Written by 8:35 am Baby & Toddler, Pregnancy

Baby Sleep Secrets: Preparing During Pregnancy

Are you still rocking your baby to sleep each night, or worse, multiple times per night? Or perhaps you’re pregnant and wondering how to ensure that the little one who’s currently hosting a rave in your womb will sleep like a baby when he or she comes into the world?

Just call “S.O.S.”. Yup. That’s Save Our Sleep, a series of baby and toddler sleep solutions created by Tizzie Hall, the International Baby Whisperer. This Irish childcare expert and author shares how parents can help their babies sleep through the night — every night.

What items should I prepare to ensure that my baby sleeps well at home?

“Parents often worry about how their new baby will sleep once they come home from hospital, but it isn’t that hard. If a baby is well fed and warm enough to sleep well (but not overheated) the baby will sleep.

Top five tips to avoid newborn sleep problems:

  1. Follow a routine as early as possible. Babies feel safe and secure if they know what and when things are going to happen.
  2. Always feed your baby until your baby is full, once your milk has come in. Never restrict the amount of time your baby drinks at the breast. If you are bottle feeding never give your baby a set amount of milk. If your baby finishes the bottle, offer your baby more milk.
  3. Make sure you put your baby to bed when they are tired enough to sleep, not catnap. Catnapping can be caused by hunger, coldness or too little awake time. If you put your baby to bed at the first sign of tiredness, your baby might be tired enough to nap, but not tired enough to sleep.
  4. Make sure your baby is warm enough to sleep safely and well. Too little bedding can cause an older baby to roll to the unsafe sleeping position on their tummy.
  5. Always put your baby to sleep where you intend for your baby to wake up, or your baby will wake up, be confused, and not get to the next sleep cycle.

What can parents-to-be do to prepare for the challenge of managing baby sleep?

Prevention is the best cure for sleep problems so I advise all parents-to-be to follow a routine from day one.

I believe routines are very important and a big help to parents learning to interpret their baby’s different cries. When following a routine, you will begin to distinguish between your baby’s hungry, tired or bored cries because when she starts to cry, you will be able to look at the routine and see what is due next. If your baby is due a feed, you will start to recognise that as the hungry cry. If your baby is due to have a sleep, you will learn that is the tired cry. They do, in fact, sound different.

baby yawn

What is the best way to help my baby adapt to different sleeping situations?

If your baby is going to sleep at his grandparents’ or another carer’s house often, it is worthwhile for the grandparents or carer to invest in a safe cot, mattress and bedding. If this is not possible then a portable cot is a safe alternative. Remember to make sure the room your baby sleeps in away from home is also safe.

Depending on how often your baby sleeps at his grandparents’ or carer’s home, it often works well to duplicate the bedding and comforters you use at home. The use of familiar bedding will help your baby adjust to sleeping in a different house. And the fewer things you have to remember to pack, the easier it is going to be on you.

It is important to give the grandparents your baby’s routine and ask them to stick to it. However, children sleeping at their grandparents’ often find there are no boundaries because grandparents are a lot softer with their grandchildren than we remember them being with us. Do not panic. If you have firm boundaries in place for your baby at home he will soon learn that there is one set of rules at home and one set of rules at his grandparents’.

I want to breastfeed my baby on demand. But after hearing stories from other mums, I am scared. Their babies wake every hour to feed!

I believe, in principle, that demand-feeding is ideal but in practice many parents don’t have the experience to demand-feed successfully, so routine feeding is more practical in our modern-day society.

From time to time I am contacted by mothers who have been successfully demand-feeding their babies — their babies settle and sleep well — to challenge me on this point. But after we have chatted they realise they have been successful because they have understood their baby’s cry and know when he is genuinely hungry and when he is tired, bored or in need of a nappy change. They have also been surprised to see when we compare their baby’s daily feeding and sleeping routine to my routine for their baby’s age the routines are almost identical.

When I explain that my routines are based on when babies feed and sleep when demand-feeding is practised properly, they can understand why many new parents who have never been confronted with a crying baby before need a routine.

So yes it is possible to demand feed and get enough sleep. The key is to learn how to interpret your baby’s cries.

The idea of a routine can be quite scary.

Don’t worry, it is possible. Not everyone’s baby or life is the same, so sometimes routines need careful adjusting to suit your circumstances. The feedback I get from parents is that routines make their lives easier. For example, organising things such as doctor’s appointments becomes easier because you know what your baby will be doing at each stage of the day.

If you have older children they will also gain advantages from your baby having a routine, as you will be better able to plan activities with them. The best part of these routines is that you know you will have time for yourself and your partner in the evening. The general feeling I get from parents who are not following a daily routine is that evenings are often their hardest part of the day.

My routines also help babies to feel safe and secure. Your baby will know that her needs are being met and she has no need to cry, resulting in a happy, contented baby.”

In Parts 2 & 3 of our ‘Baby Sleep Secrets’ series, Tizzie Hall, the International Baby Whisperer shares how to maintain Baby’s sleep routines while travelling, and what you can do to make co-sleeping safe for all in the family.

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