A baby’s deep sleep is heaven for parents, as most would probably agree. Hitting two birds with one stone, it gives our baby the much-needed “brain care” as our pediatrician calls it; AND, it gives the parents some equally much-needed time to perhaps take a bath or eat or rest.
When babies sleep, they look so angelic, so peaceful, and incredibly adorable. Not a care in the world. Thus the phrase, “sleep like a baby”.
But to get them to sleep is a totally different story, right?!
When our baby girl was just a few days to a few weeks old, her sleeping pattern was kind of predictable. It was tiresome, yes, but predictable, hence kinda easy. We will breastfeed, then she will sleep. Tala will wake up to feed again, then sleep again. In between she would pee and poop prompting diaper changes. This cycle would happen every one to two hours.
Come her first month, Tala had more “awake time”, as we call it. I found it hard to put her to sleep. I was concerned that she would be taking very short naps during the day, around 10 to 15 minutes only (I was over-thinking along the lines of sleep deprivation and brain development, errr…). I started logging her sleep (yeah, I know, how very OC of me, haha!). Good thing Jerome was (and still is) very patient when I can’t put her to sleep; he walks her around, sometimes up and down the stairs, tells her stories or sings to her, and then she falls asleep.
One of Tala’s many sleep logs
Our pediatrician-neonatologist assured me that babies adapt well in terms of their waking and sleeping hours. After all, Tala wakes up happy and smiling so there is no need to worry.
Still I got curious, so I read on sleep, putting babies to sleep, and how sleep relates to our babies’ feeding. Resources I found helpful are : No Cry Solution, Dr Sears, Kellymom and TheMilkMeg.
I learned a handful of useful information. Of all of them, understanding these two things helped the most in making my way through the changes of Tala’s sleeping habits:
1. It’s the total number of hours of sleep per day that matters, not how many minutes/hours she sleeps per nap.
The average number of hours of nighttime and daytime sleep of babies varies depending on how old our babies are.
Chart taken from Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics 18th edition
I read that she was supposed to have at least two naps a day until she turns about a year old. One nap before noon and another one after, then a long sleep in the evening until the next morning. For a total of 14-18 hours of sleep for babies 0-3 months, and about 14-16 hours for 3-6 months.
2. The light sleep versus deep sleep will tell us when we can put our baby down without waking him/her up.
Babies in the early months pass through “light sleep”. Light sleep is when they have just closed their eyes and dozed off but breathing is still irregular, with some movements like eyelid fluttering, sucking, smiling or grinning, flexion of limbs. Then after roughly 20 minutes, babies go into deep sleep. This is when their breathing becomes regular, facial movements stop, and the arms and legs completely relax.Deep sleep then is that golden moment when we can put our babies down to bed after walking, rocking, dancing, singing them to sleep. Just a side note, do you still remember the Filipino word for this? It starts with an H! 😃
With these two principles to live by and doing trial and error with the advices we received from fellow parents, Jerome and I now have a few strategies for putting out little star to sweet slumber.
1. We make daytime “feel” different from night time.
We take our cue from Jerome’s early morning routine with our two dogs; he wakes up at 5:30 am and brings them out for a walk and potty. Once he rises, I open the window blinds to let the sunshine in and wait for Tala to wake up if she hasn’t already (sometimes she wakes up an hour earlier than Jerome! Haha).
Daytime is bright and cheerful. If the weather permits, we walk outside under the sun. We play and read to her, let her watch her Munari mobile, “exercise”, sing, and interact with her in any way possible.
Once the sun goes down, we switch to “night” mode and prepare her for bed. Pajamas, soft talking voices, no more exciting activities. We then cuddle and “breastsleep”. Tala would then sleep and rest for about 10 to 12 hours until morning with about 2-4 times of waking up to feed and/or change diaper. Yey! :)
2. We make our room conducive for sleeping — even for a daytime nap.
Window blinds down, dim lights, clean and neat sleeping area. And there was a time when Tala was less than 1 month old when we found a white noise background useful. We used the iPad application that is set to resemble ocean waves for 90 minutes. Though presently, we don’t use any artificial background noise anymore because she is able to sleep with the ambient noise made by the hum of the fan or the A/C.
3. We let her sleep on a firm flat surface, close to Mommy.
This one was a bit tricky for us; it took us some trial and error to find the perfect place for her to sleep. We have an adult-sized bed for Jerome and me. We got Tala her own child-sized bed right next to ours. We also have a Moses basket.
When she was still a newborn, this basket became a favorite of ours because it sits on a wooden base that rocks when Tala moves, allowing her to go back to sleep. It is placed at the foot of our big bed and it is where we place Tala for her daytime naps. Then we would put her on her own bed for her evening sleep. The challenge for this is that I have to sit and pick her up to nurse her every hour or every other hour, and it was so difficult to put her down without waking her up. Many nights I just let her sleep cuddled on my chest while I sleep sitting up but reclining on pillows propped against the wall.
So I was so happy when we finally learned how to do side-lying position while breastfeeding! This puts her to sleep better than any other position, and then all I have to do is to roll on my back slowly if I want to sleep supine, or roll away discreetly if I am not yet ready to sleep.
A special note, we have a memory foam bed which was “too soft” for our baby. We ended up turning our bed over to use the underside of the mattress which was firmer and remains flat.
To end this post, let me share a crazy-parent moment we had when Tala was turning 2 months. Jerome was able to put her to sleep after carrying and camel-walking her around our bedroom. He placed her down the basket and hid behind the collapsible hood with one hand slowly rocking the basket. He peeked to check on our supposedly sleeping baby, but lo and behold, she was looking back at him with wide open eyes!
“Don’t make eye contact! Don’t make eye contact!” I said, trying to subdue my giggles.
“But she’s looking at me!” Jerome said. “Ninja move!”
And we rolled, or rather dived, onto our bed out of her sight, laughing so hard SILENTLY (how we managed that was a big miracle because we always laugh loudly before we became parents, haha).
I told my friend Monica about this and how hard it was to put Tala to sleep. She sent me this hilarious video that I’m sure most parents can relate to.
But wait, there’s more! Breastfeeding in a seated position on our floor-bed necessitated a new move that Jerome and I want to add to their list. We call it the slide-me-down-roll-over move. Hahaha!
With Tala milk-drunk in my arms and my back reclining on the wall-side of the bed, Jerome would pull my feet towards the feet-side of the bed until I am lying flat on my back still carrying our baby. I then would roll over to put her down passing a side-lying position, then roll over to the opposite side and off the bed! A complicated ninja move! But it worked! Hahaha.
Babies sleep pattern do change though. And right now that she is 3 months and a few days old, Tala’s sleep seems to be having a new pattern again. For sure we would have to adjust and adapt again. Though that’s alright, having our baby sleep close to us is already more than worth it.
Let us know how you put your baby/babies to sleep! Any tips and tricks for a particular age group? Let’s exchange notes! :)
Raissa is a first-time mom and her new experiences as a mother inspires her to share stories with other parents. She is also a pediatrician and breastfeeding counselor practicing in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. She dons another hat as a yoga instructor for kids, pregnant women, and postnatal moms.