Midwife Cath Curtin tells us the truth.
One of the biggest problems facing new mums is putting your bub to sleep. As a practicing clinician with over 30 years experience I’ve seen even the least confident of new mothers succeed in sleep. All you need to arm yourself with is the right knowledge.
During pregnancy women take birthing classes and learn how to breathe during labour, but we forget to teach new parents about parenting itself. You are in labour for one day – parenting is for life. It’s impossible to prepare any new parent for parenting, and even harder to prepare for the sleep deprivation that comes with early parenting. It’s by far the biggest issue I see in my consulting practice.
As new mothers we’re pressured with expectation. For the perfect birth, the perfect post-baby body, but also the perfect baby. It is not possible. What is possible is a happy mother with a healthy baby – that is the best outcome.
We can problem solve about why your baby isn’t sleeping with sensible and practical advice. Gimmicky methods and fads do not work. Many books and untrained experts try to teach parenting by using different “tricks” to get babies to sleep. Some parents with three or four day old babies (still in hospital) are taught by professionals “shush into your baby’s ear and this will soothe them.” I can tell you without question that this is wrong.
What new babies need is food, and plenty of it. You can’t overfeed babies. ‘Sleep schools’ have a waiting list as long as your arm and are geared to teach new parents how to get their baby to sleep all night. Some of the methods they teach are patting and shushing crying babies that are far too young and too light in weight. Many mums leave sleep schools with their souls destroyed. How sad is that? That is not how we should be teaching new and young parents.
News Flash…not all babies sleep all night. Some babies are easier than others. Some are more challenging and this is due to a variety factors. All babies are different. The expectation for a baby to sleep starts in hospital and there are so many factors that leave new parents feeling like they have failed.
For your baby to sleep there are a few things you need to understand.
1. The baby.
Your baby is an individual. He or she will not sleep like your friend’s baby, your sister’s baby, your neighbour’s baby or even your other children. They are all different. Adopting a sleep routine set out in a book will not work for the majority of babies. The newborn baby often gets days and nights mixed up and this is normal. A baby cannot sleep all day then sleep all night. They need a huge amount of feeding in the first six months to grow. I would expect a newborn baby in the first six weeks to be feeding every three to four hours during the day and at the most sleep four to six hours after midnight.
2. A routine.
A routine is not possible until the baby weighs at least 7-8kgs or is about three to four months old. This routine is for nighttime while daytime is often two to three small sleeps of 45 minutes. I advise all of my new mums and dads to start the Midwife Cath Bath, Bottle & Bed routine from the first day home from hospital. It is the first step to getting your baby to sleep. One of the biggest traps new parents get into is bathing a newborn baby at 6pm every night, which is far too early for a new baby (read Midwife Cath Bath, Bottle & Bed routine).
If the baby has gastric reflux they do not sleep at all until the diagnosis and treatment is in place. Babies can be diagnosed at two to three weeks after birth. These babies squirm, arch their back, scream and cry when they lay down and are only happy if they are feeding or being held upright. If any adult has suffered from reflux they will understand how uncomfortable the baby is, and why a baby with reflux can be labelled as “difficult”.