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Written by Mckenzie Graham   

 

In addition to all the changes and challenges that can accompany pregnancy, birth and motherhood, it may not be great news to hear that babies are biologically designed not to sleep for long stretches of time. Sure, they sleep a lot--newborns can sleep up to 18 hours a day! But for all those sleepy hours they put in, they sure wake up often. That can make nighttime really hard for new families. Once your sweet little baby arrives, a full night of uninterrupted sleep becomes a distant memory.

 

Not only are well-rested families happier, but adequate sleep is crucial for babies who are going though immense mental and physical growth during their first years of life. The thing is, sleep is a learned skill. Yes, a small percentage of babies get the hang of sleep with little effort from their parents, but most don’t.

 

So what do you do to get better sleep? The answer, of course, is different for every family. Every baby is born with his or her own unique temperament and every parent approaches their huge new responsibility in their own unique way.

 

My first baby was born with complications and was in the NICU for 6 weeks. We got off to a rough start that affected us in many ways particularly around sleep. After 5 years of sleepless nights I felt anxious when I became pregnant with baby #2. I knew I couldn't go through all the sleep deprivation, frustration and desperation again.

 

By accident or perhaps it was fate, I discovered that in some countries in Europe it is common for babies to sleep through the night as early as 2 months. I was intrigued so I did research and devised a plan. I went from years of bed sharing and cue feeding with my first baby (which was wonderful until it wasn't) to using a sleep schedule with my second baby and subsequently my third, both of whom slept 10 hours straight through the night by 3 months. I never left my babies to cry. My husband and I were there for them. I just got creative about how I soothed them. Let's just say there wasn't always a breast involved.

 

After my positive experience, I knew that I wanted to work with families helping them teach their little ones how to embrace sleep. I knew, however, that my personal experience with my two babies wasn't enough. I was fortunate to find a mentor to guide me. I gained the knowledge, expertise and certification to help families who feel like they are ready for a change. For most families, waiting to sleep train until at least 5 months is ideal. This gives families time to focus on deeply bonding and babies time to move through important milestones.

There is so much you can do early on to set the stage for sleep success. Simply creating a sleep friendly non-stimulating environment with black out curtains and a white noise machine can help babies sleep better. Or making sure your baby is well-rested during the day and put to bed at a reasonable hour, which makes him or her less likely to wake up multiple times at night or experience early rising. And remember to give yourself a break--there is plenty of time to figure it all out.

 

Many families have their own sleep puzzle that needs to be pieced together and the older the child is the more complicated the puzzle can be. First and foremost trust yourself and believe in the possibility for change. You know your baby best and you know what will work well for your baby. Create a sleep plan that you can commit to, and with the necessary “tools” for support you will get through to the other side and be astonished when your child becomes a champion sleeper. The good news is that you can create your sleep plan in a way that feels right for you! You can even keep bed sharing and a feeding or two at night. With consistency, dedication and hard work, you can get your family back to sleep.

 

I tell families I work with that they will be their child’s coach from the sideline--there to support their child intermittently, but no longer playing the sleep game for him or her. It is very common for parents to fall back on the sleep crutch (rocking, breast, bottle etc.) that their child has come to depend on to be able to fall asleep. But as any family who has made it to the other side will tell you, the hard work up front is temporary and worth every minute when your little one begins sleeping all night long.

Many families have birth plans or intentions. A well thought out sleep plan is just as important and will give your family the gift of sleep for years to come.

 

Mckenzie Graham’s successes & failures include mothering her three littles, being a wife to her awesome husband, holding down the house & having adventures of all kinds. She works locally and globally as a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

For more information join Mckenzie Graham on Sept. 9th from 10 - 11:15am for a FREE workshop at the Full Moon Birth Center in Santa Cruz. She will demystify newborn sleep and leave you with invaluable tools and methods to help your little one embrace sleep.

 
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