Print Friendly and PDF

The first six months of a baby's life can be incredibly overwhelming, especially in the sleep department. Some have babies with reflux or colic, while others have amazing little sleepers but don't know it because another mom told them that their baby slept through the night at 2 months old.

Here are some of my top tips for mamas in those early stages.

1. Realize that you know your baby best.

While it may be tempting to listen to what others suggest about how to put the baby to sleep or how long they should be sleeping, try to trust your own instincts. The more you stress about 'not doing the right thing' because you are reading articles about baby sleep or listening to other moms on a Facebook group, the more you are taking the joy out of the time that you do have with your baby.

Co-sleeping expert, James McKenna says:

"Do what works for your family and trust yourself to know your baby better than any external authority. You are spending the most time with your baby, and every baby is different. Infants, children, and their parents intersect in all kinds of diverse ways. Indeed, there is no template for any relationship we develop. When it comes to sleeping arrangements, many families develop and exhibit very fluid notions of where their baby 'should' sleep. Parents with less rigid ideas about how and where their babies should sleep are generally much happier and far less likely to be disappointed when their children cannot perform the way they are 'supposed to' — i.e. sleep through the night."

2. Don’t worry about “do’s” and “don’ts”.

It is really important to not get caught up in too many 'sleep do's and don'ts' for the first few months. For the first three months especially, you really only need to be feeding, changing and putting them back down to sleep. For those with fussy or reflux babies, you know that sleep is a challenge so do whatever you have to do!

3. Remember there are no negative ways to go to sleep—breastfeeding to sleep, using a pacifier, co-sleeping, etc.

As a sleep coach, I tell clients to let their babies go to sleep how they want to, whether that's being rocked or pushed around in a stroller.

The term 'negative sleep association' frustrates me because even adults have associations with going to sleep—using white noise, reading a book, or having a specific set of sheets that we prefer, for example. There is nothing negative about needing something to help us relax into sleep.

When rocking them to sleep is no longer something you want to do because it is taking an hour, then change it (if it is taking that long then it likely is not working for them either). Although it might be met with some resistance, if you are gentle about the transition and give your little one time to adjust, the resistance will be minimal.

If your child loves sleeping on you during the day and it is no longer working for you because you have things that you would like to do, try letting them fall asleep on you and work on the transfer. Wait until they are in a deep sleep and try putting them in the bassinet feet first and slowly lay them down. This will remove the feeling of falling that can sometimes wake them up.

4. Know it’s okay if they wake up frequently through the night.

Newborns have two sleep states, active sleep (which is similar to adults' REM sleep) and quiet sleep (similar to our non-REM sleep). Studies have found that active sleep plays a necessary role in preventing SIDS. Fortunately, babies spend more time in active sleep from 2 to 6 am so during this time, they are much more likely to wake if they are hungry, cold, wet or startled by not breathing.

Their sleep cycles are actually shorter than ours (lasting only 50-60 minutes) and therefore they can experience a partial arousal every hour or so. There is a biological reason for the waking, it is for survival – in order for children to grow, they need to eat and therefore need to wake to eat.

If a child is too cold or too hot, they need to wake to let mom know. If a child isn't breathing, they need to wake. Anything that forces a child to sleep too deep too soon is dangerous. Active sleep also has other benefits, it is thought to be smart sleep because the brain isn't resting, it increases the blood flow to the brain and is thought to be responsible for more rapid brain growth.

5. Keep your baby close when you can.

This is true both at night and during the day. There really is such a push to have your baby in their own sleep space. It is important to note that a Harvard study found that room sharing for the first six months can play a role in lessening the risk of SIDS. There is absolutely no need to rush baby into their own crib in their own room.

If they are still waking several times at night and you are exhausted, try co-sleeping (I always have to say that I am not allowed to promote bedsharing so by co-sleeping, I mean room sharing). You will get the extra sleep you need and your baby will get the closeness they love.

Keeping baby close during the day is also important. If they want to nap on you… go for it. You cannot spoil a baby by snuggling them so look at the amount of time you are holding them. Oftentimes it is easy to get caught up in the daily tasks and the total amount of time you spent holding them is very little. But, remember, mama needs a break, too—call on your village so they can take the baby while you take some time for yourself.

In order for a child to become independent, they must first be securely attached. Babies need physical proximity, sensing the person they are attached to through smell, sight and sound. They also need a parent to respond sensitively and consistently when they signal.

6. Avoid overstimulation.

It is so easy to forget that babies are little and everything is new to them. Going on a walk is stimulating all of baby's senses—new noises, smells, things to see. We oftentimes forget all of this and slip into the role of 'director of amusement' needing to stimulate babies with toys all day.

Our daily activities impact sleep so try to wind the entire family down before bed. A trip to the grocery store right before a nap might make for one very overstimulated baby so give them a longer wind down if you want them to nap.

7. Take stock of their sleep environment.

New babies are sensitive to different factors. If it is too hot, they will not want to sleep. If it smells like cleaning products or any other strong scent, their sleep might be interrupted. If you are turning on a night light to change a diaper, baby may not want to go back to sleep.

If your child is highly sensitive and their pj's are itchy or have tags or the detergent you are using is bothering their skin, then this could impact their sleep, too. If your house is noisy around bedtime, consider a white noise machine. Or take a look at the temperature and air to get of sense of what may affect baby.

8. Try a motion nap.

Use a carrier or go on a car ride (the car seat is not a safe place for a child to sleep for a long time so remember to transfer them when you get out of the car), or get in the stroller. Many babies love motion naps so if you're having trouble with sleep, try it out.

Consider your lifestyle. Do you like to get out of the house? Do you enjoy hikes and walks as a family? If so, get baby used to sleeping in the stroller or in the carrier. Don't worry that they will never sleep in their crib.

Most babies that I work with before the age of 6 months need at least one motion nap a day and it's rare to see a baby at this age taking all of their naps in the crib. Switch up your naps, too—maybe you snuggle a nap, use the carrier for another, and get out in the stroller for another nap.

9. Celebrate the small successes.

Try not to focus so much on the bigger picture when it comes time to your newborn. Maybe you got them to sleep in the swing for 20 minutes so you could take a shower (congrats!). Perhaps they took a pacifier and looked comfortable for a few minutes (amazing!). Take time to acknowledge and celebrate the small wins when you're in the midst of sleep struggles.

10. Take care of yourself.

Please do things for you and ask for help. It is so important to take a walk or go get a coffee or spend a girls night out. Ask your parents, your partner or a close friend to help, even if it is only for an hour so you can shower and blow-dry your hair. Your baby may cry because you aren't there but if your child is in the arms of someone who loves them, and you need an hour to yourself, they are absolutely fine to cry and be supported. It is imperative that you are in a good headspace when you are with a newborn baby.

Remember that you are doing a wonderful job, mama. You are the absolute best person to be caring for your baby. The first six months are SO hard but hang in there. Don't be afraid to ask for help and make sure that you take time for you at the end of the day.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

FEATURED VIDEO

"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

FEATURED VIDEO

Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

FEATURED VIDEO

Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

FEATURED VIDEO

Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.