Sleeping babies are peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable. New parents love to sneak into their baby’s room to watch them sleep, breathe in and out and turn their head. It is one of those rare moments when a parent can smile and feel perfectly happy, probably very tired, but mainly happy.
Most parents wonder how they can get their baby to sleep through the night. After all, it is hard work to feed baby constantly, especially when breastfeeding.
Baby’s natural sleep pattern
The daily average sleeping time of a one-month old baby is 16 and a half hours but we have to consider that some babies sleep far more and others far less. New parents quickly understand that they cannot “train” their infant into a routine that suits them. There is no ideal baby sleep solution! After all, babies have to get used to a whole new world.
The infant sleep pattern is initially very different: newborn’s sleep typically consists of short intervals of sleep intermingled with even shorter periods of wakefulness. At first, there is a very limited biological sleep pattern since there was no day and night to adjust to within the womb. However, most babies will be able to sleep for a length of 4 hours by around 4 months of age.
As baby grows their sleep pattern changes too. There are good biological reasons for infants to change the way they sleep. Constant growth spurts in the first year of their lives require frequent feeding, thus more interrupted sleep for both parent and baby. If a parent forces his newborn into some kind of sleep routine, it may interfere with the milk supply when breastfeeding.
It is extremely demanding when baby goes through different phases of sleep routine but remember, this will change! Allow your baby to feed when he needs to and to have a cuddle when he needs it. It is a very special time indeed because it gives parents the chance to bond.
Ideal baby sleeping position
When parents co-sleep with their infant the baby’s natural position is laying on his back. This position helps to breastfeed more easily, to be able to attend to the baby quicker and it leaves space for the baby to move. This natural sleeping position is supported by the fact that the rate of SIDS in the UK from 1981 to 1992 fell by a staggering 90% since the new sleeping position was advocated.
Research into the way babies sleep has shown that sleeping on the back is not only natural, but also life saving. However, some infants refuse to sleep on their back. The position they were used to in the womb is the reason why they may feel more comfortable laying on their tummy.
When sleeping on their back baby can fuss a lot with their flailing arms and legs. Here it is advisable to swaddle baby in a lightweight blanket. It may make him feel more comfortable and relaxed. If swaddling is not an option for baby, a simple organic baby sleeping bag may do the trick.
A newborn’s breathing rate is irregular. Their normal breathing rate is about 40 times a minute; however, if baby sleeps this can slow down to as much as 20 times a minute. In addition, babies experience pauses in breathing several times during the night. The irregular breathing pattern and the pauses are completely normal because babies are born neurologically unfinished. Their breathing control centre in the brain is still immature.
Baby’s best sleeping environment
There are some gentle ways to help baby sleep more comfortably.
– If your baby is uncomfortable in the cot, try a cradle or a moses basket in order to re-create the comfort of the womb.
– Swaddling has been proven to be very successful with most newborns.
– Make sure the room is not too warm and not too cold (around 20°C).
– As mother’s movement soothes the baby in the womb, rocking, swaying and patting will still help baby to relax outside the womb. A baby hammock is also very helpful in calming the baby.
– Don’t be afraid of background noise! Baby is used to noise from being in the womb. If you try to create a quite sleeping place for your baby, it may actually be counterproductive.
– Babies sleep best by knowing that mum or dad are close. If you are busy working from home, cooking or playing with the sibling, create a quite corner in the room for your baby to relax.
– Don’t stress yourself with establishing a night time routine! If this is your first baby, it is difficult enough to find out what routine actually works best for you and your baby. As mentioned above, baby’s physical development causes sleep patterns to change. Eventually, you will feel the need for routine and, most importantly, you will find that your baby has settled more. Give him about six months before introducing a routine that will work for all of you.
– Make sure that baby’s immediate environment is toxin-free by choosing organic baby bedding and an organic baby mattress. By buying only organic baby products you will cut baby’s allergy risks significantly and allow him to move about freely without the fear of chemicals and pesticides.