The old saying “sleep like a baby” doesn’t seem to apply to a lot of newborns. In fact, to many a new mom, it seems as if their little ones rarely ever sleep.
Of course, that’s not the case. In fact, on an average, newborn babies can sleep up to 17 hours a day! While that’s a lot of sleep, the problem is that it’s broken up. Newborns tend to sleep for about two to four hours consecutively for the first few weeks of life, both day and night. To an overwhelmed new mom who is used to sleeping several hours (ideally eight) in a row at night, those short cat naps their babies take allows for little rest and can make it seem like they never sleep.
Sleep deprivation and desperation can drive moms to try almost anything to get their little ones to sleep so that they can get some much-needed rest for themselves. Unfortunately, some of those tactics can lead to mental and emotional distress for the baby, sleep problems down the road, and they can even be dangerous and even deadly.
If you’re an exhausted mom who is trying to get your little one to sleep, avoid making these 15 mistakes for the welfare of your child. Getting a few hours of shut-eye yourself just isn’t worth the risks that are associated with these bedtime blunders.
14 Sleeping On Their Tummy
Tummy time is important for newborns, but not when they're sleeping. This practice should only be done with direct supervision.
However, because a lot of newborns are more comfortable on their stomachs (probably because that’s how they were positioned in the womb), a mom might think it's the best way to position her baby when he's sleeping.
Unfortunately, tummy sleeping is a big no-no for newborns. It can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs), as a newborn doesn’t yet know how to control his movements and can easily smother his face while he’s sleeping. Side-sleeping is also strongly discouraged for the same reason.
To avoid a potentially deadly situation, remember the following rule from pediatricians: “back is best”. Whenever you place your baby on his belly, make sure that you have all eyes on him the entire time.
13 Using A Bottle As A Sleep Aid
Newborns eat frequently; in fact, that’s one of the main reasons why they wake up so frequently, which is why moms are so sleep-deprived. Out of desperation, moms might attempt to put their little ones down with a bottle. That’s a very big no-no!
First of all, newborns don’t have the ability to hold their bottle, so putting one in the crib is a fruitless effort. Second of all, even if your baby could hold his own bottle, there’s a chance that he could choke on it. Furthermore, depending on the length of time that the bottle is in the crib, the expressed breast milk or formula that it contains could spoil, which could lead to illness, should the baby drink it.
The bottom line: putting a newborn (or a baby of any age) to sleep with a bottle is never a good idea.
12 Not Waking The Baby Up To Feed
Pediatricians recommend feeding newborns every 2 to 4 hours, and typically, they will sleep that length of time, waking up specifically to eat. However, on occasion, your newborn might sleep longer than the suggested feeding window.
While the idea of getting some more uninterrupted sleep might is something that all new moms long for, letting a sleeping newborn lie isn’t the best idea. Though a newborn's feeding schedule can really seem like a major chore, sticking to it is crucial.
Why should you wake your sleeping newborn to eat? Firstly, their little tummies empty really quickly. Though they often rouse when they are hungry, during those first few sleepy weeks of life, a newborn might just keep snoozing through the hunger cues her body is sending her. If she does, when she does wake, she’ll be ravenous. Secondly, a newborn needs to gain weight, and sleeping through feedings won’t help her do that. Thirdly, missing even one feeding can throw off an entire eating schedule. And lastly, if you are breastfeeding, timely feedings are just as important for you as they are for your baby because they help you establish your milk supply.
Don’t give into the temptation of letting your little one sleep through a feeding. Wake her so she can eat.
11 Using The Car Seat As A Crib
It’s hard for newborns to resist the temptation of falling asleep when they’re in the car. Their little infant car seats are so snuggly and warm, almost creating a cocoon-like feeling that is similar to the womb. Add in the movement of driving and it’s almost certain that a newborn is going to doze off while he’s being chauffeured. It’s also hard for moms to resist the temptation of allowing their newborns to continue sleeping when they do nod off in the car seat. They look so comfortable and sweet, and the last thing you want to do is wake a sleeping baby.
What’s the harm in letting your newborn remain sleeping in his car seat? Believe it or not, it can actually lead to death. That sounds extreme, but it’s true. Their tiny neck muscles are barely developed, which means that their heads can flop over and their airways can become constricted while seated in a car seat. That’s exactly what happened to Shepard Dodd, an 11-week-old who perished as a result of napping in his car seat.
Don't panic if your newborn falls asleep in his car seat, but if he does, make sure you wake him as soon as you can. And never resort to using the car seat over a bassinet or crib.
10 Keeping The Home Silent
Super loud noises are enough to make it difficult for anyone to fall asleep or rouse anyone from a slumber, but most people can sleep through subtle sounds. However, in an effort to try to help newborns fall asleep, a lot of new moms try to make the baby’s sleep environment completely sound-proof.
Sure, if you have a dog that is prone to barking, hanging a sign up on the front door to warn visitors from knocking while the baby is sleeping is a good idea. So is turning down blaring music or keeping the volume low on the television. However, trying to cut out every single noise while the baby is sleeping can lead to sleep issues in the future. The baby could end up relying on complete silence and the slightest noise – like a ringing phone –could rouse her and it isn’t always possible to make her sleep environment whisper-quiet. Don’t be afraid to make noises while she’s sleeping (granted at a lower volume).
9 Offering Immediate Comfort
The worst sound in the world to any mother is the sound of her baby crying. It pulls at your heartstrings (and it can make you go a little insane, too!). With that said, moms tend to pick up their newborns as soon as they hear them make the slightest little whimper – even when they are sleeping.
You’re not wrong to want to comfort your baby; however, picking him up as soon as he makes what sounds like a minor cry isn’t the best idea. The reason? Your newborn won’t learn how to self-soothe, and instead, he will become reliant on you to help him fall back to sleep. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t offer comfort if he is wailing, but if he makes a mere whimper, try to resist the urge to pick him up.
8 The Room Is Too Heated
It can be hard for a mom to tell if her little one is comfortable, particularly when it comes to her temperature. Many a new mama is under the assumption that her newborn is always cold. To avoid letting baby get the chills, she might pile on the layers and turn up the thermostat in the nursery.
While you don’t want your baby to get a chill, being too warm isn’t a good thing either. If a newborn is wearing too many layers and the temperature in his sleeping space is set too high, he could end up overheating. When a newborn’s core temperature is too high, he could suffer in a number of ways; dehydration, listlessness and even brain damage are all possible.
As a general rule of thumb: if it seems too warm for you, it’s too warm for your newborn.
7 Leaving Cords Near The Crib
Though newborns don’t really move with purpose, they can certainly move. They wriggle about, kick their feet, and throw their arms around. That’s exactly why allowing cords of any kind near the baby’s sleeping space is a very bad idea. Though he may not mean to, a newborn can unknowingly grab on to a cord or get his foot stuck in it. If that happens, there’s a chance that whatever is at the other end of that cord – blinds, a humidifier, a bottle warmer – could come tumbling down on top of him. On top of that, the cord can become tightly wrapped around those little limbs and cut off circulation, which could lead to really serious problems.
To avoid a potential travesty, make sure that cords of any nature are kept far from your newborn’s sleeping space.
6 Nursing The Baby To Sleep
Breast milk is quite remarkable. In addition to all of the nutrients it contains, it also has cholecystokinin, a hormone that induces sleep. No wonder that newborns tend to drift off to sleep when they are nursing!
In addition to the fact that breast milk is a natural sleep-aid, the act of breastfeeding is also very calming for infants. The skin-to-skin contact with their mothers is warm and creates a sense of security, which adds to the sleep-effect that nursing produces.
However, while nursing can certainly be an effective way to get your little one to drift off to dreamland, it’s not really the best idea. Why? Because as your child grows, she may become dependent on breastfeeding to fall asleep, which could lead to sleep problems later on down the road.
5 Making The Crib Too Cozy
There’s nothing better than slipping into a bed that is filled with plush pillows and fluffy blankets. For an adult, such a setting is the ideal way to invite sleep; however, for newborns, an environment that is too comfy and cozy can be risky.
Pediatricians strongly discourage the use of soft bedding with newborns, including blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, and stuffed animals. While these items might look comforting, they can increase the risk of SIDs. Though it might seem like a newborn can’t move much, they really can wriggle about. The kick their feet about and thrash their hands, and they can even move their heads to some degree. Should they make those movements while they are sleeping with soft bedding items, there’s a chance that their faces could be covered and they could suffocate.
4 Using A Sleep Positioner
Sleep positioners are products that are designed to prevent a baby from rolling over while sleeping and instead, keep them lying flat on their backs. Since lying on the back is considered the safest way for a newborn to sleep, a sleep positioner seems like it would be a great tool to use. However, they are far from safe.
In fact, in 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued reports warning parents of the dangers of using sleep positioners. In these reports, 12 cases of babies dying as a result of suffocation while lying in a sleep positioner were cited.
What makes these devices so dangerous? Though they are supposed to prevent newborns from rolling, they aren’t completely effective at doing so. Wriggly babies can roll their faces or their entire bodies over, which could compromise their breathing and lead to suffocation.
3 The 'Rocking' Method
Newborns find rocking very soothing, which is why there are so many products that are designed to rock them, and why moms have been rocking their newborns in their arms since the dawn of time.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with rocking your newborn to help calm her and invite sleep, doing so until she falls asleep isn’t recommended. Why? Because she could grow to rely on that swaying motion to fall asleep, which means that could end up needing to be rocked every time she wakes (and trying to rock in the middle of the night when you’re beyond exhausted isn’t the best idea). Plus, she’ll likely continue to depend on that motion as she grows older and won’t know how to soothe herself to sleep.
Instead of rocking her until she falls asleep, rock until she looks like she’s about to doze and then put her down in her bassinet or crib. You’ll both be better off in the long run.
2 Letting The Baby “Cry It Out”
Though babies do need to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep – and they start learning how to do that as early as the first few weeks of life – trying the “cry it out” method is never recommended.
Pediatricians and psychologists agree that letting babies of all ages “cry it out” can be extremely damaging, particularly during the newborn phase. While it might seem like your newborn is trying to manipulate you so that he doesn’t have to go to sleep, in reality, newborns aren’t manipulative; they really do need to be comforted, and that’s one of the many reasons they cry. If you leave him crying in his crib or bassinet in an attempt to teach him how to self-soothe, you may not be attending to his needs. For example, he might be crying because he’s hungry, cold, hot, or just because he needs some reassurance.
While you don’t want to rush to the rescue at the slightest whimper, letting him wail for a prolonged period of time isn’t going to teach him how to soothe himself to sleep, rather, it could end up doing physical and psychological damage.
1 Sharing The Bed
There are so many benefits associated with co-sleeping. For example, it provides a greater sense of security for a newborn, which makes it easier for him to fall asleep. It’s also easier for mom to breastfeed, which alleviates the need to constantly get up and down in the middle of the night. However, despite the benefits of co-sleeping, it can be dangerous – especially if it is not done properly.
If you just let your little one lie on the bed with you, there’s the risk that he could roll out of the bed and onto the floor. You or your partner could roll over onto him. The blankets or pillows could lead to suffocation. Those are just some of the dangers that are associated with co-sleeping.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of sleeping with your little one nearby, use a device that is designed specifically for co-sleeping, in order to prevent a potentially dangerous situation.