One BIG thing can help your newborn learn to sleep.
BE CURIOUS: What can your baby do today that she couldn’t do yesterday?
One of the many things that helps to set the stage for good sleep is curiosity. We do a LOT of things to help babies settle. We wrap, walk, bounce, pat, shush, chant, sing, dance, bend, wiggle, sway, not to mention beg, cry and cajole. In the beginning, ALL of these may be necessary and you may even use them all simultaneously. Without a doubt, though, you can eventually DO LESS. The key to helping babies learn to sleep is in finding the moments where you can DO LESS.
Be curious about your own behavior and your baby’s. Their brains are growing at a rapid rate: synapses are being formed at each second. Today’s baby is not yesterdays. In order to cultivate curiosity:
First, OBSERVE yourself. How are you soothing? Are you on autopilot, doing the thing that worked yesterday?
First, OBSERVE yourself. How are you soothing? Are you on autopilot, doing the thing that worked yesterday? Ask yourself, for example, if you really NEED to replace the pacifier that has fallen out or if you’re replacing it out of reflex and/or fear of discomfort. Do you really NEED to be patting, shushing AND bouncing, or can one of them go? Does your baby NEED to be completely asleep before you put them down today? Or is he capable of going into the bassinet awake and falling off to sleep without help? It’s entirely possible that for whatever period of time your baby needs it, they need every, single soothing method you’re employing. It’s POSSIBLE, though, that you’re doing too much.
Then, OBSESRVE your baby. Just watch as they move their body & discover their voice. It’s impossible not to see how active their little minds and bodies are. It’s not surprising that their little bodies need to sleep 16+ hours a day. Learning everything about the world is HARD WORK. Careful observation will also help you notice your babies sleepy cues, which indicate the optimal time to help a baby get to sleep.
Third, LISTEN. When your baby makes a sound, listen to him or her as if they are speaking a language you have yet to decipher (hint: they are). If you immediately shush every whimper, you’re losing an opportunity to listen to what your baby is trying to say as well as losing an opportunity to learn her language. Start by asking “What do you need?” Ask aloud, in your real voice and MEAN it. Then LISTEN for her answer. This may seem crazy at first. In the beginning, a fuss is a fuss and a cry is a cry. But when you open the door for real communication, respect and understanding, miraculous things happen. You may only be comfortable listening to your frustrated baby for 10 seconds to start. Start there. You will learn a lot in those 10-second intervals. You may even find that at second 9, your baby has finished her thought and doesn’t need any intervention at all. You may find that you’ve heard that particular fuss before and that it usually means that she’s tired, or hungry or wet… Don’t take away her opportunity to learn to communicate.
In the first 90 days of life, a baby’s brain doubles in size. They are learning every second of every day. Don’t miss the opportunity to see what new skills they’ve acquired!