Thursday, January 8, 2015

Baby Sleep Secrets Part I

Esther at fourths weeks, when she started sleeping 10 hours at night on a regular basis

This morning I had to wake Esther up after 12 1/2 hours of sleeping through the night.  She is 11 weeks.  This is not atypical for her.  She has essentially been sleeping at least 10 hours a night since she was four weeks, and now reliably sleeps from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

Gideon, my colicky, tongue tied firstborn, wasn't quite as good.  He slept 7-8 hours beginning at four weeks and was up to a solid, reliable 12 by 14 weeks.

I have promised several friends that I would post about what I do to get little ones to sleep through the night, so here goes.  Most of what I have learned comes from my sister, Anjenette, neonatal nurse and mother of nine (you read that right - 9!).  Other things I have picked up from the book popular State-side, Babywise, from Gina Ford (a British nanny), or from friends along the way.

So far, what I have learned includes the following:

1. Most importantly, I try to get my babies all of the calories they need during the day.  This includes waking them every three hours to feed (start of one feed to the next) during the day (I never, ever wake them at night - if they are sleeping, they are not hungry).  For newborns, I go four hours.

2. Feed on waking.  My sister's philosophy is that the hardest thing a baby does all day is eat.  A well-slept baby will feed better, and a well-fed baby will sleep better.  Contrariwise, a tired baby will not feed well, and a poorly-fed baby will not sleep well (or long).

To make sure they are good and awake for the feed, I change their nappy/diaper and feed them as near naked as the room temperature will allow.

3.  I try to make sure my milk is creamy and plentiful.  It is difficult as the mother of a newborn to eat well, but I try really hard to eat well and in good-size quantities.  This is not the time I worry about losing the pregnancy weight.  I try to eat plenty of protein and vegetables, and not worry about fats all that much.  (I do try to avoid sugars, including simple carbohydrates.)

My sister taught me to pump off the second breast to keep my production up wherever possible.  I can't realistically do this throughout the day, but I do so in the morning and pump both breasts at night.

4.   Swaddle. Babies will wake themselves up through involuntary hand and leg movements. Swaddling helps prevent this problem and recreates a womb-like environment where they are nice and tight.  Babies don't often like the process of swaddling, but like its affect.  I swaddle as tight as I possibly can to prevent as much movement as possible.

This requires the right kind of fabric. My favourite is a stiff, lightweight flannel, which is hard to find here in the UK. I also use a diaper pin and pin it right at the shoulders, preventing (usually) the hands from ever reaching the face.

Finally, my sister taught me to build in towels or other cushions around the baby to make them feel extra secure - towel on both sides and a thin blanket tucked in around the body - but never further than half-way up the chest.

These are the basics of what I do, and the most important.  More to come in another post!

G rocking Esther to sleep
I've begun the process of un-swaddling this week, as Esther is already growing out of her trug,
and she can't be swaddled in the baby hammock!

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