Sleep Sense: My Baby Won't Sleep!
In conjunction with our range of monthly blog topics - from fitness to lifestyle - we, at Boody, are excited to add to the monthly reading-list our new Sense Series for moms and moms-to-be over the next few weeks, where we will chat through a few common topics on mom-hood and our bubs, and hopefully help you breathe a bit easier as you tackle this journey one step at a time! We start off with one of the most discussed topics in the parenting-world, and we hope you come away with some fresh perspectives and hope in nurturing that good night's rest!
Chatting with a group of new moms can be sanity-saving as we all nod in sympathetic unison at the struggles that come with newborn sleep.
I have yet to meet a mom who has passed through the miracle of birthing new life and not experienced the pain in finally getting your bub to fall asleep in your arms - after minutes or hours of rocking and bouncing and giving yourself backache as you slowly lower them down towards the matress - only for their arms to fling up and flail like an uncoordinated seal as they leave an absolute state of slumber as their head hits the pillow!
It's all over; and you start from the beginning with settling and soothing and hushing and bouncing.
You are not alone, your baby is not abnormal, and there are some things to remember that can help you retain your sanity in these moments, and some things that can help your baby transition into a better night's sleep:
Infants are designed to sense separation
Leading expert on co-sleeping, James McKenna, explains that infants gain their sense of self through their caregivers, and as far as they are concerned, survival is dependent on this initial unbroken unity. Understanding that they are a separate person from their mom only starts to happen somewhere between 6 and 9 months, and until then, the connectedness of mom and baby (through their sensory experience) is an assurance of survival. Distance is irrelevant - whether you are in the bathroom next door trying to take that much needed shower in peace, or on a plane to North Pole, your baby's brain senses the absence and responds from a place of basic instinctual need.
Your baby is not into a game of manipulation or instant gratification - your baby is simply responding to its need to be warm, feel safe, be fed and survive.
For 9 months your baby has had every need provided for without needing to communicate or process or think. The womb environment was perfect - the ideal state of warmth, pressure, sound, light and nourishment - and their entrance into the world is a profoundly different sensory experience. Understanding that the need to nurture these innate feelings that confront your bubs, for just a short period in their life, can be soul-saving, as you learn to work with the natural state of being (instead of against it) and instil in your baby a sense of security that will result in a confident, independent little human later on.
Working with these sensory needs can help soothe your baby into a better sleep:
The first three months outside the womb is commonly called the fourth-trimester, and replicating the environment of the uterus post-birth can aid in better sleep, and reduce crying - which releases stress hormones that typically counter sleep. Looking at the womb-environment can give us a good idea of the experience we should be aiming to recreate:
The womb is dark and baby is constantly surrounded by the warm (37◦C degree) pressure of water. Your baby is naked and everything that brushes their body is soft to the touch - keeping in mind that they are constantly in contact with mom's skin. Noise is muffled through the layers of skin and liquid, and they are curled tightly in that small space.
The sensations on your baby's skin are such an important part of their sensory experience, yet it is an area that is often overlooked. For 9 months their little bodies are constantly soothed by constant, warm fluid. Research has found that infant skin is not fully mature at birth and is adapts to life outside the womb over the next 5 years! For this reason it is important to dress your baby in soft, natural material which replicates the gentle skin-to-water experience in the womb and helps to regulate their temperature. Sleep clothes that are soft on the skin and have an even stretch to the material help calm the senses, like our bamboo onesies, or soft t-shirts, and provide a natural sensation on the body which aids in restful sleep.
At the same time, swaddles mimic the snug space of the womb and can make babies feel safe and secure, resulting in better sleep. Our clever little humans very easily sense change in pressure - such as going from your arms to the mattress. Swaddling is so helpful in keeping your sleeping bub still and secure, and choosing a wrap that has stretch to it allows you to surround their body evenly and replicate the feeling of the deep pressure of water in utero. While some bubs respond well to having their arms secured close to their bodies, a firm but stretchy wrap can dull the startle reflex that often wakes babies from their sleep, but still allows some movement which some wriggly bubs prefer, just as they would've been able to do in the womb.
If you battle with that transition from arms to mattress, have a look at our light and breathable stretch jersey wraps to give your baby the feeling of consistent pressure, making them feel secure and cuddled as they leave your arms and are put down to sleep. Once baby is able to roll over it is important to stop swaddling for safety reasons, so making your bub feel secure in their transition to sleep while you can still swaddle helps create a positive sleep experience going forward.
In the hope that your bub will doze off cocooned in soft, cosy bamboo we'd like to give you 20% off our stretch jersey wraps. Shop for your wrap, use the promo code “BOODYSENSE" at checkout (valid until 19/4/19), and try these three different swaddling methods at your bub's next naptime.
Noise is another important part of a baby's life in the womb, and while lullabies are the common go-to, you may find the sound of the vacuum-cleaner works better in lulling your baby to sleep! This is because it is closer to the gurgling, muffled experience in your belly! Downloading a playlist of white noise on your phone on an app like Spotify can be so helpful. Press play before your bub is asleep, and leave it on gently in the room once they are down.
Baby-wearing is another way that many mom's finally find time with two hands free to prepare meals, do some work, go grocery shopping or simply go to the bathroom. Research has shown that babies who are carried regularly cry significantly less than those who are not, and after 9 months curled up close to your heartbeat, it is no surprise that baby-wearing can be a magical experience as a crying, tired baby suddenly relives its womb-experience, wrapped close to mom or dad's chest, and finally falls asleep. There are countless reasons to baby-wear: from regulating their heart rate and temperature, to developing muscle tone and neurological pathways, and all the benefits compound together to create a positive sensory experience which reduces crying and aids sleep. Have a look at these stunning Noonoo Pie tie wraps, or learn how to make your own.
Skin-to-skin time is completely underrated - and there is no material more natural and calming than that of your own body against your baby's. Research has shown that babies who have more skin-to-skin contact with their parents cry less and sleep better as it releases hormones that relieve stress and stabilize your baby's temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood sugar. When your bub just won't fall asleep, take some time to place them bare, on your skin, and do it as often during the day as you can to help settle your baby before the evening fussiness begins.
Smells have direct connections to the limbic system and go straight to the conscious brain, unlike other senses which are processed by the relay center (the thalamus) first. Often wonder why smell has the amazing ability to take you back to a moment in time or a specific place or thing? The limbic system controls memories and feelings, and so creating a soothing olfactory experience in your baby's nursery or while they sleep can be so beneficial for a peaceful night's rest.
Between 0 and 3 months your baby's sense of smell is incredibly heightened, and authors of "The Baby Sleep Solution", Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin, suggest infusing your baby's pajamas or blanket with your scent by sleeping with those items against your skin for a few days before clothing your baby in them. A 2007 article published in the "Journal of Perinatology," found that both premature and full-term infants stop crying more quickly when they're exposed to their mother's scent, which might enable babies to fall asleep faster because they're content.
From 3 months onward soothing smells of lavender, chamomile or mandarin can aid in a calm atmosphere and subsequent sleep. You can spritz the oil in the room or dilute it in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and give your baby a relaxing massage. Do not put the undiluted oil directly onto your bub's skin as they are far more sensitive than adults. A dilution ratio of 1 percent essential oil is gentle enough for your little one's skin and soothing enough for sleep.
Your baby's sensory experience is so important in helping them transition into this crazy big world outside of the womb. So take some time and think of a few other ways you can work with your baby's innate feelings when it comes to bedtime, and don't panic when things don't work. Try something else, keep going and take a deep breath. We, at Boody, sincerely hope you get some much needed sleep with the help of some of these tips above. In the meantime start by creating a natural womb-to-earth environment to soothe your baby's senses into the familiar slumber from which they came, and don't forget to take a nap too, once your baby dozes off!
Please share with us any ways you have worked with your baby's sensory experience to help them sleep which may help another mom in need! Use the promo code “BOODYSENSE” to get 20% off your beautiful stretch jersey wrap (valid until 19/4/19), and sign up to our blog to catch the next post in our Sense Series.