Motherhood is a beautiful thing. Most women dream about the tender moments parenting brings. And the reality is, your baby will melt your heart a million times over. But motherhood can be challenging. I am The Mama Coach™, a Registered Nurse, lactation consultant, infant sleep coach and mom of two little men. I feel like I worried about everything in my pregnancy. Was my baby healthy? Would my birth be uncomplicated? But I never worried about sleep. And then I brought him home.
I had this little creature, who needed me day and night. He seemed to only be happy nursing, and would only sleep 40 minute stretches on my chest and then wanted to nurse again. He cried A LOT. My husband was unsure of how to help and thought because of my nursing background I knew what I was doing, and that was right to some degree. I knew how to nurse him, and what to watch for to ensure he was healthy. But I had no clue how to make him sleep and stay asleep. Keep in mind this was before I became an Infant sleep coach and I big reason why I did.
Lack of sleep started to affect my coping skills and my relationships. I was teary and was beginning to doubt my mothering abilities. Little problems were becoming big problems and I remember phoning my husband from the side of the road, bawling my eyes out. I was just so tired, and why wouldn’t he sleep?
We did research together and decided to hire a Sleep consultant. Within days, life was so different and I felt myself enjoying motherhood again. Sleep was vital to my ability to parent and I noticed such a change in my baby. He was exponentially happier. The crying decreased significantly. I wondered why I hadn’t asked for help months earlier.
I decided to do The Sleep Sense training and use and adapted most of their principles along with my RN and lactation consulting skill sets to help Moms find sleep for their little ones. Here are three tips you can try tonight to improve your baby’s sleep.
1. The first is routine. Babies and children thrive on routine. Choose a bedtime routine, about 30 minutes long, and stick with it. I love to suggest a bath because it is the one thing that is different in a baby’s day, and helps signal bedtime is coming. Do this, and you will see bedtime becomes easier. Seems crazy that something so small will make a difference, but it will!
2. The second is sleep props. What I mean by this is what do you use to put your baby to sleep? Many moms can relate to nursing their babe into a deep sleep, carefully placing them in their crib, sneaking out of the room, only to have them wake an hour later. The reason this happens is because the baby has been put to sleep by breastfeeding. This applies to babies that nurse to sleep, suck on a bottle or soother, rocking, patting, or even holding your baby’s hand to sleep! When your baby wakes after a sleep cycle (which all babies do!), he is looking for the same conditions he had when he fell asleep (in this case, breastfeeding). He will then cry until those same conditions return and he can fall back asleep. How to remedy this? Encourage your baby to fall asleep in his own sleep space so when he wakes he will feel comfortable and secure. I am sure the thought of this can be overwhelming. This is where I can help. We can take slow, gentle steps to help baby adjust. Moms I help are always so surprised how quickly their babies learn new sleep skills. Babies are so bright and receptive to change- we just need to show them!
3. The third is watch your baby’s cues. A crying baby is often overtired. If you wait till your baby is crying, it is harder to put her down to sleep. Instead, watch for yawning, “zoning out”, or disinterest with toys or stimuli. Every baby shows tired signs differently and moms know their baby best. So take note of what your baby does before the crying starts and put your baby to sleep then.
Both babies and moms benefit from longer stretches of sleep. Sleep is a necessity not a privilege. I know it can feel overwhelming to try to get to where you are with your baby’s sleep to independent sleep skills. But it can be done and isn’t as awful as most sleep deprived moms imagine it to be. It is even less awful if you reach out for support. Whether it’s another mom, your spouse, your own mom or a professional like myself, I encourage you to ask for help. Like I said before, motherhood can be challenging but it feels so much easier when your little one develops healthy sleep habits. You and your baby are only a few nights away from better sleep!
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