up on some sleep. Or consider hiring a Postpartum Doula, Infant Care Specialist or Night Nanny to give you a break

-Allow yourself to nap

For more tips about how to get better sleep in these early months, consider attending a Baby Sleep Basics workshop offered by a Gentle Sleep Coach. This is a new gentle sleep workshop offered to help families with infants in this younger age range.

Andrea Strang is a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach with additional training and hands on experience in working with children newborn to six months and beyond.

copyright©2013 Andrea Strang Kinder Sleep  www.HowToGetKidsToSleep.com

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Photograph by By Peat Bakke on Flickr

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