Seeing things from baby’s perspective

You’re sprawled on the couch in your dressing gown with a sleeping baby on your chest.  Did I mention it’s 5am in the morning?  Or that she’s been awake for the last four hours?  And so have you?  Pretty grim picture isn’t it…

It’s not going to make you FEEL any less exhausted, but reminding yourself of the unmatched life change that your cherub has been through might help you recapture that ‘loving feeling’ for the wee monster keeping you awake!  Before you doze off, here are some things to remember about what’s going on for your bubba.

Recovering from labour

Labour and birth are an exhausting journey for a little baby and she may be very sleepy for the first few days.  I know, I know, it was exhausting for you too, but here’s the catch – you’re the grown-up here.  Bummer isn’t it!?  It’s quite usual for your baby to have one feed soon after birth and then have a BIG sleep.  Hospital staff may encourage you to wake your baby after four hours to feed, but in fact it is quite normal for babies to sleep for much longer than that after birth, so as long as they’re a healthy babe and aren’t sick or affected by drugs administered during labour, let them sleep I say!

Change in environment 

Moving from your uterus to the outside world is a massive change for your little person.  Until now she’s been cocooned in a warm, close, constant, liquid environment where she experienced gentle pressure, movements and sounds to lull her to sleep.  She’s been in constant physical contact with you and had her every need met instantly.  Sound and touch have been key senses.  So this big bright cold open world is a big shock to her.  Her little arms flail around in the open space (think someone bouncing around on a bungy cord).  She experiences discomfort from hunger, tiredness, dirty nappies.  She is assaulted by sights and sounds on all sides.  She is learning new skills like feeding.  I can only imagine that it’s a bit like being parachuted into some crazy overseas market with street hawkers peering into your face all the time, calling unintelligible things, and having to haggle to get what you want, all in a language you don’t understand.  Imagine that after being curled up with a book in a cosy quiet room with your slippers on!  This can be an exhausting and understandably upsetting change for your baby.  She may cope very well, or find it very completely overwhelming.  You can help her to adjust by making sure she is warm enough, keeping things quiet and calm, avoiding bright lights, loud noises or lots of people, and giving her lots of touch and cuddles.  Swaddling may be helpful if she is struggling with flailing arms (more about this later).  Something like withdrawing to a peaceful hotel room and being enveloped by a big plush dressing gown for us…

Different circumstances

may effect how sleepy your baby is.  The paradoxical thing is that a sleepy baby is often not a good thing at all.  For example premature babies may be very sleepy initially – they are just not ready for the busy madness of life ‘on the outside’.  If your baby is unwell, depending on what is wrong and how it is being treated, she may be either unusually sleepy or grumpy and wakeful.  Drugs and interventions during labour and birth can also impact on your baby’s ability to sleep and feed.

Easily distressed

Newborn babies’ brains have got a lot of growing up to do.  As a result it is easy for your baby to become distressed but she does not yet have the ability to soothe herself.  When your baby becomes upset she needs you to help her calm down.  How?  Most of all she needs your physical presence (holding her) and your emotional presence (being warm and loving to her, being responsive to her needs).

Baby’s body clock 

During pregnancy, many babies develop a pattern of sleeping during the day (when your body movements lull them to sleep) and being wakeful during the night (when there is nothing happening to lull them to sleep).  That explains you lying awake at 2am while baby did gymnastics inside you!  So when your baby is born she may want to sleep all day and party all night!  Fine when you were a carefree teenager, but now?  Exhausting… This will change but may take some days or even weeks.  You can help this process by making night time a really chilled out time for your little babe.  Only do things that are focused on helping her to sleep.  These might include feeding, changing nappies, and any of the soothing things listed in our practical tips section (coming this week I promise!).  Try to keep lights and talking to a minimum and any noise to a low level.  During the day time do the opposite – more light, more noise, more stimulation – talking to your baby, playing with her etc.  It can be difficult if dad is coming home wanting to play with the newest family member, just when bubs needs some quiet time.  Gentle suggestion of things like cuddles, singing, bathing together etc can provide some peaceful alternatives.

Different babies, different temperaments 

Your baby may be a ‘good sleeper’ right from the start, or may find getting to sleep and staying asleep a real struggle.  This generally has very little to do with anything YOU do).  Many parents with more than one child are struck by the incredible differences in their children’s ability to sleep despite similar parenting.  Avoid conversations about sleep with annoying acquaintances who have ‘perfect’ babies who sleep at the drop of a hat for hours on end.  They will no doubt try and convince you that their way is the only way.  It might work for them; no guarantees your baby will have read that manual though!  As much as you can, try to just go with the flow and respect your child’s own individual temperament!

So with all this going on is it any wonder that sometimes there’s not much sleep to be had!  Take heart and remember the parenting mantra “This too shall pass”.


Posted on June 26, 2011, in Sleep and Crying. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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