Getting your baby on a sleep schedule can be challenging in the beginning. For advice we turned to Austin sleep expert Katie Bartley who gave us ten tips to get started.
- First things first, enjoy your new baby! The first 4-6 weeks are simply about loving on your new little one. It takes time to figure out feeding, changing, bathing and so on. Give yourself that time to recover from pregnancy and giving birth and to get comfortable with this crazy motherhood thing.
- By 6-8 weeks, you can start to think about a very basic schedule. The best way to establish great food and sleep habits is to follow eat/wake/sleep. But remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. This takes time to get established.
- Breastfeeding and sleep are not mutually exclusive. It’s a myth. You can have an awesome breastfeeding relationship and not feed on demand.
- You also don’t have to label yourself. Attachment parenting does not mean you will have a baby that never cries. Cry it outers can have perfectly secure and loving attachments. There’s an even in between. Find what works best for you and your family.
- Start simple. Feedings dictate the rhythm of things. Feed every 3 hours. Though on-demand feeding can feel more convenient it is not conducive to good sleep habits. It creates a snacker and full feedings are a big part of sleep success. Additionally, it often exacerbates reflux, gas and colicky symptoms so spread that milk out! In essence, food snacks = sleep snacks.
- Stick with the 3 hours for several weeks. 1.5 hours up, 1.5 hours down. Once they are doing well on 3 hour routine and are over 10lbs, start moving more towards 4 hour routine. 2 hours up, 2 hours down. Most are capable of following this by 4-5 months.
- When your little one is struggling, don’t turn to food. Or they will always need food to settle down. Try the five S’s: swaddle, side or stomach position, swing, shhhh or suck. It’s also important to know crying is normal and their only means of communication. Don’t always be so quick to silence that voice.
- You are the gatekeeper. Put your baby in their own sleeping space. You can start with something next to your bed in your room. Then move towards their crib for a nap a day and a cycle at night. But they will never pick their crib over sleeping on or next to you. In the name of quality sleep for all of you, you have to make this decision for them.
- Keep them accountable. When they sleep 6 hours at night, they have shown you they are capable of sleeping 6 hours. Hold them to it and keep pushing forward to your ultimate goals.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I often say that a sleep consultant is the most efficient resource to answer your real world questions. The above sounds great but sometimes you need a little more support and encouragement as you implement it.
Katie Bartley resides in Austin, TX with her husband and three kids, ages 10, 8 and 6. She is a clinical social worker turned Child & Infant Sleep Consultant and has been one of the Resident Sleep Experts for Bump Club since 2010. She specializes in families with children ranging in age from 8 weeks to 6 years old. Although in Austin, she works with families all over the world via email, phone and Skype. You can find her on Instagram @katiebartleysleep, Twitter- KBartleySleep and Facebook- Katie Bartley: Sleep Consultant.