Infants especially newborns need non-stop care -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be grueling for anybody! To help you survive this exhausting chapter of your parenting journey, heed these tips for infant night-time care, based on recommendations from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
1. Have the baby in your bedroom for the first six months. Expect that you will not get a lot of sleep at night when you bring your little one home. Infants frequently wake and feed both day and night. (At nighttime, most feed one to three times.) It will be hard to cope at first, but there are ways that will help you adjust faster.
What can help is to have your baby sleep in your bedroom (in a crib or a co-sleeper cot) for the first six months, according to UNICEF. It will help you respond to your baby’s needs faster. The goal is to be able to catch small whimpers before they turn into full-blown crying, which is harder to soothe. Plus, having the baby in the same room decreases the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
2. Put your baby down when she’s calm, not when she’s fussy or already asleep. To put to sleep a baby who’s still wide awake is a challenge no parent wants. To make bedtime as fuss-free as it can be, establish a bedtime routine, says Dr. Agnes Tirona-Remulla, head of the Sleep Lab at Asian Hospital and Medical Center. It will help your baby calm down and fall asleep faster. You can try giving her a warm bath first, then move on to a gentle massage, and end with a lullaby or a bedtime story. Most importantly, be consistent with whatever bedtime routine you eventually employ.
By this time, your baby’s eyes will start to get droopy. Don’t wait until she falls asleep in your arms before putting her down. You’ll run the risk of waking her up again. “And when they wake up, the last thing they remember is they were very relaxed and in your arms. So they will keep looking for that situation to be able to fall asleep, and it becomes a vicious cycle,” Dr. Tirona-Remulla.
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3. Know your baby’s early feeding cues. It will help you settle her down quicker at night and lessen the time you and your baby are awake. A few obvious early feeding cues include finger sucking, restlessness, and murmuring sounds. Once you notice these, you can already try feeding your baby to calm her down and get her back to sleep.
During feedings, try not to disturb your baby too much so she can easily settle down. Keep the lights dimmed, minimize noise, speak quietly and avoid playing with her. As she grows up, these will help her “begin to adapt to differences between day and night,” said UNICEF.
4. Make night feedings easier. If you’re breastfeeding, try and find a position that’s most comfortable for you early on. This will make night time feedings less of a trouble and allow you to rest even while you’re awake. The side-lying position is “perfect for middle-of-the-night feedings,” according to Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas, a pediatrician and international breastfeeding and lactation consultant. See more breastfeeding positions that you can try here.
If you’re bottle feeding, keep organized. You cannot mix formula milk beforehand, but you can have the powder already measured out and the boiled water ready to go. And remember, follow your doctor’s feeding guidelines. “Never force your baby to take more than she needs in the hope that she will sleep for longer,” cautioned UNICEF. “This can cause her to become colicky and distressed and may result in her becoming overweight in the long term.”
5. Be prepared with calming strategies. There will be times that your little one will still be fussy even after feedings. If you’ve checked for other possible causes (like a dirty diaper), it might just be a case of finding ways to make him comfortable again. For breastfeeding moms, try offering your breast again even if you’ve just nursed. “Babies find the suckling comforting, and there is no risk of overfeeding a breastfed baby,” said UNICEF.
You can also try rocking your baby, tapping him gently, or carrying him while having skin-to-skin contact. For dads, this can be a good bonding opportunity too. Good luck!