There’s nothing as exciting as bringing your new baby home, but every parent knows that the first few months can be challenging, especially when it comes to sleep. Night feeds are a normal part of caring for your baby, but getting your little one back to sleep afterward can sometimes become exhausting and frustrating. As a pediatric sleep consultant and postpartum doula with years of experience, I’ve encountered many parents facing this challenge. In this blog post, I’ll share some great tips to help get your baby back to sleep after a night feed.
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is essential for signaling your baby that it’s time to wind down. A soothing routine could include activities such as a gentle massage and reading a short bedtime story. I’d also suggest dimming the lights and turning the television off. The familiarity of the routine will help your baby associate these activities with sleep, making it easier for them to settle back down after a night feed. I don’t count baths and feedings as part of the bedtime routine. Because babies are not getting sweaty or jumping in mud puddles, they don’t need a bath every night. It’s better to limit their baths to 2-3 times per week so their skin doesn’t get too dry. I recommend giving your baby their last feed of the night before you take them into their room and begin the routine. This way, feeding won’t become a sleep association for them.
A sleep conducive environment is crucial for uninterrupted sleep. Ensure the room is dark, quiet, and comfortably cool. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit for safe sleep. Blackout curtains and a white noise machine can be game changers for creating an optimal sleep space. Minimizing external noises will help your baby transition from feeding to sleep more smoothly.
Swaddling is essential because it mimics the coziness of the womb, providing comfort and a sense of security for your baby. When done correctly, swaddling can prevent the startle reflex, reducing the likelihood of your baby waking up abruptly after a night feed. However, always follow safe swaddling guidelines to ensure your baby’s safety. I prefer the swaddles compared to a swaddle blanket. They’re a lot easier to work with. For a demonstration, you can watch this YouTube video.
During night feeds, aim for a low-key, quiet environment. Minimize lights and keep interaction to a minimum to help your baby differentiate between nighttime and daytime feeds. Keep it all business! Avoid eye contact, singing, or playing. I know they’re so stinkin’ cute and irresistible, but you can get a lot of socialization in with them during the daytime! Make sure your baby understands that this is not supposed to be a fun time. Unless your baby has a soiled or leaky diaper, try not to change it. Changing the diaper may wake your baby up, making it harder for them to fall back asleep after the feed. Today’s diapers are very absorbent, lasting 10-12 hours. If you need some lighting, use indirect light from a closet, hall, or bathroom by cracking the door. Have all of your supplies ready. You’ll want your breastfeeding pillow and burp cloth handy if you’re breastfeeding. If you’re bottle feeding, have a burp cloth and bib at the ready, and have the bottle all ready before entering your baby’s room.
While it’s natural to soothe your baby during the night, be mindful of creating sleep associations that may keep them from learning to self-soothe. If your baby falls asleep while feeding, try gently waking them before placing them back in the crib to encourage self-soothing skills. This may be very challenging initially, but your baby will eventually learn to fall asleep independently.
Consistency is vital when it comes to a baby’s sleep. Establish a predictable sleep schedule with consistent bedtime and wake-up times. This regularity helps regulate your baby’s internal clock, making it easier for them to settle back down after a night feed. Also, remember that following wake windows during the day will make it easier to get them to sleep at the appropriate time.
Teaching your baby to self-soothe is a valuable skill that can contribute to more extended periods of sleep. Gradually introduce self-soothing techniques, such as allowing your baby to suck on their thumb, fist or providing a pacifier. If you opt for a pacifier, try to use it as a tool instead of getting used to falling asleep with it. When they transition into the next sleep cycle and it’s fallen out, they may wake all the way wanting it. Once a baby is old enough to place it in their mouth by themselves, sprinkle several pacifiers in the crib so they can easily find one. However, always prioritize safe sleep guidelines when introducing any soothing objects.
Navigating the world of baby sleep can be challenging. Still, with patience, consistency, and a good understanding of your baby’s cues, you can help your little one establish healthy sleep habits. Remember, every baby is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Be flexible, stay attuned to your baby’s needs, and, most importantly, trust your instincts as a parent.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like customized help with your situation.
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December 20, 2023
Trust me: you don’t want your baby to hit this point. If you notice any of these seven signs, it’s time to put your baby to sleep — NOW!
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