Congratulations! You have a brand new infant. However, you also have his sleeping patterns to deal with. This can feel exceptionally overwhelming. Contending with hormonal upheavals and excesses of emotion is already an enormous challenge. Moreover, severe sleep deprivation for new mothers is the norm for a minimum of six weeks. Furthermore, readjusting to the feeding and nappy changes of your newborn entails many adaptations. In addition, the erratic sleeping habits of your young baby can tip you temporarily over the edge.
The dilemma for new moms: What’s right and what’s wrong?
As the mother of a newborn, you may feel at a loss regarding the best approach to take. Dr Spock-type books advise one thing while other parenting methods advise something else. It is not surprising that you feel confused. However, understanding two important points can help you with your dilemma.
Infant sleeping patterns are interconnected
Firstly, healthy sleeping patterns stem from secure foundations. Our bodies and minds are interconnected. All body systems interact in a healthy co-dependency. Calm digestive and respiratory systems, increase the likelihood of healthy sleep patterns. Similarly, mental and emotional contentment allows for more peaceful slumbers.
Calm is good
For calm digestive systems, avoid giving your infant cows’ or soya milk. Breastfeeding mothers should completely avoid cows milk in order to prevent stuffy infant noses. Remember, breastmilk forms from the foods you eat! To ensure your infant’s sensitive tummy does not get upset, avoid all strong flavours. Eating chilli or garlic is not advisable. Similarly do not consume stimulants such as coffee, chocolate and alcohol. Additionally, stay away from foods that may give you gas. Cabbage is one of these. To ease digestion, eat smaller more regular meals. The truth is that allergies and digestive upsets disrupt infant sleep cycles. An infant with a peaceful tummy and mucous-free nasal passages sleeps better.
Hold your infant after feeding.
Infants are supposed to sleep in your arms, directly after a feed. Problems usually arise if you put him down after feeding. At the moment that you do that, he feels alone. However, babies’ awareness does not extend beyond this moment in time. Consequently, he/she cannot understand that you will return later. Also, an infant belongs at the breast, in the arms of his mother. Besides, his natural sleep pattern depends on this. When you hold him after a feed, he feels physically and emotionally complete. As a result, he falls asleep with ease as nature intended. Sleeping when full and lovingly held forms a natural part of an infant’s sleeping pattern.
Additionally, read the below to understand the recent history of humanity and its’ changing approach to rearing infants. You will be able to see clearly what does work and why. How to deal with the sleeping patterns of your infant will become more clear.
Infant Sleep Patterns: Products Of The Times
The approach to the sleep patterns of infants changed with the times. Victorian parents lived their lives disconnected from their children. However, they still understood that infants needed to be held in order to sleep well. Although infants had their own room from birth, parents provided their babies with a wet nurse. These wet nurses supported them through infancy sleep patterns. Consequently, this assured that newborns developed good sleeping patterns.
Science does not always know best.
As modern society evolved further, humanity grew ever more distant from nature. Humans abandoned the natural order and cycle of childhood development. They believed that they knew more than nature. Infant sleeping patterns suffered because society replaced the inherent wisdom of nature with science.
Disconnecting from what nature intended causes problems
Matters deteriorated when breast milk became perceived as inferior to formula. Having a wet nurse was seen as unhygienic. Moreover, holding an infant during sleep was viewed as spoiling the child. These new points of view completely disrupted the natural sleeping patterns of infants. Parents confined babies to their cribs all night long every night. Desperate infants who screamed for touch eventually gave up. Babies treated in this manner typically grew up into extremely insecure or angry adults.
Since then experts have slowly been learning through studies with primates. They have become aware that constant loving touch during infancy is essential. However, the public is still adapting to these new ideas. Loving arms are what allows healthy emotional development that supports natural infant sleep patterns.
Adult routines and their effects on infant sleep patterns
In the modern age, parents have many obligations. Adults tried to make rearing their infants convenient to their busy schedules. This approach had a disastrous effect on infant sleep patterns.
Infants do not have set sleep schedules.
Infants will not sleep easily unless they are tired and feel loved. Problems arise when adults try to impose their own needs over those of their newborn. As a result, infant sleep patterns suffer. Bedtime becomes traumatic and mothers are unsure of which way to turn. They do not understand why sleep time is so stressful. After all, they are following the advice of experts. After scheduled feeds, at set bedtimes, some mothers leave their tiny babies to scream themselves to sleep. The fear of spoiling a child or teaching them bad habits over-rides inherent instinct. Bedtimes become synonymous with stress for both mother and infant. It is obvious that the sleeping patterns of infants must be free to develop at their own pace.
4. Look to nature for the answers to the correct infant sleeping patterns
Where should your baby sleep?
Any baby would prefer to be in your arms, that is the way of nature. However, as long as the same familiar people lovingly hold your baby, all is well. Infants in human arms will sleep far more easily and contentedly than any other. Baby slings are as effective, yet allow the carer freedom of movement. When your infant feels loved there and then, it is enough. Accordingly, he will sleep wherever he is, as long as there is a loving embrace.
How much sleep does your infant need?
In order to ascertain how much sleep your infant needs, look no further than ancient indigenous cultures. They lived in touch with nature, themselves and their children. Modern society with its noise and distractions causes disconnection from inner wisdom. Indigenous peoples lived at one with nature every day of their lives and time flowed organically. Babies slept as long as they needed to, as will your infant when you allow nature to take its course.
When must your infant sleep?
The time your infant goes to sleep depends only on how he feels. As always the wisdom of the ancient ways demonstrates how to approach infant sleep patterns. Indigenous community members lived, worked and died alongside one another. Babies were as integral to the community as were the wise elders. Infants were virtual appendages. They were constantly physically attached to their mothers or other female tribe members. Mothers made a few practical adjustments to accommodate their infants. For the most part, they continued with their days as they always had. Their infants slept when they were tired.
Level of activity is key.
In naturebased communities, activity was naturally at its highest during the day. It decreased towards dusk and quietened down completely at night. Infants slept on their mothers’ bodies, at the times when they were tired. Sleep rhythm developed alongside the level of activity. Consequently, their inherent circadian rhythm would seamlessly develop in tune with the amount of light and level of activity.
Busyness affect your infant’s sleep patterns.
In modern society, levels of activity do not always coincide according to times of natural light or darkness. Even fulltime mothers of newborns might have much that requires doing after dark. Husbands and children are home and require feeding. There might be young children that need supervision with homework or bedtime routines. There are only two adults that can help with the infant and both are exhausted. All they want is to bathe and sleep, but a newborn has other needs. Consequently, parents may experience difficulties with the unpredictable sleep patterns of their infants.
Your infant can’t adapt to your schedule.
Full-time mothers may find themselves looking after their infants on their own on a daily basis. After getting the other children ready for school she may have vital errands to run or a house to clean. Her routine is what helps her cope, but does not work for an infant. That being said, a routine is healthy for everyone. However, your baby merely requires some time to find his own. His body is adjusting to life outside the womb. What is best for mom and baby, is to allow him to sleep when his body tells him to.
The inherent intelligence within his body knows precisely what he requires as well as when he requires it. However, what you can do, is to support the natural development of his circadian rhythm by following the tips below.
5. How to help your infant align with the twenty-four hour day.
In a variety of studies over the years, numerous helpful details came to light. Following these tips that infancy sleep pattern researchers prove effective, will prove useful
DHA Rich Foods
Eat foods high in DHA during pregnancy, since newborns with higher levels experience longer periods of quiet sleep. Researchers found that infants who are part of daily activities adapt more easily to twenty-four hour days. Gradually decreasing activity towards dusk and substantially reducing nighttime activity is important. Of like relevance is to allow your baby exposure to natural daytime and night-time lighting.
Massage your infant to sleep.
Massage your infant with natural baby-friendly lotion just before he tends to go to sleep. Melatonin production develops sooner and within a month there is a vast difference between those that receive massage and those that do not.
Know your hormones!
Keep in mind that hormones in breastmilk fluctuate according to the time of day. Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body needs to produce melatonin. Afternoon breastmilk contains the most. If you are pumping milk, do so accordingly and mark each bottle with the time you fill it. Some infant formulas include tryptophan, which researcher show make a difference to sleep patterns.
Let him sleep.
Nature designed babies to survive. No longer connected to the umbilical cord, they are learning to breathe on their own. For your infant, the ability to wake easily can mean a difference between life and death. Waking easily whenever he needs to breath more deeply than he is doing, allows him to get sufficient oxygen to survive. When your baby makes sounds or movements during sleep, do not assume he is waking up. Research shows that he is more likely to return to more quiet sleep when carers ignore snuffles and flailings. This allows his sleep pattern to continue as it is meant to.
Infant sleep cycles
Understanding that infants have shorter sleep cycles, will help you see that the sleep pattern of your newborn is normal and healthy. Infants have shorter sleep cycles of approximately fifty-five minutes of which twenty minutes is a more quiet slumber. During a twenty-four hour period, some sleep seventy-five per cent of the time. Others may sleep less. Your infant’s sleep cycle is unique to him and perfect as is.
How to survive erratic infant sleep patterns.
For the exhausted mother, erratic infancy sleep patterns make early parenthood a challenging time. Maternal sleep deteriorates post birth until the baby is approximately three months old. At that time your baby begins to sleep more in sync with his evolving circadian rhythms.
Researchers show that catnaps entirely normalize any hormonal or immune imbalances. This includes the symptoms of exhaustion and depression. Naps may not replace a good night’s sleep, however, they make a substantial difference to your ability to cope.
Your infant’s need for time to adjust is temporary
Three months may feel like forever. However, it is important to remember that the patterns of your infant will change. Likewise, your intensive sleep deprivation is temporary. Your patience will be rewarded when you allow your infant to sleep as and when he needs. Peaceful bedtimes lie just around the corner.