Top 20 sleep questions answered
OHbaby! expert Dorothy Waide has a long career supporting new parents in the universally challenging role of caring for their new babies. If you have a question, she has the answer. Here are her top 20 FAQs
Absolutely not, it is called nurturing. I believe there are tremendous benefits to baby being in your arms as much as possible for the first 12 weeks of his life. My rule of thumb however is don’t do anything in your arms that you cannot replicate in a cot.
While you do hear of babies who feed three or four hourly, most newborns feed as often as every 2 ¼ hours, so about 10 times a day. Feeding your new baby is a full time job, hence my motto: rest when baby rests, eat (and drink) when baby does
In these early weeks it is more important to look after yourself, your baby and your immediate family’s needs, than to accommodate others. Don’t feel bad asking people to hold off visiting for a few weeks until life settles down.
Partners take time to find their feet as new parents. Some men even get the ‘baby blues’. Keep your partner on side – yes, they will do things differently from you but that is okay.
Dads make great beds for babies to fall asleep on so once mum has breastfed, dad can take over with the settling and later resettling if need be. An empowered dad who can help with resettling is a lifesaver for a sleep-deprived mum.
Yes, swaddling gives baby the feeling of security and prevents his startle reflex from waking him. When swaddling, ensure the lower part of baby’s body is not constricted as he needs to be able to move his legs and hips freely.
Your baby is in a routine – he wakes, he cries and you respond. You feed, burp and change, play/cuddle, swaddle and then put him back to bed for another nap.
This is the basis of your routine with the amount of awake time slowly increasing as baby grows. For newborns, their awake time (including feeding) is really only 45 minutes to 1 hour maximum. Their naps should be a minimum 1½ hours.
It’s the million dollar question, but there is no easy answer. A baby will sleep through the night when he is good and ready, although key factors are learning to settle and resettle himself and no longer needing night feeds. Once he has regained his birth weight you can try to resettle before feeding when he wakes in the night. This is to ensure you are feeding for hunger and not comfort. If he is hungry though you won’t be able to resettle him without a feed.
Babies cry when they’re hungry, in pain, in need of comfort or overtired. For an overtired baby I recommend engulfing and cupping until he falls asleep. For more on this settling technique check out articles and video tutorials here or my website, babyhelp.co.nz
If your baby cries inconsolably then please seek medical help. If you are told your baby is “just one of those babies who cry all the time”, then seek help elsewhere until you find support.
Be kind to yourself. High expectations set us up for failure. For some women, having a new baby is the time to ditch the to-do list. If you have no expectations on your day aside from caring for your baby you will be more likely to go to bed feeling satisfied with what you have achieved.
Explain kindly that this is your turn to be a parent. Yes, you will make mistakes, but this is how we learn.
Babies feel very insecure when naked. You can reduce this insecurity by feeding baby just before his bath and then once he is in the bath putting a cloth over his tummy to calm him. Keep baths short. More time will be spent getting undressed and dressed again than actually in the bath water.
A dream feed is when you pick up a sleeping baby between the hours of 9pm and midnight to feed them, as opposed to them waking on their own for a feed. The idea is that a dream feed will then extend baby’s sleep, thus allowing parents a longer unbroken rest. I caution that this is an easy fix and difficult to change as baby grows. While some families swear by them, there is no guarantee that a dream feed will provide more sleep at your house. Some research suggests dream feeds may interfere with a baby’s most precious and deepest phase of sleep, between 9pm and midnight, while neuroscientists believe deliberately feeding a sleeping baby interferes with digestion, growth and development.
• jerky arm and leg movements
• fist clenching
• facial grimacing
• grumpy grizzling sounds, sometimes a nasal-sounding wail
• spaced-out stare often mistaken for alertness
These signs can be quite hard to spot and are easily missed. I find the good old-fashioned clock is the best. Using time as a guideline (it doesn’t have to be concrete) will give you greater awareness of when to expect baby’s tired signs
Most babies don’t really care if they have a dirty nappy so when he wakes, feed him first and then change him – you will have a happier baby.
This is a good indication that your baby has wind and needs burping or is having digestive problems. Try to burp him and then resettle baby back to sleep.
Breastfed babies metabolise their food very quickly so if your baby is up longer than 1½ hours his tummy will be almost empty again by the time you put him back to bed. You will have more success with self-settling if you top him up 15 minutes before his nap, then swaddle him and put him back in his cot. By swaddling after the feed you break the feed/sleep association. If he is very tired and falls asleep on the breast, gently remove him from the breast to wake him and then re-latch.
Colic and reflux are common complaints but often misunderstood. Colic is severe pain in the abdomen caused by wind or obstruction in the intestines. It is typically associated with prolonged and inconsolable bouts of crying, often in the evening, and often causing a baby to curl into the fetal position. Ensuring you always burp baby correctly may help.
Reflux (gastro-oesophageal reflux) occurs when stomach contents are pushed backwards up into the oesophagus and sometimes out of the mouth or nose, causing discomfort for baby and potential feeding issues.
If you are worried your baby may be suffering from colic or reflux I suggest talking to your LMC or doctor to ensure you get advice specific to your child.
Unless there is a medical reason, it is recommended you don’t start using a breast pump until baby is at least six weeks old as breastfeeding takes a minimum of six weeks to establish.
Yes, most babies catnap, but you can teach them not to. Babies stir when moving from a light sleep into a deeper sleep, and by stepping in at this stage, before he fully wakes, you can teach him to resettle and move into the next sleep cycle. This is a great skill to teach as it’s necessary for sleeping through the night.
Dorothy Waide is a baby whisperer and member of the OHbaby! panel of experts. Dorothy offers a range of consulting services that make her baby nursing expertise and experience accessible wherever you are. Visit her at babyhelp.co.nz or ask her a question by clicking here.