Baby Whisperer shares her essentials for a sleeping beauty
Is there anything more beautiful than a sleeping baby? Dorothy Waide shares her top newborn sleep essentials to set us up for success.
Let’s start with the basics shall we? Love really is the most important thing. To me, loving a newborn requires parents tuning in and being there for their baby around the clock. We envelope them in love and care to make them feel safe and secure in this new and scary place; we are their world, and in turn, they become ours. It’s a special and beautiful thing.
But mamas, there will soon come a time when you need to take a step back and look after, and love, yourself too. When I speak to first-time parents I often discuss boundaries (newborn boundaries, baby boundaries, toddler boundaries and so on). Every relationship needs boundaries in order to thrive. When we’re talking about newborns, boundaries around sleep can start to be gently introduced with the aim of setting up good
habits later on.
Babies don’t get tools onboard to self-soothe and resettle themselves till at least 12 - 16 weeks, so around this time you may wish to implement some strategies to encourage self-soothing. Sleep deprivation takes a massive toll on parents – remember to be kind to yourself and parent however you feel is right.
Wouldn't it be lovely if newborns were like what we see on TV or on a curated Instagram feed. But of course there are many ups and downs on this rollercoaster of a journey, this is real life. We all scour the internet for the magic answer, but with parenting there isn't a magic answer. We all have to learn how to deal with this time within ourselves – trust your mama bear instincts to lead you in the right direction.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting and newborn sleep, but it can be helpful to find a resource you can trust. This could be a subscription service, a book, an online resource or a trusted expert.
WHAT TO BUY
The wish list for any new parent can be extensive, and it’s hard to know what you need. Below I have listed my picks of essential items for newborns, with a specific focus on sleep, because let’s face it – your life is about to revolve around it for a wee while.
You may never need to use a dummy and it may very well stay stashed in the cupboard, but as they are relatively inexpensive, it’s a good idea to have one on hand.
Dummies can be an excellent sleep prop if your newborn is a comfort sucker, just be careful to use it for sleep only and not to miss their cues for hunger. Sometimes parents need to experiment with different shapes and sizes, and of course, not all babies will take them.
WHITE NOISE MACHINE
Again, great to have it in the house if you happen to need it for soothing purposes. White noise machines are often used as a way to drown out other household noises, but personally I think it’s a good idea to get your baby used to these other noises and perhaps only use the machine while they are settling to sleep.
If you do use one, it's advised not to play it at it's loudest, but rather between 50 and 75 decibels.
BLACK OUT BLINDS/CURTAINS
These are essential as babies only produce melatonin in spits and spats and will sleep better in a dark room, both during the day for naps and overnight.
Probably the most important decision to make with a monitor is whether you want just sound, or video and sound.
I personally think that a video is a wonderful asset to parents but make sure you’re not glued to it as that can cause anxiety and perhaps alter how you respond to your baby making sounds.
Most monitors have volume controls and changeable features, so experiment with what suits your parenting style and also the age of your baby.
There are pros and cons to swaddling. Most babies enjoy being swaddled and will settle faster with longer stretches of undisturbed sleep – just make sure it allows small movements and doesn’t restrict leg or hip movement.
My favourite swaddles are ones that allow the baby to move their hands up to the side of their head, and large muslin wraps that you can do three different types of swaddles with.
If using the muslin wrap, it’s important not to tuck or tie the bottom up as this may restrict leg and hip movement. Also the material of
a swaddle should be light enough so that it doesn’t overheat your baby. My favourites are the Love to Dream and a large muslin swaddle (used correctly).
Nice comfy outfits such as onesies and babygros are easy to use for both daytime and night-time sleeping. Just remember, for healthy sleeping – no hats, headbands or bibs, and if tucking your baby down with blankets or sheets, make sure they come no higher than their nipple line – this is to ensure that your baby is safe while sleeping.
Most monitors have this built in, but if not, this is essential so you can ensure the baby’s sleeping space is the right temperature (16-20 degrees).
A great way for your baby to relax and kick-off their evening routine, a bath lets your baby know that it will soon be bedtime and can be really helpful in establishing a healthy sleep association.
FRONT PACK OR WRAP
These are great to keep your hands free, especially if you have an older child to look after. They're also lovely to keep your baby close to you while out and about or going for a walking nap.
Babies can overheat though, so check frequently that their back temperature is okay, especially during summer, and dress them accordingly.
You will be spending a lot of time snuggling and feeding your baby in the fourth trimester so this is a must! A foot stool is great too, as are comfy arm rests and good back support. Some parents like the chair to rock, however if you eventually wish your little one to sleep independently, be careful not to rely on movements that can’t be replicated in a cot.
Ensure they meet NZ safety standards and that the mattress is firm and flat, fitting securely into the bassinet/bedside sleeper or pod. Adult supervision is recommended for sleeping pods.
If you're on a budget, I suggest that you just purchase a cot and let your newborn sleep in it from day dot. Again, when purchasing a cot ensure that it meets the NZ safety standards.
A cot that has adjustable mattress heights (two, or ideally three) is a good idea for ease of settling and resettling, and as your baby grows.
Dorothy Waide is a Karitane Mothercraft Nurse with over three decades of experience. Dorothy is the author of two popular parenting books, You Simply Can’t Spoil A Newborn and Simply Parenting: From 12 Weeks to 12 Months. Visit Dorothy at babyhelp.co.nz and check out her facebook page facebook.com/babyhelpnz and join her closed pages for 0 to 12 weeks, 12 weeks to 12 months and 12 months plus.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 58 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW