Why Do So Many Parents Feel Their Newborn Baby Doesn’t Sleep?

As parents and caregivers, so often we’re bombarded with so much information around pregnancy and the postpartum period. We embark on this journey very excited, maybe a little apprehensive, and then sleep deprivation hits. You may feel your newborn baby doesn’t sleep as well as expected, or an older baby’s sleep patterns regress and suddenly things aren’t as we’re lead to believe they should be in the movies or magazines – reality hits!

Why is sleep so important to health? Sleep helps control mood, weight, cardiovascular health and overall health and well-being. Sleep helps your body and brain recharge. On the other hand, sleep deprivation has a negative effect on health such as reduced attention span, hyperactivity and issues with immunity. Many parents are shocked to discover that sleep, like rolling over, crawling or walking, is a skill their baby will need to learn.

Like most things, creating the best possible scenario for restful regular sleep is crucial. There are specific things you can do to help make sleep less of a stress point and allow your newborn and your family to feel calmer and more rested.

When and How Much?

Understanding how much, how often and when their baby should sleep is often a source of much anxiety for a new mum. It’s key to remember that all babies are different, however you may find it helpful to have some averages to refer to. The key of course is setting good foundations for restful, timely, regular sleep: knowing the signs, adequate nutrition, a suitable environment to encourage sleep, a soothing routine and a sense of wellbeing. Understanding an average for the amount of sleep can help put things into perspective, but it shouldn’t become another source of anxiety.

For a newborn between 0-3 months old, sleep can be all over the shop with no consistency or pattern. At this very early age the newborn is feeding regularly making sure they get enough food to survive, forming a close attachment with their mother and they also sleep a lot to repair and grow. The sleep cycles for a newborn are very short 35-40 minutes and they can find it hard to settle. By them receiving the right amount of sleep when they need it, (will be explained in the next chapter) allows for overall health and wellbeing.

1. Signs of Tiredness: What to Look for?

As a new parent or even second timer it can be very easy to miss the signs of tiredness and when to put the baby to sleep. There is a huge link between a baby that is overtired and has poor sleep, hyperactivity, difficulty

falling asleep and rising early. Some of the signs that your baby is tired may include:

· Becoming more snuggly
· Rub their eyes or ears
· Staring into space
· Become very still and quiet
· No longer being able to keep eye contact
· Sucking their fingers, something which would have occurred in the womb for 9 months

2. Nutrition

Why is nutrition so important to sleep? As a Midwife and Sleep Consultant I get asked this question at least once a week and my answer is always that good nutrition is the building block to good health and sleep. The nutrients and minerals that we get from food play a huge role in getting a healthy amount of sleep. With a baby under 6 months they are depending on these nutrients either through the breast milk or formula they receive. When breast feeding, aim to eat a diet rich in nutrients. Also, foods such as those high in sugar, caffeine and alcohol can have negative effects on a baby’s sleep so it is a good idea to keep them to a minimum.

3. Environment

When working with families, environment is something I look at closely and is so very important for healthy sleep. The environment that a baby sleeps in can have both a very positive or a very negative effect on sleep. These are some things to think about when setting up a space for your baby to sleep in:

· The room shouldn’t be too hot or too cool;
· Make the room as dark as possible;
· It should be a healthy, smoke-free environment with a clean, firm mattress;
· Consider using natural cotton and/or organic materials that are more breathable and gentle;
· The space should be free of electrical currents or radios;
· Introduce some white noise or gentle soothing music to encourage sleep;

It’s also so important to follow SIDS guidelines for every sleep, most importantly placing your baby on their back and away from any hazards such as loose blankets or toys is very important

4. Routine

Trying to fall asleep when you feel agitated, overwhelmed or worried isn’t easy. You need time to unwind and relax. The same goes for your baby. Not only does a restful, quiet routine for bedtime relax your baby ready for sleep, it is a great time to bond and also teach them to expect and prepare for sleep. A warm bath, gentle massage, bedtime story or rhyme and last feed and cuddle will help set the tone for bedtime.

5. Wellbeing

The emotional well-being of children is just as important as their physical health. When a baby is born it is intrinsically linked to its mother and will react to her energy. Understanding what a baby needs and what may be lacking, is the first step to helping improve their sense of wellbeing and ultimately the quality of their sleep. This might include things such as more room play, more outdoor play, a consistent, reliable routine, reducing parental stress or supporting the main caregivers parenting techniques to align with the child’s temperament.

If you’d like to chat more about how I might be able to support you and your family don’t hesitate to reach out, you can call me on 0448 223463 or email miriam@myblossomingfamily.com. I’m here to help.