Sleep. It is the one word every new parent fears. Whether it is your first child or your third, you never know if your baby will be a “good” sleeper or a “poor” one. Some babies are sleepers from the word go. Some need help learning positive sleep habits and some are like the story below. They start off good and slowly spiral downwards.
Here is the story of Jack and his mom – After a gruelling 18 hours of labour and three nights in the hospital, Leanne Smith* was ready to bring home her newborn son. Leanne remembers the excitement she felt as she walked through her front door carrying her beautiful baby boy. She knew there would be nights without a lot of sleep, and she thought she was ready for them.
“I had no idea what I was in for,” laughs Smith. “Everyone warns you sleep is hard to come by. I thought I understood. But then Jack came home. For the first night or two he woke every 3 hours for a feeding and I could put him back down without much trouble. But soon the wakings became more frequent and I couldn’t easily get him to sleep again. There were nights where I only got a few short-lived hours of sleep. I was lost and needed to learn what to do.”
Fortunately Leanne didn’t let her situation linger for months on end and while it is not recommended to formally sleep train a child until six-months (always check with your child’s doctor before beginning), Dr. Karp’s 5 S system is what I always recommend as a first step for any child. Basically, the 5 S’s help you simulate the feelings of security and warmth your baby felt while inside mommy’s body as Dr. Karp believes babies are born three months too early and these tool help them transition to life outside the womb. I’ve used these techniques with thousands of babies from around the world, and it always seems to help, especially when a parent uses them consistently within the first four months. Some of these tools some children will even use throughout their full first year.
Swaddling – Wrapping your baby in a snug swaddle will both help prevent your baby from startling caused by the moro reflex and will recreate the security s/he felt while in the womb. Be sure to swaddle tightly with arms in, and ensure no loose blankets are left in the crib to reduce risk of SIDS.
Side/stomach position – When your baby is upset, try calming them on their side or stomach. This helps when trying to lay them down as it doesn’t stimulate the Moro reflex and make them feel like they are falling. Once baby is starting to lull to sleep you can place him/her in their crib on their back.
Shushing Sounds – When your baby was in the womb, noise was a constant. You can recreate those sounds by either “shhhhh’ing” in their ear or using a white noise machine. The white noise will also help if there are other children in the home by helping create a constant sound that will mute their loud, playing noises, even if they are right outside of baby’s room.
Swinging – Imagine the constant motion your baby enjoyed while in your womb. Every step you took, they swayed along. Once born, that steady feeling of movement is gone. You can recreate those rhythmic motions with rocking, bouncy chairs, infant carriers, baby swings and car rides.
Sucking – Your baby can be calmed quickly through the sucking motion. You can use a pacifier, breast or finger to help stimulate this calming reflex. Make sure breastfeeding is established before introducing a pacifier.
It is important to know, some babies will need all five S’s, some may need only one or two them; but each one will work to help calm your baby and soothe him/her back to sleep. Try the 5 S’s for yourself and see how wonderfully they can work for you!
Author: Tracy Ruiz, The Sleep Doula