Shush­ing, pat­ting and rock­ing with colum­nist Emma Pur­due

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS - writes EMMA PUR­DUE

WHEN IT COMES TO NEW­BORN SLEEP, the me­dia of­ten por­trays this very re­laxed sit­u­a­tion where a new baby is placed gen­tly in their cot and eas­ily takes a nap while mum has a cup of tea and reads a mag­a­zine. The re­al­ity for most of us could not be more dif­fer­ent. A new­born baby is born with ab­so­lutely zero abil­ity to self-set­tle to sleep, so you can usu­ally for­get about plac­ing them awake in their cots and ex­pect­ing them to fall asleep un­aided. Nor can your new baby link their sleep cy­cles to­gether, so say hello to short naps. He or she has no way to calm them­selves down once up­set, and this will be your new job. Get used to spend­ing a large chunk of your day shush­ing, pat­ting, hold­ing, bounc­ing, walk­ing and nurs­ing. All of this means re­al­is­ti­cally your new­born needs a lot of help when it comes to nod­ding off. Neu­ro­log­i­cally speak­ing, your new­born baby is con­fused. They prob­a­bly have their days and nights mixed up and want to sleep all day and stay awake and party all night. Or you’ll no­tice their sleep is very dis­or­gan­ised and spo­radic – both of th­ese things are 100 per cent nor­mal, I prom­ise you. De­spite hav­ing no abil­ity to self-set­tle, your new­born needs a lot of shut-eye. The Na­tional Sleep Foun­da­tion rec­om­mends 14 - 17 hours of sleep over 24 hours. That’s a lot! Many new par­ents I speak to panic about their baby’s sleep hours. They add up the min­utes and stress about ways to force their baby back to sleep to meet that goal. In re­al­ity, you can’t force a baby to sleep. As par­ents, we can help and as­sist them, but if they are wide awake and con­tent, chances are this is just their new­born dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion and they aren’t yet ready to fall asleep. The best in­di­ca­tor you can use to know if your new baby is get­ting “enough” sleep, is their tem­per­a­ment, and whether they are meet­ing de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stones. An alert but con­tent baby who is meet­ing all their mile­stones is fine, but con­versely, a baby who cries a lot, and isn’t very con­tent or happy, is prob­a­bly tired or hun­gry. Be re­as­sured that you have to se­verely de­prive a child of sleep over a very long pe­riod of time to de­lay their de­vel­op­ment. I prom­ise you, a few un­set­tled weeks out of your baby’s life while you find your feet in th­ese early days is noth­ing. Please don’t panic. So­lu­tions WHEN: Tim­ing is im­por­tant for good sleep habits, but rou­tine in the first six weeks is about start­ing your day in the morn­ing, fin­ish­ing your day in the evening, and of­fer­ing your baby a nap ev­ery 45-90 min­utes, de­pend­ing on their tired signs. The first six weeks are not a time to try to es­tab­lish a strict nap rou­tine. You might even find your baby is very sleepy in the first three weeks as they carry a lot of ma­ter­nal mela­tonin from be­ing in your uterus. This makes them sleepy and gives you a false sense of se­cu­rity be­fore they “wake up.” HOW: Set­tling a new­born for a sleep can be tricky, es­pe­cially if they ap­pear col­icky or they suf­fer from re­flux. The good news is that your baby has a calm­ing re­flex, and you as the par­ents have the magic abil­ity to turn on your ba­bies calm­ing re­flex, which then en­ables you to help them drift off to sleep with less stress. This calm­ing re­flex is trig­gered by five key strate­gies. Dr Har­vey Karp, author of The Hap­pi­est Baby on the Block, refers to th­ese as the “five S’s”: Shush­ing: Shush­ing near your baby’s ear mim­ics the sounds they heard in utero and is calm­ing to your baby. Be­fore they were born, they were ex­posed to around 90 deci­bels con­stantly, so this quiet world they are born into can un­nerve some ba­bies. You’ll find they re­spond re­mark­ably to shush­ing or white noise pitched at the right vol­ume. Side po­si­tion: Hold­ing a baby on their side ei­ther across your ch­est, or in their bassinet can, in com­bi­na­tion with shush­ing, swad­dling, suck­ing and swing­ing help your baby to calm down and pre­pare to sleep. If you do hold your baby on their side in their bassinet, it is very im­por­tant to note this is just to set­tle them, they must never be left un­su­per­vised on their side in the bassinet as this would be a SIDS risk. Put your baby to sleep on their back for all sleeps. Swad­dling: I love swad­dling new­borns, and af­ter work­ing with thou­sands of them, I haven’t met one I couldn’t calm down with a

“Some­times we can be set­tling for 20 - 30 min­utes just to achieve a 45-minute nap. Whilst ex­haust­ing, this is to­tally nor­mal for a new­born baby”

good, snug swad­dle. I pre­fer the arms down tech­nique as this en­sures your baby is pro­tected from their own star­tle re­flex which can star­tle them awake as they fall asleep. If your baby fusses when you wrap them, I prom­ise you they don’t hate it. They might just be a bit over­tired al­ready. Try playing some white noise as you wrap them, and pop in a dummy. Suck­ing: Of­fer­ing your baby the breast or a dummy to set­tle is for most ba­bies a sure-fire way to trig­ger that calm­ing ref lex and al­low your baby to go to sleep. You can try wrap­ping your baby, turn­ing on the white noise, then ei­ther hold­ing them against your skin on their side with a dummy, or feed­ing them. Both of th­ese strate­gies will help your baby fall asleep quickly and with­out tears. Swing­ing: Swing­ing is a gen­eral term for any kind of move­ment that helps your baby calm down and fall asleep. You might find swing­ing in your arms works best, or pat­ting their bot­tom is an­other favourite of mine. Pat­ting, swing­ing and bounc­ing all need to be vig­or­ous enough to trig­ger that calm­ing re­flex while still sup­port­ing baby’s neck and body. We’re swing­ing not shak­ing! Ex­per­i­ment with the five S’s. You’ll find you only need one or two of them in or­der for your baby to fall asleep, or it might be all five. Ev­ery baby is dif­fer­ent, and ev­ery day will be dif­fer­ent. Don’t be sur­prised if on Mon­day your baby is happy with their swad­dle and dummy, but by Wed­nes­day they also need a good bot­tom pat, and the white noise. Try to con­sider the five S’s as tools in your new­born tool­box, and you are free to pick and choose which ones you need on any given day. WHERE: In the first three weeks, you might find your new­born will nap eas­ily in the lounge in broad day­light. This helps them learn the dif­fer­ence be­tween night and day, and you get to have them close by for fre­quent feed­ings. But af­ter three weeks, most ba­bies tend to sleep bet­ter in a darker sleep space, such as their nurs­ery or your bed­room with the cur­tains drawn. This cre­ates a sleepin­duc­ing en­vi­ron­ment, which again helps make fall­ing asleep much eas­ier, and en­cour­ages your baby to stay asleep for longer pe­ri­ods as light and sleep don’t mix well. Overnight, the safest place for your new­born to sleep is in their own sleep space, such as a bassinet or cot, but in your bed­room. Room shar­ing low­ers the rate of SIDS and al­lows you to be re­spon­sive to your new­born’s night-time needs. WHY: Won­der­ful things hap­pen to your new­born while they sleep. Firstly, they grow while they sleep: their cells re­pair them­selves and mul­ti­ply. When your baby sleeps, their short-term mem­ory is trans­ferred to long term mem­ory and new skills are so­lid­i­fied as synapses grow. Ba­bies’ im­mune sys­tems strengthen and de­velop as they sleep; their ap­petites reg­u­late and stress is re­duced. Sleep is just as im­por­tant as food for our de­vel­op­ment and sur­vival but just as it takes time to es­tab­lish and be­come com­fort­able with in­fant feed­ing, it takes time to learn how to put your baby to sleep. Be pa­tient and ask for help if you’re strug­gling.

Are we ex­pect­ing too much of our new­borns?

This is the in­for­ma­tion age. We carry a pocket-size com­puter with us at all times, which brings with it the abil­ity to tap into expert knowl­edge at the press of a but­ton. But it can also create un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions, es­pe­cially in the world of par­ent­ing. Par­ents see a snip­pet of their friends roset­inted lives on so­cial me­dia, and then won­der why their four-week-old baby doesn’t sleep through the night and take three two-hour naps ev­ery day. At Baby Sleep Con­sul­tant, I’m see­ing an in­crease in clients com­ing to us want­ing to try “cry­ing it out” to es­tab­lish rou­tines and teach their new­borns to self­set­tle. This is com­pletely un­nec­es­sary as your new­born has no abil­ity to self-set­tle and might not take struc­tured naps un­til they are 12 weeks plus. We’re all busy and par­ents are strug­gling with the time it takes to put a new­born to bed. Some­times we can be set­tling for 20 - 30 min­utes just to achieve a 45 minute nap. Whilst ex­haust­ing, this is to­tally nor­mal for a new­born baby. Hang in there. The first 12 weeks will fly by and your baby’s sleep will get eas­ier the big­ger they get.

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