With 26 years’ experience working in childcare, Charmian Mead is a highly successful newborn sleep, routine and breast-feeding consultant and has been teaching her method for 20 years. She has worked all over the United Kingdom and internationally. During her years working with new parents, she has developed a sure-fire way of helping babies to sleep through the night from a very early age.
It’s a pleasure to welcome her on the blog and I will be bookmarking this in case I have another baby down the line!
12 Steps to 12 Hours Sleep
It’s commonly thought that having a new baby means frequent night waking and generally months of sleep deprivation, but this need not be the case. I’ve helped hundreds of babies and parents get a full night sleep as early as six weeks of age. Regardless of whether you are pro routine or feed on demand, by meeting your baby’s needs during daylight hours you will get a positive impact on your nights.
Milk or food intake
Feed your baby until full at each day feed, allowing an hour for each feed whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding or on solid food. For a newborn, this allows time for winding. When breastfeeding, offer both breasts at each feed. The length and quantity of milk intake should be greater than any feeds given at night and gradually increasing milk intake at each day feed until sleeping through the night and thus night feeds are phased out naturally.
Making good use of time spent feeding to ensure feeding is active and baby is actually drinking and not comfort sucking or snoozing will teach positive associations with feeding and make sure your baby is full at each feed. If you are on solid foods, look at the quality and type of food given- freshly made foods containing good fats and protein will be more filling per spoonful than a shop bought pouch.
By spacing out day feeds where you allow enough time between feeds to digest and for the stomach to empty and build an appetite for the next feed, will again encourage active feeding and a greater intake of milk. You should be able to space feeds out to 3-3.5 hours apart. This gives you a feeding plan which encourages meals for food and not snacking or comfort sucking to sleep.
Digestion and wind
Your baby’s life is centred on feeding, so it makes sense that your baby is digestively comfortable in order to sleep well. Babies are unable to wind themselves in the first 12 weeks and their little guts can be sensitive so when breastfeeding, eliminate all gas forming foods from your diet. You will need to wind your baby more frequently than commonly thought, every 5 or so minutes when breastfeeding and ½ -1oz if bottle feeding. A wind-free tummy is a comfortable tummy which results in a greater milk intake and more peaceful sleep.
Awake and playtime
Factor in some awake time after feeds when your baby is full and content. This allows time for digestion and ensures any awake time needed is during the day. Babies as young as one week old can see black and white pictures and look around for a short time after feeds. Build on this time weekly until reaching a full two hours, including the feed, by week 4-8.
Baby led nights
By contrast to your day routine let your baby wake naturally at night of his own accord. If he wakes, he is fed but a lighter shorter feed. Night feeds tend to be more efficient when babies have slept for longer between feeds. I cap night feeds at 30 minutes which include winding or if bottle feeding, 4oz maximum which again should take no more than 30 minutes.
How and where you put your baby to bed will determine how long they sleep. A baby who is tucked in securely to a Moses basket, cot or park will sleep for longer than a baby who is left to sleep in a chair or play mat.
Create a positive environment for solid sleep, swaddled at night in a blacked out room and tucked in firmly over the shoulders during the day. If the startle reflex is strong, then swaddle during the day also. It’s a myth that a baby needs to get used to noise and can sleep anywhere in the first few months; a baby who sleeps solidly at night will be a much lighter sleeper during the day so naps are best in the bedroom where noise is limited and dimmed lighting with a daily pram nap and perhaps skin-to-skin cuddles.
The 2 minute rule
Waiting 2 minutes whenever your baby wakes or to settle, will allow your baby time to settle themselves and ensures he is truly in need of a feed at night. Babies wake frequently but can just as quickly fall back to sleep. If you jump to every shout you may be up and feeding at night more often than your baby actually needs which results in a greater milk intake at night and lower milk intake during the day.
If you meet your new baby’s needs in the way of feeding and time awake, settling shouldn’t be too much of an issue but some babies do need extra reassurance when settling and some even like a little shout to settle themselves. The less you do to settle, often the more effective and less stimulating. If you are rocking and pacing around, trying to get your baby off to sleep before putting him down then he is likely to wake once you have put him down. Try calming over the shoulder, ten minutes before bed in the room he is sleeping in and pop him down to settle himself.
Consistency with your baby’s routine with regards to length and quantities of feeding, naps and bath times helps your baby recognise the difference between night and day and naturally sleep longer through the night.
Being consistent with a day routine shouldn’t mean inflexibility – a routine should be forever evolving as baby grows. Strict timings will vary for a newborn especially when they learn to sleep through the night. My routines are used as a guideline but have several variations as each baby is an individual with different appetites and alertness levels which doesn’t always depend on age and weight.
Keep calm and relaxed
Your baby senses your emotions and will feel if you are stressed. Babies respond well and stay calm when handled with a calm and confident hand. You might not feel confident or even calm sometimes as a new parent but by breathing deeply and slowing your heart rate down while holding your baby firmly will make your baby feel secure. Sleep deprivation can be cruel especially when getting to grips with breastfeeding and recovering from giving birth so make time for the healing power of emotional bonding, mood, milk boosting powers of skin to skin cuddles. Your baby will sleep through the night at his own pace as a result of a balanced routine which is often a developing process.
You can buy Charmian’s brilliant new book 7pm-7am Sleeping Baby Routine below: