How can I help my baby sleep better?
A letter to you from Shubhra Venneti, certified sleep consultant and mum.
What an amazing and, possibly, unimaginable ride it has been for you to get to this point and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you once again.
As I am sure you have heard - or know already - that sleep is often whispered like a sentence to a crime or a warning to an impending doom when it comes to parenting. “Say goodbye to your sleep” or my favourite, “sleep as much as you can now before the baby comes!” And all this while you’re probably wondering if it’s really that bad.
Unless you have ‘that’ baby - you know, the one that magically sleeps well from day one and never had any issues - then you may be going through something like I was: rocking, walking baby to sleep a few times a week or even a few times a night, nursing up to ten times a night, or having a baby up at 3.45 am ready to party… I hear you, I feel you, I see you and importantly, am here to tell you that this need not be your plight forever. Or even right now.
I had read all the articles and blogs there were. I couldn’t even begin the books because I was so overwhelmed and sleep-deprived myself that I started spiralling into postpartum depression, anxiety, rage, hallucinating phantom crying and my brain just wouldn’t shut down. I tried sleep training my daughter on my own. Felt all the mum-guilt piercing my heart and every cell of my body, felt helpless and lost at what I was doing to her and to myself. I tried to hold on for longer, thinking I could ride this out. I didn’t need anyone to help me. I could be superwoman, supermum, superwife and do it all… and then I crashed onto the hallway floor in tears one afternoon shaking and panicking… and called my husband saying I needed professional help, for my mind and for sleep, because I was fearing for both my life and the baby’s life.
After hiring a fellow sleep consultant, I was blown away. It took three nights, and maybe a spatter of another few nights here and there but really, in two weeks, she was sleeping on her own! I felt like Cinderella and the fairy godmother had waved her wand to give me a sleeping baby who woke up happy and giggly. I honestly couldn’t believe it and made it my purpose to learn everything and anything there is to do with sleep for infants through to adults.
I don’t tell you this story to scare you. I tell you in the hope that my story will be drastically different from yours. Sleep training shouldn’t be considered ‘necessary’ for all babies, in just the same way that rehab isn’t necessary for everyone who likes a drink. But if you find yourself in the pit of despair, riddled with anxiety and wondering if there is a way out, then seek help.
A little bit of knowledge about infant sleep hygiene can go a long way to setting your family up for sleep success. Here are my top four tips:
- Look for sleep cues. Most babies don’t just magically fall asleep when they’re tired. Check for increased irritability (ha, I know, I know), rubbing their eyes, yawning or glossy eyes. The more aware you are, the sooner you’ll start to notice your baby’s own unique sleep cues.
- Learning how to settle oneself and fall asleep naturally is an important lifelong skill for your baby to acquire, and the learning journey often includes tears. Many new parents view tears as the enemy: to be avoided at all costs. It is this aversion to crying that often results in the adoption of unsustainable sleep habits.
- Once you hear that your baby has woken, wait at least 5-10 mins so baby has an opportunity to learn to self-soothe and transition between sleep stages or cycles. A baby’s sleep cycle is typically around 45 minutes long and it’s normal for babies to make a little noise as they enter the phase of light sleep between cycles. If bub’s daytime naps aren’t longer than 45 minutes, then this may be a sign that they’re having a tough time resettling between sleep cycles.
- Try to offer baby consistency in their sleep habits. Not necessarily a routine, but a bedtime ritual of sorts: try to have baby sleep in the same, dark place for day sleeps and night sleeps, perhaps sing a specific song before placing them in their cot, and follow a flexible but established nighttime routine such as dinner, bath time, massage, milk, song, then bed. This will help bub wind down and anticipate sleep.
My aim is to educate parents and arm them with as much information as possible so that they can be the expert on their baby’s sleep. The tips above are a good place to start, but if you’re deep in the throes of unsustainable sleep habits and whatever you’re doing is no longer working for you, then give me a call. A professional sleep consultant uses their expertise and experience to take the theory of infant sleep patterns and mould it into a workable, practical and achievable plan of action, specifically tailored to suit your needs, your partner’s needs, and your baby’s needs. They build a safe place for you to feel supported in your decisions and a shoulder to cry on when the stress needs releasing. They are your partner in this journey.
If I’m not the right person to help you out of the pit and back into the light, I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of someone who can.
Congratulations again. You’ve got this.
Shubhra Venneti | S Family Wellness
Shubhra is the face behind Shubhra Sleep and Wellness Solutions and her wellness podcast, Shift with Shubhra. As a multi-passionate mumpreneur with a 3-going-on-30-year-old toddler, Shubhra believes that there is never one solution that fits all (it might fit many, but not all). With that belief in mind, she set out to create a company to help mothers from four angles (for now): physical healing with sleep coaching; spiritual healing with Akashic Light Healing; nurturing bonds with their baby through the Baby Signs Program; and soon, the subconscious healing through Rapid Transformational Therapy (a branch of Hypnotherapy), in which she is currently training. With these services, she hopes that she can help not only mothers and their babies, but the whole family to have a thriving, joyful family life together.
Rachel Farr | Mother and Child
Postnatally, feeding and caring for your baby will be utmost in your mind. If you choose to breastfeed, Mother and Child’s IBC lactation consultants are here for you, at their centre or in the comfort of your home. Rachel is an experienced maternal and child health nurse, lactation consultant and sleep consultant. She attends the Mother and Child Well Baby drop-in sessions and is available for home visits, private consults and group sessions. She also specialises in teaching Introduction to Solids workshops and conducting developmental assessments. She is registered with the Singapore Nursing Board.Contact the Centre on 6836 0063, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.motherandchild.com.sg, 163 Tanglin Road, #03-11 Tanglin Mall, Singapore 247933.