Five lessons on how to help your newborn sleep

I never considered how sleep deprived I would be once our first born, the sleep thief arrived. I also just assumed that he would fall asleep when he needed to, I was clueless.

Nearly a year later, I was still waiting for him to learn how to sleep, but it was not improving .When we were at breaking point, we hired a sleep expert.

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This was the best decision we made as new parents, it changed our lives. Our son went from being up a least 4 times a night to mostly sleeping through, naps also went for 29 minutes a day to 2-3 hours. I was a new woman! Hello World.

The journey to sleep coaching

Does this mean that this journey to better sleep came easily? Absolutely not. Sleep coaching is hard work, it takes determination, energy and commitment. Some days you feel on top of the world, and sometimes you want to give up and cry.

Is it worth it though? 100% yes!

I dread to think where we would be without it. As you can imagine, the experience of our son not sleeping came with its own challenges. I was exhausted, depressed, life was a struggle. Even the most simplest of tasks felt impossible.

Our second child and sleep coaching

I didn’t realise how much trauma I went through when sleep deprived until we fell pregnant with our second child.

I developed perinatal anxiety, which mainly came from having to go through the same journey all over again.

Even though I have all the skills as a certified Sleep Coach to resolve sleep challenges, what scared me the most was returning to that dark place I had worked so hard to never return to.

Oliver trying to sleep

Oliver trying to sleep

A positive to my anxiety was that it drove me to create a personalised sleep plan (as I do for my clients) for our unborn baby. I planned for the worst and prepared for each eventuality. The reality is the challengers were totally different.  

Our second, Ruby slept all night on her first night, she slept through regularly or woke for 1-2 feeds until she reached around 4 months old, the first sleep regression.

However, a bad night has only even been 3 wake ups, where she would feed and go straight back to sleep. Next month she turns 1 and is sleeping through the night and we have never used a sleep coaching method to improve her sleep.

Why do some babies sleep through?

I believe Ruby sleeps through due to two main reasons. Firstly, she wasn’t born with the same challenges as Oliver. For example, Oliver’s birth was medicalised due to his prematurity, he has had severe reflux and bowel/stomach challenges due to allergies.

Whereas with Ruby, I laid the best foundations for good quality sleep from the day we brought her home from the hospital. I have used my holistic sleep coaching model with her, without using a sleep coaching technique. I would never recommend sleep training a newborn baby or any child in fact.

Find out the difference between sleep coaching and sleep training here.

5 tips on how to help your baby sleep through

These are based on mistakes I made with our first born before I became a Sleep Coach.

1. Your sleep comes first

It is too easy to become your own worst enemy when sleep deprived, even more so when you have had your first baby. Perhaps you are trying to live as you did before baby came along.

Nothing is more important than you getting every minute of sleep you can. Be sure to go to bed early. I made this mistake with our first child, regularly going to bed late, up through the night and then early the next day.

Oliver on one of his 29 minute naps (in the sling)

Oliver on one of his 29 minute naps (in the sling)

After our second baby arrived, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do this again. I would often go to bed by 8pm to cope with having a newborn and a toddler, who returned as a sleep thief again.

Sleep in childhood is up and down, and most newborn, young babies or toddlers do not yet know how to sleep, so the best thing you can do is make sure you are as well rested as you can be.

2. Establish Feeding

One of the main reasons a newborn has struggles with sleep is usually related to feeding difficulties. This is regardless of feeding method.

As soon as you have had your baby, whether you are breast or formula feeding I recommend booking in with a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Whilst many health care professionals have good intentions, health visitors, midwives and even paediatricians have often had minimal training on feeding and identifying anatomical issues such as tongue tie.

Efficient feeding is absolutely key in preventing issues such as reflux and colic, and therefore means you are laying the strongest foundations for your baby’s sleep.  

3. Post birth trauma

Even if your birth was everything you wished for, birth itself is hard work for both you and your baby. Often babies necks can become stiff or locked as well as other minor injuries.

This doesn’t mean anything is seriously wrong with your baby, but just think about how hard it is for you to sleep if you are uncomfortable. For this reason, I would recommend finding a well known and recommended Paediatric Osteopath.

Paediatric Osteopaths are trained to assess your baby’s body holistically after birth and make necessary gentle touch to re-align anything that needs adjusting. If you are local to East Anglia or happy to travel, I can personally recommend Helen Terentjev, you can contact her on 01223 527799.  

4. Sleep Associations

I often get asked if it is okay to feed your newborn or baby to sleep. Of course it is, your tiny baby seeks closeness, comfort and attachment to you.

It is true that feeding to sleep can result in sleep challenges later down the line, but for now your baby needs you. With this in mind, it maybe useful to help your baby to sleep in a variety of different ways.

As well as feeding to sleep, try sometimes to feed to drowsy, then put your baby in the crib or moses basket. It is also worth coaching your baby to sleep in the sling, buggy or car where possible. 

5. Waiting for it to get better 

The biggest lesson I learnt was to wait for nearly a year to seek help. I had this feeling that there was something wrong with me, why was I the only one that couldn’t cope?

Why was my baby the only one who wouldn’t sleep? I also felt that there were few sleep professionals that would suit my parenting style.

I should not have waited and tortured myself for this long. If I had of sought help earlier, that year would not have been so challenging and upsetting. I don’t have the fondest memories from that first year with Oliver, and with Ruby I have enjoyed it much more.

If you are struggling with your child’s sleep and waiting for the day it improves, my biggest tip is to not wait any longer. Reach out to a sleep expert, it is not worth the turmoil and struggle, trust me.

There are my five tips on how to help your newborn to sleep. If you have had just had your baby, are expecting or your older baby’s sleep is still struggle, then book yourself in for a discovery call to find out your first steps to a better night sleep.

Kathryn Stimpson