I have been working with babies literally my entire life. I babysat often as a young girl, I helped out with family and cousins, I've worked in many a church nursery, ran a daycare/preschool class of 8 four-year-old boys for a couple years(solo!), I was even a nanny for TRIPLET infant boys! After all of that, I thought for sure I was prepared for motherhood, but then my little one surprised me by being completely different and harder then any baby I have ever cared for before. Now I spend time with babies during photo sessions and postpartum visits. I'v done everything from helping with that first latch, to teaching swaddles, and clipping their fingernails for the first time.
It didn't occur to me until recently that this baby whispering knowledge is not a given. Its unique! I have a ton of "hacks", tips and tricks that I figured I would share, and hopefully help out a mama or two!
Baby Sleeping tricks and tips
These are things that I have found useful. Take all the advice you get as a new mom, and leave what you don't need. The best way to do something, is the way that works for you. You do you mama(or Dad).
Newborn sleep schedules can be the hardest to figure out. personally, I never used one. I always did nursing/pumping/sleeping on demand, and since schedules stress me out to no end, I threw that advice out the window. Though many mamas find it helpful to get on a schedule, and it can help with babies who get their days and nights reversed.
Sleep when baby sleeps. A given- but from someone who actually took this advice (and still does with a 4 year old)who had a baby who was a terrible sleeper, I can not begin to express how vital this was to my health and my ability to function.
Dryer trick. Take a swaddle blanket, and put it inside your bra or shirt during the day. Sleep with it. Then, put it in the dryer for a minute or so just as baby is getting sleepy, and wrap them in it. It makes it so much easier to put baby down while they sleep when they are warm and smell you all around them. I suggest making this part of a bedtime routine, not used for naptime, so baby learns the difference between deep sleep and naptime.
Bedtime routines! I may not do schedules, but bedtime routines are the best. And they are so flexible. Pick a series of things and do them every single night before bed with your baby. It can be a slow dance to a favorite song, a lullaby in the rocking chair, brushing their hair while they sit in your lap, giving them a lotion massage, reading a book, diffusing an essential oil, prayers, or any combination of things. Make it something you look forward to by choosing things YOU love. I recommend avoiding making bath time part of this routine, as its super bad for a child's skin (until they hit puberty) to bathe every single day, plus it can be a long fight some nights and not the best use of your time unless babe is super dirty. If you switch off nights with your spouse, make sure you both have a routine that works for you. its okay for them to be different, as long as they are consistent with the person.
Red/orange lights. Avoiding blue based lights for an hour or two before bed (some nightlights, televisions, phones, etc. can help foster the production of Melatonin in the body (the sleep hormone) Red/orange lights signal the body to relax and sleep.
Co-Sleeping. It gets a bad rep. Not only can Co-sleeping be done safely (more safely then sleeping in a crib for some babies!) but it can be extremely beneficial to a parents mental health, and a babies psychological growth. Co sleeping is the norm for 80% of the world, and only in western culture did it grow to be frowned upon. There is a quote, i'm not sure how it goes exactly but its something about addressing the concern of raising a "spoiled child" essentially saying they will need you too much as they grow if you love them too much now, but the quote says "have we considered just how beautiful that would be?" if a teenager came to you, with tears, or bad dreams, because they knew you were a safe space. Or when a toddler comes to you for comfort instead of hiding when they are afraid. I firmly believe babies can not be spoiled with love, that its part of our job to accommodate their "neediness" until they can do so in a healthy way on their own. Holding a baby 24/7 does not make a clingy baby. The clingyness of your child is so much more dependent on their personality then your holding habits. In fact, not holding your newborn, proves them to be fussier and more needy more often. Studies show that children who co-sleep grow up with less anxiety and higher self-esteem. I held my son constantly, and he is the least clingy child I'v ever met. Back to my point- co sleeping is amazing for parents who are constantly worried and checking on their child, nursing mothers, and anyone who feels safer with baby close. (and its 100% okay if co-sleeping doesn't work for you)
Each child has something that makes them sleepy. For my daycare kids, these were all different. One had to be patted on the back, another had to be rubbed ever so softly right between his eyes. Another would get instantly drowsy when I rubbed circles into his hair. Try different things until you find what your child prefers. My own son hates to be rubbed and touched, but loves to be held tight, and loved to be swaddled as a newborn.
Its OKAY if your child doesn't sleep. Most adults don't sleep through the night, and its crazytown to think a baby can or should, whom has no means of communicating with words what they feel/need. This is also a western belief. MOST cultures do not expect babies to sleep trough the night. My child at 4 has slept through the night less times then I can count on my hand. And that's normal. If you have a baby who sleeps through the night, you are blessed and its probably more to do with that child's personality and genetic make up, then anything you did. It will probably change, and go through phases so enjoy it while it lasts. Kids often are born with their own time clock and sleep preferences, its not vital for your to change them. It is vital that you get to know them, and have a support plan in place to help you deal with sleep deprivation if it becomes too much to handle on your own.
Sunlight! Being outside for a bit every day with your newborn, letting them soak up that vitamin D is good for sleep habits, and keeps baby in the know about when daytime and night time are. Even during naps you should avoid blacking out the room.
White noise or music can be soothing for you and baby. whooshing sounds instead of the shhhh sound, can help a lot by mimicking the sounds in the womb that they are so used to. Your heartbeat is also their favorite thing.
Lower YOUR stress. If you are sighing, or internally frustrated that you baby wont go to sleep, your letting off hormones that are the opposite of sleep. Your baby can read your moods, even when your silent. They had a lot of practice with this while in the womb. Take slow deep even breaths, make them audible to soothe baby. Listen to your favorite soft songs. Think of purple, and sleep, soothing waves, anything to lower your stress reaction. Think of your mood like a wave flowing to baby. If you can channel rest and peace, your baby will soak that up.
Baby massage! mentioned earlier in the routine tip, I can't say enough about this. Even my baby who doesn't like to be rubbed or touched, loved this. Take some (baby safe, fragrance free) lotion, oil, or coconut oil, and rub it into baby with your finger tips in slow gentle circles, start at their shoulders while they lay on their tummy on the floor or against your chest. Work your way down their arms and legs, and end on their ears. Baby sleep magic.
Baby wearing! When your baby won't sleep, and you need to get things done, wrap baby up and hold them close hands free. I love a buttery soft ring sling for this, but try out different wraps and carriers to find what works for you. If you are not used to baby wearing, take your time, and don't give up if you don't get the hang of it quickly or don't like a specific wrap. It takes time for you and baby to adjust to this new way of bonding, but once you do its priceless. You can join a "baby wearing lending library" locally to find a group of people who offer carriers for rent/lend out, and all the advice and instructions of how to use each one!
Ask for help! Most underutilized tip on this list. Make a list of everyone who loves baby snuggles, and call them when your too tired to function (or before!) Let them snuggle, while you sleep. Or, if you cant relax enough for this, ask for help with your dishes, other children, meals, or laundry. Don't be afraid to ask. You never know who'd be willing to pitch in. This goes for every stage of parenthood by the way. Ask everyone, don't be afraid of the no's, you will find some who say yes if you keep trying! And when you are through the hard stages, return the favor. I am a HUGE advocate for everyone, when able to make it a priority to care for the mothers/young families in your life.
Essential oils! I use Young Living. (Not because I sell it (I don't) but because they are the most transparent about their farm to bottle process, and are 100% pure. They invite people to their farms, and never add anything artificial. Bottles in consumer stores like Walmart and target are only required to have 10% of the actual oil to be labeled pure and all natural. The rest is filler and terrible for you. Please don't cheap out on oils! ) It is not safe to put oils directly on your newborn, but put a little drop of lavender on your babies blanket, or a couple drops in their lotion, or even on your baby carrier. Using coconut oil to extremely dilute is also a great option. I also love geranium for sleeping and hormone regulation as they get older. After 3-6 months you can dilute at a lesser degree. We also use an immune boosting mix of oils and coconut to rub on our children's feet at night.
Check your diet! Sleep issues can stem from sensitives to gluten, dairy, and more coming from your breast milk.
Amber Hazel-wood necklaces. Hazelwood prevents reflux, and amber soothes teething pain. Can be worn around their neck or ankle. My son's reflux disappeared two weeks after he started wearing his, and he still gets it when we take it off. It's amazing and I am a huge believer. Hes a different more anxious kid when he doesn't wear his. I even wear amber jewelry for my neck pain and anxiety! (sodalite stone also helps with sleep but is more fragile) (amber necklaces when bought from a reputable carrier are 100% safe. They are made to break under pressure, so can not strangle your child if they get caught on things. They are also knotted between each bead, so when it breaks they don't scatter and are not a choking risk.) I get all my jewelry from The Happy Bluebird, found on instagram and facebook.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are so many tips and tricks. Ask your local mom group for theirs! Grandmas are also sure to have a few. Your ability to get you child to sleep does not determine your worth as a parent. This too shall pass. Enjoy your sleeping or non-sleeping baby! You got this! I believe in you!
-Mrs. Sprinkles, Leann Allen.
P.s. here's a super old, super adorable, photo of my tiny serious munchkin back when I thought he'd for sure sleep through the night by the end of that year. HA! From newborn to 4 years old, kid wakes up multiple times a night and wakes up between 5 and 6am every day... At least he's cute.