As a mother, registered nurse, and now sleep specialist, I want to help families sleep! I have always loved caring for babies. As the oldest of four, I was always helping my mother take care of my siblings. She laughs and tells me I’m interested in sleep because I used to pat my baby brother’s bottom to sleep. I’m sure that has something to do with it, but really when my first was born I just knew there must be an easier way! I started doing my own research and read every sleep study I could find. I am science oriented, so when I found there was a science to sleep, I was thrilled. Not only did I help my daughter become a great sleeper, I was able to help friends get better sleep too. After having my second daughter (who had no choice but to be a great sleeper), I decided to start Newborn Nightingales and put forth my new passion of helping families rest.
Unfortunately, there is not one magical trick I can teach or pass on. There are multiple pieces to put together for what I like to refer as the “sleep puzzle.” Every baby, every family is a little different; but if you start early and start smart, sleep is better sooner for everyone. One piece of the puzzle is building positive sleep associations and avoiding sleep crutches.
A sleep crutch is anything your baby needs to fall asleep and stay asleep. This could be patting their bottom, rocking in a swing or chair, drinking a bottle, nursing, a pacifier staying in their mouth. The list goes on and on. I started studying children’s sleep research, because I was my first daughter’s sleep crutch, literally. She would only sleep on me. And while sweet at first, it was completely non-functional!
While avoiding unhelpful sleep crutches, it is equally important to reinforce positive sleep associations. One positive sleep association is your baby’s crib, free of stimulation, and only for sleep. Mobiles are great over changing tables, not cribs. White noise is another great one, and can travel with you! Other associations helping to shape a great sleeper are: a proper swaddling technique, placing your baby on their back to sleep, a very dark room at night, and a pleasantly dark room for naps.
When babies sleep, they transition through sleep cycles every 30-45 minutes. During this shift to the next sleep cycle, they expect to be in the same position as when they first fell asleep. If your little one falls asleep rocking and is then placed in bed asleep, he or she feels like something is wrong when they wake, and can’t get back to sleep on their own. Now if they fall asleep on their own, with their white noise, in their crib, and in their dark room, when they briefly wake, all is the same and they are more likely to transition seamlessly to the next sleep cycle. Your baby will sleep better and so will you!
Of course rocking is still necessary; they are only little once after all! Just rock your little one until they are very drowsy, swaddle them up, and let them drift off on their own, listening to their white noise, and looking around their room. If your baby falls asleep while eating (very common the first few weeks), place them in their crib, rub their little tummy, tell them night-night, and wake them just enough they realize they are no longer eating.
Start early with your baby, reinforcing positive sleep associations for nighttime sleep and at least two naps per day. But even if you have an older baby or toddler, you can still improve their overall sleep.
Babies and toddlers are very smart and we can use those smarts to mold what they know and expect. Most adjustments take less than a week.
You cannot make a baby a great sleeper, they have to learn to go to sleep and stay asleep on their own! As a parent, we provide consistency, schedule, environment, routines, and of course positive sleep associations. This loving support will improve your baby’s sleep overall and in turn, yours!
If you would like more coaching and support to improve your family’s overall sleep I would love to help you! Newborn Nightingales offers in-home, phone, and email sleep/schedule consultations as well as infant care instruction as needed. The Welcome Baby Consult is my very favorite and is exactly what I would have wanted as new mom, when I brought my precious baby home from the hospital. Around the two week mark (so lots of questions have built up and we can check weight gain), I will come to your house teach you so much about YOUR baby, what’s normal, what’s not, what to expect, and most importantly how to start working on sleep. I will answer every baby question you have and will have with 6 months of email support. Newborn Nightingales additionally offers nurses and specialists providing professional in-home nighttime care so you can catch up on some sleep! Check our website for more information including full range of services available. I would love to help your family, “because when they sleep, you sleep.”
Sweet Dreams Cowtown!
Want to win an email consult for your new little one or one you are expecting to join your family soon?
Melissa is an RN with a twelve-year background in Neonatal ICU. Additionally, she’s a mother of two girls, Madeline and Alice. After her first daughter was born, she became increasingly interested in pediatric sleep research and wanted to pursue a different avenue in nursing.
She founded Newborn Nightingales in 2012, offering private in-home sleep/schedule consultations and infant care instruction, as well as professional night nursing by experienced RNs and trained specialists.
Melissa prides herself in helping parents establish a nurturing, caring, and calm environment, as well as empowering parents with the knowledge and information they need for parenthood.