Sleep is one of the most misunderstood aspects of parenthood. Many parents think that for the first few weeks, their baby will just feed and sleep. While this is true for some lucky parents, there will always be the newborn or infant who is simply more tense, fretful, and alert than others. This was certainly true of my son, and if this is your baby too, take heart. Establishing a regular sleep pattern requires patience and the consistent application of good sleep practices, which tie in with infant nutrition.
If you are a first-time mom-to-be, there are some particularly useful books to help you prepare mentally and emotionally. The Contented Little Baby Book, by no-nonsense British supernanny Gina Ford, establishes very strict guidelines for when a baby should sleep and feed. It also explains how establishing routines helps the mom breastfeed
For those at the critical 3- to 4-month turnaround point, there are two other books that offer different methods to put baby to sleep. The Sleepeasy Solution, by Jennifer Waldburg and Jill Spivick, was my lifesaver. I have loaned it to many new moms looking to understand their children’s sleep patterns and establish good sleep habits in just a couple of weeks. The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley, offers an alternative method that might take longer, but may better suit some families. The first book offers a quicker solution but requires parental fortitude to deal with the crying, while the second book is gentler but takes longer to work out.
With regard to the role of nutrition in establishing sleep patterns, many pediatricians advise waiting until your baby is 5 months old and weighs 15 pounds (6.8kg) to wean completely at night. However, most breastfed babies can be sleep-trained at 4 months and 14 pounds as long as they get one or two middle-of-the-night feeds. The key is to shift feeds to the daytime between consistent nap times, so that most of the child’s 24-hour nutritional requirements are fulfilled during the day and most of the sleep requirements are fulfilled at night.
Some parents tolerate the multiple-night feeds right up to around 4 or 5 months of age, and then try an early introduction to solid foods to help the baby sleep better. However, introducing solid foods too early is not advisable unless you’ve consulted your pediatrician first. Babies’ guts are simply not ready for solid foods until they are closer to 6 months old. Introducing solids too early may also increase the likelihood of food allergies later in life.
If your baby is waking up multiple times during the night but appears to be contented with feeds in the daytime, then he’s likely acting out of habit rather than hunger. This means it’s time for active babysleep parenting. Then, both you and your little angel will sleep better at night.