When we become first time parents (or even second or third time) to a newborn, we are so worried about so many different things. Is the baby eating enough, pooping and peeing enough, are they sleeping too much during the day or not enough? And are you recording all of it to share with the doctor during her first month well visit? It can all get to be a bit overwhelming. It boggles the mind that a person so teeny tiny can run us ragged and make us question everything.
Well, as my little gift to all of you new parents out there (whether it’s your first rodeo or not), I’d like to impart some wisdom that I have learned first through being a new parent myself and also through all of my training to become a child sleep consultant. The mistakes you should try to avoid when feeding your newborn in the middle of the night.
Mistake #1: Turning on the light when it is supposed to be night.
I too made this mistake when I was a first time mommy. When my newborn awoke in the night to feed, I’d go into her room and turn on a light or two so I could properly see what I was doing while changing her diaper and making sure she latched on properly. This is probably one of the worst things I could have done! While I was in the process of trying to fix her day/night confusion, I was sabotaging my efforts my efforts by turning on the lights. This sends the wrong signal to your little baby. The signal that WAKE UP! Let’s interact!
While I recommend that parents make the daytime feedings as bright as possible, during the night I suggest that you accomplish the feed and everything that comes along with it in as much darkness as you possibly can. Why? Because we want the baby to learn that night time is boring and should be a time to sleep (because…well…there’s nothing better to do). This means that if you can become a pro at changing the diaper in the dark…YOU ROCK! Although those soiled diapers can cause a bit of a harder time to sort out if you can’t see what you are dealing with. If you do need at least some light, make sure it is as low as possible and turn it off as soon as you no longer need it. This will help keep your baby’s body in the zone for sleep and that much quicker to return to his or her crib or bassinet once the change and feed is complete.
Mistake #2: Late night TV – Catching up on all the shows on your DVR.
Sure, sitting in the dark while your baby takes her time feeding can be pretty tiring and boring. I know I thought turning on the TV would help keep me awake through the feed and also keep me entertained. Boy, could I have been more wrong. It’s probably one of the worst things I could have done for my daughter’s sleep habits at night and my own. Television equals entertainment. It also equals stimulation via the picture and sound. Televisions emit blue light which is stimulating to the human brain. So while I was trying to keep myself entertained with the late, late show, I was also waking my brain (as well as my daughter’s) making it that much harder for me to go back to sleep once my babe was tucked back into her crib. The sound was also a problem because it was causing a distraction for my daughter. She should have been solely focused on eating. Instead she was torn between her hunger and all the action coming from the TV. Some of those early night feeds took forever.
Mistake #3: Cuddle them close, but don’t look them in the eye.
It’s the middle of the night. You’re exhausted and all you want to do is sleep. That’s a reasonable request from a sleep deprived parent. To help get you tucked back into bed sooner, I recommend that when you are feeding your little one via nursing or bottle, do not make eye contact or talk to your newborn. By doing so you again are stimulating the baby and rousing her more out of sleep. While we don’t want to make a feeding a sleep prop (Heavens no!) we also want the little mister or miss to get down to business and eat so they can go right back to sleep once finished. If you are not looking and smiling at or talking to the baby, he or she will again find the night time pretty boring and realize there is no pajama party going on in the wee hours of the morning.
Mistake #4: If you are currently doing any and all mistakes written above…
Relax! You can fix it! The great thing about newborns is that they haven’t been around too long to form deep rooted habits. Tonight, follow the tips above and begin teaching your precious little bundle of joy that night time is for sleeping and daytime is for interacting and play (as well as many, many naps).
If you are finding that making the transition to becoming a new parent is a bit harder than you thought it would be. I want to tell you that you are not alone. We are available and more than ready to help you guide your baby on a path to healthy sleep habits. I welcome you to contact us or respond to this newsletter to let us know that you would like to learn more about our Newborn Sleep Consultation.
Article Credit: Jennifer Snyder Schindele, Sleep Sense Consultant