Sleep Tips & Techniques for Newborns to 12 Month Olds

Posted Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Hello! I'm so happy to have an opportunity to share with you today in my first guest post for EtsyKids. My name is Natural Mama Nell and I blog over at Whole Parenting Family, and share my organic modern mama & baby goods at Whole Parenting Goods. Find me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

I'm a mother of two, three years old & one year old and I write primarily about parenting, gardening, crafting, cooking, and all about our journey of familyhood. EtsyKids is a wonderful community for artisans and appreciators alike! Glad we're all here. 

Today I'm sharing about sleep. Babies. The first question people ask. Does your baby sleep through the night? No? Here are my suggestions as to how to achieve that! Okay, maybe it's not phrased that way, but that's their point. Followed by How much does she weight? Oh, she's tiny. or Oh, she's huge. Every child is unique, has her own needs, and her own sleep routines (and size)!

For starters, all my posts on sleep are here. Starting with SuperBoy sleeping through the night at 12 weeks, simply due to the fact he didn't want to night nurse anymore. Ending with the fact that SweetPea, although night weaned at 12 months (nota bene, months, not weeks), still awakens at least once a night to be comforted back to sleep. 

1) Birth to 6 months.

I, along with a bunch of other moms and several experts, feel that the first six months of life are to be led primarily by the baby's needs. Keeping that infant on you, close to you, within smell-shot of your milk means you're going to have a better chance at meeting whatever your nursing goal is. Why? Because she nurses more often at first, and that makes more milk storage for later. How does this relate to sleep? Because your breastmilk has relaxing go-to-sleep hormones in it.

Don't forget the cotton absorbent nursing pads. Just in case you leak out!

My babies nap all over the place for the first six months. Literally. On my stomach, my chest, in the carrier, in the crib, in our bed, etc. We co-sleep for the first six months. A routine evolves over time--morning naps around 9 am and 1 pm the closer they get to 6 months old. But I don't sweat it because I know baby will pass out anywhere and sleep through most noise and commotion. I'm not worried about supine, darkened room sleep. I'm certainly not worried about self-soothing as that means baby's sucking reflex isn't doing its job: making my milk come in and stay in.

At night time, baby can go down around 9pm, then awaken at 12, then three or four am, and then get up again around 7 or 8--maybe with a nice monster nap after the early morning feeding. It's all across the board. When you have two, this can be tricky because the baby may pass out right when the toddler/preschooler is up & at 'em. This makes for a lot of extracting your nipple from the sleeping babe's mouth and ensuring she's safely stashed somewhere she won't be hurt if she awakens when you're in an epic take-off-the-night-diaper-battle. (Which NEVER happens with my precious angel of a boy. :)

2) 6-12 months.

Help baby transition to sleep in their crib or floor bed (for the Montessorians among us) with a special object. For us, it's been a soft bunny. Something like this beautifully crochet bunny rabbit. Healthy naps led to better night sleep--or so they say. We aim for two naps, 1.5 hours - 2 hours each, around 9:30am and 2pm. We night weaned her at a year, so middle-night-wake ups are for my husband at this point.

I'd wrap the baby in a muslin swaddle blanket--the big 45x45 kind, not the velcro ones. Loosely. This is to keep limps together when softening for sleep and when lowering into the crib. I rock in a 40 year old rocking chair, nurse, burp over my shoulder, nurse on the other side, then walk around the room gently burping because SweetPea ALWAYS has a double burp no matter what, shhhhhhhhing in her ear. The older she got, the more I'd say Now we'll see bunny and cuddle and sleep with bunny. Sleep. Bunny. Sleep. Bunny. I'd lay her down in the crib oh-so-gently-cursing-why-the-bottom-is-so-far-down and lay her on her side usually. The thin blanket keeps the body parts from flinging out and awakening your angel-devil. Lay the head down last and most quietly. She is usually semi-conscious. If she's SCREAMING it means she's not sleepy enough yet. Redo. If she awakens 45 minutes in, redo because that's not long enough.

A great swaddle blanket with beautiful organic bamboo jersey knit would have the right weight to give her that tucked in feel.

I gently drape her arm over the bunny/ blankie, and wrap that blanket over her body, tucking it against her back so it feels like someone is there. Then I sneak out of the room that has a VERY loud box fan going to cut the noise from the rest of the house. We laid down extra oriental rugs in her room because the hardwood floors, though beautiful, are terribly creaky.

Sometimes she startles awake and I lean over the crib with a hand on her hip or bum, shhhhhhhing and slowly rubbing (not to stimulate and awaken her! this isn't a sports massage). Sometimes I abandon her and she is sleepy enough she'll go back down after 4-6 minutes of protesting.

If she is awake and screaming, you may have to just leave her to deal with your own sanity, or your older child. Sometimes protest naps happen. Don't beat yourself up about it. But when they happen closer to age one, it's easier on the baby's system. Baby's are tough but delicate. Abandon them too often and they're a hot mess. Stay with them every single second and they're stinkers. A good absorbent diaper at night is key as well. Something like this fun but functional rainbow diaper.
I'm not convinced cry-it-out works to teach the child self-soothing at a young age. It teaches them to pass out from exhaustion. And then you have to retrain them every time a new tooth, new anything happens in their life. Certainly not appropriate for the developmental baby mind under 6 months, it may have its place for your sanity as the baby gets closer to one year old. Maybe.
All in all, the child whose needs are met when she's small is a more independent, happier, and better adjusted one. I've seen that time and time again with my own kiddos, with friends' children, and in the literature. Nursing frequently, carrying or wearing your baby, and sharing sleep make little infancy easier, in my opinion. Setting your child up for a smooth transition to sleep by laying her down when she's groggy but not completely passed out makes for a longer, better day nap as she ages.

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