There can be a lot of confusing sleep advice that you can read about. I remember looking for sleep advice at one point and it lead me to second guess everything I was doing, it also made me wish a lot of maternity leave away. Parents need to know that their instincts are so valuable and such an important piece in the parenting journey! I asked some moms from a sleep support group what the best sleep advice they were ever given was. I have listed them down below and selected the ones I use the most in my practice when working with families. I thought they were too helpful not to share.
The more relaxed I am the more relaxed my baby will be
Although this is true, it is not always an easy concept. If someone tells you to calm down it doesn’t mean you are going to be able to. What is often forgotten about during these new mom times are the hormones that are racing through your body as you are adapting and changing to the new flow of being a mom. It is not always easy to relax but if we can, make that focus something that is important on our list of things to do. To BREATHE, TO BE PRESENT, we can feel our shoulders rest a little to soak it all in.
It Is also true that when our babies feel that we are calm, they are able to rest in that. I always remind my families, we CAN control us, and how we are feeling, but there is actually very little we can control in regards to our children’s feelings and emotions. That is for them to feel. So what does that leave us left to do? Control our feelings and emotions, and help them co-regulate in their process. This is done through self-care and ‘mommy time’ – which brings me to my next tip.
Always make some time in the day for you
This doesn’t have to be extreme. This can be reading a few pages of a book, going for a walk alone, having a dance party, or even some exercise. This needs to happen. You can NOT fill from an empty cup, our bodies aren’t designed to. We are actually supposed to have a village supporting us during these times, instead, we take on far larger roles than we have the capacity for. We need to make this space valued and important. Mamas matter just as much as the baby. What will your self-care look like for you today?
Do what you love and change what you don’t
Too often we can get caught reading books, and following some silly nonsense that was NOT written for our specific unique baby. You do not have to change anything that is working for you. You absolutely should NOT change something that you love. When you get caught thinking that you need to change something It’s really important to reflect on why you want to make that change. If it’s just because you read something stating that it will mess things up for you and your child later, you might as well ditch it and keep doing you. This parenting gig is already hard enough without all of the rules. At the same time if you are doing something that you don’t want to do anymore you shouldn’t do it anymore! Just because you decide something isn’t right for you doesn’t mean that you need to resort to sleep training, and just because your baby is waking multiple times at night doesn’t mean that the only solution to get him to sleep through the night is to not respond to his/her bedtime cries.
You can NOT spoil a baby
Cuddle that baby, snuggle that baby, hold that baby all the time, and nurse as often as you would like. There are no bad habits in motherhood just the moments you had wished you could get back. There is no such thing as babying a baby too much.
Our babies grow and develop in these snuggles, it is what they are designed for. It’s why we have this urge to snuggle them right away, and it’s why even strangers may feel this urge. Have you ever snuggled a baby and thought to yourself after, “oh man I shouldn’t have snuggled them so much?” We used to believe that if we hold our babies too much during they day we are going to have to continue to hold them all night, and the next day. This is an absurd thought. We are forgetting that we need to hold our babies and spoiling
Listen to your baby, he/she has the answer
Love this one! As you and your baby learn how to ‘work’ together and your relationship grows between the both of you, you learn about each other. If you put down the books and listen to your baby you will have the answers you are looking for. Spend some time observing your baby – what makes them frustrated? who are they? what are their cues? What are their sleep signs? Do they like loud noises, are they easily over stimulated? All of this is so helpful as you learn about your own parenting tactics. As you learn about your babies temperament, you will then learn different ways and different strategies that may support them.
Fresh air can do wonders for you and your baby
When in doubt head outside. Vitamin D has so many benefits to the mind and body. When in doubt head outside and let your mind wander for a while when you are out there. Not only does it give your mind a break but it gives your body the break it deserves. Your baby will likely fall asleep easier outside, with the wind on their face. Motion naps do NOT harm your baby. You do not need to nap your baby in the same location every single nap.
Are you feeling nap trapped? Do you want to get outside?. YOU SHOULD! Invest in a great carrier or stroller and enjoy that walk!
Sleep schedules stress everyone out
When your baby doesn’t fit into the predesigned sleep schedule laid out for him/her this can be really stressful for everyone. Any schedule for anyone that doesn’t align with your style and your days can be really challenging. You beat to your own drum, you roll with your own schedule. A baby is no different. They don’t know about the silly schedule some doctor from 100 years ago wrote out. Nor do they know what you had planned on the agenda today, they don’t know that they are only supposed to eat at the two hour mark, and they certainly don’t care that they had to poop in the middle of the night. They are figuring out their bodies, adjusting their circadian rhythm.
Again they don’t understand the schedule that has been made for them. They have their own agenda in mind. In the Womb they slept when they wanted and they were awake when they wanted to be. Then all of a sudden we expect them to be awake during the day and sleep during the night. The takes time to adjust, and also time for everyone to get used to it. Ditch the schedule and get to know your baby. He/she has the answers in regards to when they need to sleep or when they are hungry.
A good carrier is key
When in doubt use the carrier. Your baby is reminded of being in the womb by being in the carrier. You can not go wrong with the right purchase. Make sure it is flexible and makes sense for your life style. For some parents, this can be considered a lifeline. Something you will spend the majority of your time in, especially if you have more than one kiddo. This is where the money needs to go if you are debating on a purchase. Know that it is normal to carry your baby around like this for the first 5 months- and for some even longer. This can also be very helpful if you have more than one child. It can make daily tasks feel less stressful if you have a baby that can just jump into the carrier.
Comparing sleep totals is never a good idea
I hear this a lot when I talk to parents that compare the neighbours baby or the baby from the play group sleeping 12 hours at night and 3 hours during the day. The national sleep foundation states that between the ages of 4-11 months in age babies sleep total ranges from 10-18 hours! That is an incredibly large range. Some babies need more sleep and some need less. I often hear the frustration, worry and concern in parents are feeling in regards to sleep totals and comparing to other babies.
They are feeling as though they have done something wrong because their baby isn’t sleeping as much as the other baby close in age. You are doing absolutely nothing wrong. Some babies need a lot of sleep, some babies need a lot less and some babies fall in the middle. It’s how a range works.
Get rid of all the clocks in the bedroom…….. you are on baby time now
Did your baby wake in the night? Yes? Is this NORMAL? YES!
It is going to happen, it is supposed to happen. If we are reminded about this maybe we can forget to look at the clock and just take it for what it is. Did it feel like a good sleep? Then it was a good sleep. Did it feel like we were up a bit? Well maybe we were up a bit. Maybe today we can try to have a nap with our baby. We don’t need to be hyper vigilant towards time and what is happening next. We can just roll with it.
These tips were wonderful to go through and they made perfect sense. I remember being pretty lost as a new mom, not knowing what to listen to or who to turn to for advice. It is really important to stand up for the things you believe and want to focus on. When you enter mom-hood with a rule book and an agenda to follow these can create unrealistic expectations for us to follow. This can really make us feel let down or as if we are failing when things don’t go exactly how we had wanted, or how we had planned. It’s keeping in mind that we are not robots and our children aren’t robots.
You are not alone in your feelings or thoughts.