4 Things Every New Parent Should Know
How to Create Safe, Healthy, and Sustainable Sleep Habits
By: Elika Kabui NCS, Infant Sleep Consultant
As a Newborn Care Specialist (NCS) and Infant Sleep Consultant, one of the biggest questions and request we get from new parents is “How do I get my baby sleeping through the night!? A newborn baby’s needs are much different from an older baby or child. Babies are born with a tiny stomach and a more frequent need to eat. Night waking in the first few months are normal and welcome, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start healthy sleep habits now.
Once a baby is about 4-6 months of age, healthily gaining weight, and has hit the 12lb mark, this is a good sign your baby is able to begin naturally sleeping through the night with minimal or no night wakings. Keep in mind, each baby is different, and has different needs, discussing your intentions and what your baby is capable of is always great discussion we recommend you have with your baby’s Pediatrician.
1) Sleep Environment
Where babies should sleep…
Babies can sleep anywhere right? Wrong! Although babies can literally fall asleep anywhere, it doesn’t mean they should. Sleeping in containers i.e.: car seats, strollers, bouncer seats, or a rock-and-play are all areas that should absolutely be avoided as a place for your baby to sleep. Leaving them to sleep in these places can cause positional or strangulated asphyxiation. Positional Plagiocephaly (flattening of the head) is also something you should be concerned about.
Besides the safety risks involved with leaving an infant to sleep in these places, it will make it all the more difficult to introduce your baby to the crib in the following months. For safe sleep according to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) it is recommended your baby should be placed on their back in their crib, with firm bedding free from toys, loose blankets, pillows, crib padding or any other additional items.
Lighting and Temperature
Your baby’s room should be completely dark during sleeping hours. Baby’s don’t have the same developed circadian rhythms (powered by our 24 hour biological clock) we do as adults secreting melatonin (a natural sleep hormone our bodies produce) cuing us when to wake and sleep. For babies this develops later on. Darkening your baby’s room during sleep time and brightening it during wake time assists babies in knowing their sleep and wake times, making naptime and bedtime sleep more effective and restorative.
To create a comfortable and safe sleep environment, room temperature is important. Your baby’s room should be set between 68-72 degrees. More extreme high or low temperatures are a major SIDS risk factor.
2) Bedtime Routine
Routine and Schedule are two words that often sound rigid and daunting. Let’s be real, anyone can appreciate knowing expectations and what comes next. Right?! Providing consistency and routine for your baby gives them security, knowing their needs will be met and when they can expect that.
Although there are exceptions to every plan and minute by minute accounting is unnecessary, shaping your baby’s sleep time around regular feeding times assists your baby in sleeping through the night. Having a simple but consistent bedtime routine is a necessary component that contributes to your baby sleeping through the night. Bath time, feeding, some snuggles, and avoiding too much stimulation is a great example of a simple routine before laying your babe down to sleep.
3) Sleep Windows
Knowing your baby’s cues goes hand in hand with having a consistent routine. There’s not a ton of guesswork involved in identifying sleep cues if your baby has a general routine of when eating and sleeping occurs. Decreased activity, staring into space, disinterest in toys or others, glossy and dazed eyes, rubbing of ears and eyes, and yawning are all excellent sleep cues that let us know baby is ready to “hit the hay.”
Missing your baby’s sleep window is no fun for anyone, and parents all over can attest to that. Crying and extreme fussiness is a perfect example of an overly tired and fatigued baby. An overtired baby’s body is flooded with a stress hormone called cortisol making it difficult to calm them, and help prepare them for effective sleep, and often means night wakings to follow. Understanding and identifying your baby’s sleep cues is essential in providing to them healthy, restorative sleep with the goal of sleeping throughout the night.
Sounds so peaceful right? Babies are babies, and although we wish we never had to calm them down and soothe them, the reality is we do, and we must do it well! Ever heard of the 5 S’s? Dr. Harvey Karp M.D. is known for compiling the best soothing tips and techniques that have proven successful. Every Newborn Care Specialist and Sleep Consultant uses them, and happily introduces them to parents. They work wonders, and if you ever wanted some tricks up your sleeve, these are the ones to take note of!
Swaddling– Snug wrapping with arms down. (* Swaddling should be done tightly, with no loose fabric. Once baby is able to roll over to stomach, arms should no longer be swaddled)
Side/ Stomach– In your arms only, placing your baby on their side or stomach. (*This is meant for in your arms only and baby should not left of side or stomach to sleep alone.)
Shushing– Loud, rumbly shushing or white noise.
Swinging- Swinging and dipping your baby in a swinging motion. (* This is a gentle movement, never shake your baby.)
Sucking- Nursing, sucking on a bottle or pacifier.
Using all these soothing techniques alone or together make a huge difference in calming your baby and wooing them off to sleep. They resemble a womb like atmosphere, what Dr. Harvey Karp likes to refer to as the 4th trimester, and create a sense of familiarity, security, and comfort in the first three months of life post birth.These techniques aren’t meant to be used forever, but can be very effective in the early months, creating healthy, effective and safe sleep habits.
About Elika Kabui
Elika was raised in Puna, Hawaii growing up in her large family of 8 with her parents and siblings. She was brought up with a strong sense of family, community, and communication. Married in 2011, she happily resides in Dallas Texas with her husband, and they’re very excited as they’re currently expecting their first child.
She has dedicated herself as a Career Nanny for over 10 years, and in recent years working as an NCS (Newborn Care Specialist) and Infant Sleep Consultant. Through her work she has positively impacted the lives of families and children all over the country with her easy going personality, straight-forward communication, and extensive experience. Her gentle and knowledgeable approach as a parent educator gives parents the tools and confidence they need to make educated decisions that are right for their needs, and bringing up baby.
Elika received her education from Newborn Care Training Academy and The International Maternity and Parenting Institute. Her skills are displayed in her everyday pursuit to encourage the development of well rounded, happy and secure children.
If you are looking for someone like Elika to care for your child, contact us!