If necessity is the mother of invention, in my case, curiosity was definitely the father.
My second son would not sleep without being held, which made for some very long nights. I was so curious about the role my touch played in his sleep, that I began poring over infant sleep cycle and touch research. The valuable lessons I learnt as a result, I wish I had known going in.
I felt so compelled to share the lessons learnt with other new parents, that I founded an entire company towards its cause.
Here are 7 well-researched and easy to follow steps to a better sleep for both you and your baby. With a mix of learning and consistent practice, I'm confident you will be on your way from Sleep Senpai to Zen Master in no time.
Here are my 7 (I Love You so Much Because You Are My Little Cherub but Please Fall Asleep) Steps to Better Sleep.
1) Learn Your Baby's Sleep Cycle
Before you do, you must learn... Grasshopper.
As adults we enter deep sleep almost immediately, then we cycle between light and deep sleep periods through the night. Deep sleep can last as many as 3-4 hours.
Newborns enter deep sleep through a lengthy light sleep period. Then they cycle between these two phases every 40-45 minutes.
During deep sleep periods you are welcome to sound the sirens and your baby wont so much as stir. Mine slept through a smoke detector #truestory. However, during light sleep periods, an ill-timed sneeze is enough to wake them up.
If you stand by them as they sleep, you will notice their activity levels rise as they enter light sleep; sighs and eye or limb movements.
Knowing this, you may be able to be a little more sensitive during their light sleep periods to prevent mid-sleep awakenings.
Having covered the basics, lets get to know your little one's unique sleep stages.
You can learn a bit more about babies sleep cycles here.
2) Log Your baby's Sleep + ADAP + REPEAT
Your baby’s sleep schedule is intricately connected with his eating and pooping schedule. Timing these well can make the difference between a morning jog and falling asleep in your bowl of granola. This app keeps your little one’s schedule, so you can worry about one less thing.
Free on iTunes.
Research says that one of the biggest impacts on a newborns sleep patterns and their ability to adjust to a 24 hour day/night cycle time, is participation in their parent's or caregiver's social schedule.
By using timing cues from your log you will know:
1) How long to engage your baby in playtime after feeding.
2) When to slow down activity (5-10 minutes before they tend to get fussy).
3) Whether to change their diaper before or after feeding.
4) Noting down the smallest of things can make a world of difference.
3) Learn The Key Causes of Mid-Sleep Arousal
Thanks to frequent light sleep periods, the slightest of ill-timed disturbances may wake your baby up mid-sleep.
So as you may wonder... how on earth did they wake up?? Here are a few common culprits you can check for.
1) Is your home prone to sudden sounds while your baby sleeps?
2) Does your baby have gas or spit up after feeding?
3) Is the room too hot or cold?
4) Does your baby have a soiled diaper when he/she wakes up?
5) Did you baby startle due to moro-reflex - the free falling sensation babies have during 0-4 months?
Some of these can be tackled with proper planning, while others are meant for your baby to wake up and alert you for her safety.
Babies have sensitive bellies. Gas or spit up are the most common reasons that could cause acute discomfort and disrupt sleep.
Burp them after feeding and before putting them to sleep. If your baby is prone to spit up, keeping them slightly elevated while sleeping helps keep the food down.
4) Create The Perfect Ambiance For Sleep
Knowing how frequently your baby cycles between light and deep sleep periods may certainly help; however, it may not be possible to prevent every sound from their surroundings.
So here are some tips to create the perfect ambiance in your nursery. These will provide cues to your baby that it is time to sleep. This is what experts call sleep association.
Block natural light during naps and keep room dimly lit during night time. This will help cultivate and maintain day/night association.
Keep a constant, rythmic sound such as gentle music or white noise. This will help drown any sudden sounds from outside your baby's room.
Babies younger than 4 or 5 months are prone to waking due to moro-reflex. Studies have shown swaddling helps them sleep through the startle reflex and prevents them from waking up completely.
65-70 degrees F is a safe and comfortable temperature to maintain in your baby's room.
Clothing should be appropriate to the temperature in the room. A onesie and a swaddle or a playsuit and a swaddle typically suffice.
5) Lean How To Prevent Mid-Sleep Arousal
During light sleep babies usually sigh or move or make sounds as they are partially aroused. Don't rush to pick them up at the slightest sound. There is a chance that your baby may fall back to sleep if he/she is not stimulated.
However, if your baby starts to wake up, you may be able to prevent complete arousal with the following tips.
Shushing: The shushing sound helps lull them back to sleep. If your baby's room has the ambiance described above, it will help them during such mid-sleep arousals.
Hand on Chest or Belly: Place your hand gently on their center. The gentle pressure on their center can be very soothing. Touch is known to provide the feeling of security and comfort. If your baby is feeling discomfort due to gas, your hand may also help relieve this discomfort.
Zen Swaddle: For times when you cannot be there, the Zen Swaddle simulates the comfort of your palm on their chest through the lightly weighted center and lulls them back to sleep. Moms have reported improvements in sleep within 1-3 nights. Babies were able to lull themselves back to sleep 30% of the time, thus increasing their overall sleep duration.
A Lovie or Paci: Associations with soothing objects such as a pacifier or a lovie are far better than associations that depend on your presence. If you would like to cultivate such an association start early within the first couple of months.
6) Create The Perfect Bedtime Routine For Your Baby
This ideal bedtime routine lasts for 45-60 minutes from bath time to bedtime and helps to get your baby into a predictable schedule.
*07:30 PM - Bath time
07:45 PM - Massage, ambient sound/music, dim lights, jammies, swaddle
07:55 PM - Nursing/Feeding, touch (skin to skin or close contact)
08:15 PM - Burping, snuggles, gentle rocking
08: 20 PM - Placing baby in the crib, **hand on chest until eyes start to close
08:25 PM - Ambient sounds playing while little one drifts off to sleep
*08:30 PM - Leaving the room like a true Sleep-jitsu ZEN Master!
This ideal bedtime routine will come with persistence, consistency and your baby's sleep maturity. A better bed time makes the whole day go better.
* A start time of 07:30 PM is more appropriate at 2-3 months.
* Newborns may fall sleep at 09:00 - 09:30 PM due to higher frequency of naps during the day, so adjust your start time accordingly.
** Leaving the room is hardest thing I had to do as a mom. This was the inspiration behind the Zen Swaddle. The gentle pressure of the Zen Swaddle, where you typically hold your little one, extends the security they feel in you presence.
7) Your Zen State Of Mind
Its been 10 years since I had my first baby, but I can remember my challenges as if they were not that long ago. I was so committed to caring for my little one and giving him the very best, that I often overlooked my own basic needs...and I am talking B-A-S-I-C!
Knowing what I know now, this is what I would have done differently to attain a Zen State of Mind, even for a few moments of the day!
No matter how busy I was, I would have scheduled my rest time. That's right.. scheduled it and stuck to it!
Having pored over the research on simulated touch and its physiological and psychological benefits, I would have placed a warm towel on my shoulders as I rested.
I would have practiced rhythmic breathing that is proven to calm and lull you into a light phase of sleep even though we may not be aware of it.
Your physical and emotional health has a lot to do with how ready you are to care for your little one. So I hope that you practice these tips like a true Zen Master.
Bonus Sleep Tips
SECRETS FROM SCIENCE:
Scientists have found that "Tryptophan" in breast milk helps produce melatonin (hormone controling sleep/wake cycles).
Mothers produce Tryptophan more during night time. This may help your baby synchronize to the 24-hour day (Cubero et al 2005).
So if possible, breast feed during the night or have your significant other use milk expressed during night time.
USE A WHITE NOISE APP:
Sound plays a huge part in your little one’s bed time routine as either a stimulant or a sedative. This app has a library of continuous sounds from shushing to in-utero, to help baby doze off peacefully and stay asleep longer.
Free in the Play Store.
A DAD'S TRICK:
Enough of the serious stuff, lets share some tricks that Dads always seem to have up their sleeve.
See how this dad puts his baby to sleep in under a minute. You should watch it, it’s pretty cute.
To summarize, learn your baby's sleep habits, know how to create the right sleep environment, create the appropriate routine, be consistent and patient and most to all remember to give yourself a break too.
Please do let me know if this helped you or if it made no sense at all (firstname.lastname@example.org). Seriously, I would love to hear from you!
Your Sleep Sensei,
Founder, Inventor, Mom.