How to Help Your Baby Sleep17 March 2023 | After Your Baby is Born | By Keatyn J
We are led to believe that “sleeping like a baby” means a good, deep, restful sleep. But if you have ever met a baby, or a parent of one, you will soon find out this old saying is quite misleading. Why is it that many babies seem to have a hard time sleeping, and what can you do to prepare for restful sleep from day one?
Infant sleep expert Keatyn Jayne tells us all the important things to keep in mind when tackling the topic of baby sleep.
Keatyn is a birth and postpartum doula in Berlin, specializing in infant sleep education. She has a passion for helping parents feel empowered and educated to birth and bring up their babies in a way that feels best for them. You can learn more about her work at www.birthandbeyond-berlin.com.
Here are her top tips:
1. Respond empathetically
The most helpful place to start is to look at the world through the eyes of your newborn, with an extra dose of empathy.
Your little one has only ever known the warm, cozy, dark, soothing womb, where they have had a constant supply of “food” from the umbilical cord. Coming out into this crazy, bright, loud, stimulating world, where they now also experience hunger, can feel really intense or even scary. This transition is even more profound for babies as they don’t yet have a fully formed and functioning logical brain to understand and cope with these changes.
Responding with gentleness and empathy to your baby’s reactions as they transition earthside will help them feel safe and confident.
Your baby relies completely on you to meet their physical needs, help them make sense of the world, and to regulate their nervous system (feeling safe and calming down after crying or a stressful situation). Since many of these needs are met by touch or close proximity, your baby may feel most relaxed and comfortable, and thus able to snooze peacefully, when you are closeby.
2. Be flexible
Your baby’s sleep needs are unique, meaning what their body and brain need may be completely different from another baby the same age, a sibling at their age, or the baby who’s parent swears by a nap schedule they found online.
Learning to tune in to your baby’s tired cues and responding with cuddles, a feed, or a sleepytime routine is going to be more accurate in getting your baby to sleep at the right time for them, than an arbitrary timetable.
Unlike inflexible nap schedules, which can change month to month, following your baby’s lead is a skill that will be reliable throughout the first few years of their life.
You may find over time that your baby’s needs become more predictable. Leaning into a routine and rhythm that fits your baby’s individual sleep needs can be helpful to add some predictability to your life. However, their rhythm may change as they go through growth spurts, developmental leaps, teething, or life changes (moving house, starting Kita, etc), so try to ride the ebbs and flows of sleep.
Being flexible with your baby’s sleep location is also helpful. Naps don’t have to happen in a bed or crib for them to be restorative. In fact, many babies actually prefer snoozing away in the stroller or baby carrier amidst some hustle and bustle.
3. Understand your baby’s unique temperament
Everyone is born with a unique personality that can be supported and appreciated, but not altered.
Your baby's perspective and experiences of the world will be influenced by their distinctive temperament. Some people may experience the world more intensely and are often categorized as highly sensitive, while others may be more relaxed and less affected by their surroundings and referred to as easy-going. Your baby's temperament may fall anywhere on this extensive spectrum, and it will make your life as a parent much easier if you learn and support their unique needs.
The temperament of your baby may impact their sleep since the way they are cared for, cherished, and supported can influence their sense of wellbeing and safety.
Feeling secure and loved are two of the most important prerequisites for a restful slumber.
4. Take care of yourself
It sounds cliché, but it is really true that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Life as a new parent, with a little one who relies on you for absolutely everything, can be especially draining.
Thinking about big and small ways that you can refill your cup, and really prioritizing this care daily will be essential to your wellbeing (which in turn is essential to your baby’s wellbeing).
Talk with your partner, family, or friends about ways they can support you to have time, resources, or a helping hand. Outsourcing as much as your budget allows, with cleaning, meal/grocery delivery, or pet care, can be really helpful for freeing up some of your precious time and energy. If your baby prefers sleeping in a carrier or stroller, that is a great opportunity for your partner, trusted friend or a doula to take them on walks so you can have time for yourself (to rest, not clean!).
In essence, the best thing that can aid your baby in achieving peaceful sleep right from the very beginning is for you to tune into their cues and follow their lead. By trusting that your baby is only seeking the support they truly need to feel cherished, protected, and secure in this big world, you can foster a beautiful and secure bond built on mutual trust, understanding and love, which helps everyone sleep better at night.
Finding ways, amidst all the giving, to pour back into yourself will ensure you have the energy, empathy, and love to meet your baby’s needs.
Thanks so much, Keatyn, and happy sleep time!
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