Anyone who's had a new baby knows there are days when your baby doesn't want to be put down even for a second, and it's hard to get anything done. And when I had new babies, I remember those sweet, cuddly moments with my newborn napping in my arms or on my chest were some of my FAVORITE moments that I still cherish. I loved those precious times. But every parent knows you can't survive that way 24 hours a day for months.
It is dangerous for parents to fall asleep with their babies in their arms, and it's also dangerous for parents to try and stay awake constantly and not get any sleep at all. So while those snuggly naps are sweet, you also need to be able to help your new baby sleep on their own as well. For some babies, it's easy, but for others, it can seem almost impossible.
WHY DO NEWBORNS LOVE BEING HELD?
It has been referred to as The Fourth Trimester, and it's the time right after a baby is born when they're adjusting to being outside the womb, and the baby craves the closeness and coziness of the womb. It's very natural for new babies to want to be held while sleeping.
Here are some ways you can help your baby feel cozy and get good naps, while also keeping your baby safe:
1. Use a baby carrier. A good baby carrier can be a lifesaver for days when your baby doesn't want to be put down, but you have things to do (or other kids to take care of). A comfy, stretchy carrier, such as a K'Tan is good, and I loved using my LilleBaby carrier. If the baby is properly secured in the carrier and the person wearing it is safe, it's safe for babies to nap in baby carriers.
2. A stroller or car seat nap. It is safe for your baby to sleep in the car seat ONLY if properly installed in a car or stroller using the base, and if the baby is properly strapped in. It is not safe to bring the infant carrier out of the car and allow your baby to sleep in it while it's sitting on the ground (this is a suffocation risk). But sometimes when your baby won't let you set them down and they need a nap and you need a break, a safe car seat nap or stroller nap can help!
3. Call a friend. Let someone come get their baby fix and hold your baby for a nap so you can go take a nap (or a shower!).
SAFE SLEEP FOR NEWBORNS
Keep in mind, the safest place for a newborn to sleep is ALONE, on their BACK, and in a CRIB (or safe sleeping surface such as a basinet). Swings, or any inclined sleeping surface are not safe for sleep, and baby sleep positioners, such as Dock-a-Tot or SnuggleMe's are also not safe for sleep. Keeping your baby safe is the top priority.
Here are 6 tips to help your newborn sleep independently.
1. Start as you mean to go on. If you always feed to sleep, hold to sleep, or rock to sleep, that's the only way your baby will know how to get to sleep. I started with both of my babies from literally day one, allowing them to go to sleep on their own, in their own crib, in their own room (my second had to share a room with me in the beginning, due to space restrictions, but I moved her basinet as far away from my bed as I could). They didn't get used to being nursed or rocked to sleep for every single sleep. Start from the beginning with the sleep habits you want your baby to have in the future.
2. Practice independent sleep every day. Even if you DO hold your newborn baby for a few naps a day, and I encourage you to do it - soak up those snuggles! - I also encourage new parents to attempt independent sleep at nighttime and for at LEAST one nap a day. There are lots of opportunities to practice, because newborns sleep often! So if you attempt it for one nap, and it doesn't happen, it's ok! Try it again for the next nap.
3. Lay your baby down drowsy and awake. Instead of rocking your baby to sleep and then placing them down in their bed asleep, which will often lead to wake-ups, lay them down awake and allow them to go to sleep on their own. If they cry, try to offer comfort without picking your baby up first, and if needed, pick up and comfort and then lay your baby down again. It's ok to allow your baby to wiggle and grunt or even fuss a bit if you're comfortable with it. You don't have to let your newborn cry though. You can offer help and give comfort without actually rocking your baby completely to sleep.
4. Pay close attention to wake windows. A common reason babies have a hard time getting themselves to sleep is when they are put down either overtired or under-tired. Pay close attention to your baby's wake windows and lay the baby down in their "sweet spot" which will give them the most chance of successfully going to sleep independently without crying. If your baby is already yawning and fussing from being tired, the baby is overtired. Lay your baby down before the baby starts showing those late sleepy cues.
5. Keep your baby swaddled for sleep. Babies sleep best when they are swaddled in a good, tight, cozy swaddle. If you're not gifted at the skill of swaddling using a blanket, there are great options for velcro swaddles or zip-up swaddles. Also, a white noise machine with constant white noise will help your baby sleep.
6. A consistent routine. Babies LOVE routines. Even if you're not on a strict by-the-clock schedule, you can keep your baby on a solid eat/wake/sleep routine to make sure they get full feedings and adequate awake time during the day (you don't need to have awake time after feedings at night). You can start a simple pre-nap and pre-bed routine even for newborns, which will signal to their bodies that it's time for sleep. The routine could be as simple as a quick song or a cuddle, diaper change, swaddle on, lights off, sound machine on, and laying the baby down to go to bed.
When you lay your baby down for sleep, make sure your baby:
If you do all of these things, and your baby is just not having it, try the
Pick Up/Put Down technique:
Or try the Shush/Pat technique:
Soak up those newborn baby snuggles, because the newborn days go by so quickly, and once your baby can run around, you will miss the sweet cuddly naps in your arms. It's ok to be exhausted and need a break. It's ok to help your baby learn to sleep independently so you can get enough sleep to safely function and care for them. As difficult as the newborn days can be, remember, they won't last forever.
If your baby is already in the habit of being held for sleep and you are ready to sleep train, you can reach out to me and I would love to help walk you through the process of teaching your baby independent sleep! This post just an excerpt of my comprehensive NEWBORN GUIDE, which is a must-have for new parents and teaches all the secrets of how I got both of my babies to sleep 12 hours straight all on their own before 12 weeks old.
Share this post with a new or expectant mom, and share in the comments if your babies loved being held for naps when they were newborns.
Do I look exhausted and stressed in those pics?! That's because I decided it would be fun to travel with a 2 year old and a 6 month old via airplane, by myself, with a layover. Maybe I'm just unlucky, but 50% of the time when I have layovers, I end up missing them or stuck at them for some reason out of my control. And it happened, we were stuck on the tarmac for hours INSIDE the plane, hungry, cranky, past nap time, trying to juggle both kids by myself... But one thing I will say is this: I haven't let two kids stop me from going places. In the last 4 years of having kids, I've taken airplanes, 10 hour road trips, 6 hour road trips, 4 hour road trips, all by myself, and with two little ones. And I've learned a lot. Now, I want to share some of my biggest mistakes so YOU can learn from them and hopefully not make the same mistakes.
Here are my 6 biggest travel mistakes with toddlers and babies:
Mistake #1. I went on a 10 hour road trip and FORGOT MY PURSE AT HOME. Yes, this was my biggest mistakes. I was driving alone with a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and a 100 pound dog. I had a list for packing, and had everything checked off the list. Had the car pre-loaded with suitcases, made sure to pack extra diapers and change of clothes and snacks, and charged up the tables. I got 5 hours into the drive and was ready for our first stop, at the halfway point, and realized I HAD LEFT MY PURSE AND WALLET. I was almost out of gas, had no cash, and was too far from home and my parents' house to get to either without more gas. I used my Starbucks app on my phone to get food for our lunch, and luckily was close enough to make it to a branch of my bank. Even though I had a picture of my driver's license and I verified my account number and address... they wouldn't let me withdraw cash at first. Until I started sobbing and told them I couldn't make it home without money for gas. They finally let me withdraw just enough for gas to make it to my destination. Which was awesome. But also meant I had to lug my two toddlers into the gas station to pay at the counter with cash and then run back out and pump my gas. So please learn from my mistake and NEVER LEAVE YOUR PURSE AT HOME on a road trip.
Mistake #2. Not having proof of birth date for an infant on a flight.
I had flown several times with babies and toddlers, and Delta had never required proof of birthdate. So when I flew Southwest with my 6 month old, I didn't have anything and they almost wouldn't let us board (we were out of state, so I didn't have anywhere else to go or any way to get access to her birth certificate). I ended up crying (again!) and begging a manager to let me fly with my 6 month old after I showed her a picture on my phone- when my baby was QUITE OBVIOUSLY under age 2. I learned to always check the specific airline for their policies, and don't assume anything.
Mistake #3. Getting on the plane first when they called for family boarding.
Unless you're on an airline that allows you to choose your own seats, and you're trying to get specific seats, do not board the plane first with babies and toddlers when they call for family boarding. It's just a smaller place for toddlers to sit cooped up for a long time. At least they can run around in the terminal. I always boarded last so we didn't have to sit in the tiny airplane seats as long. Also, I recommend straight flights whenever you can, because I have had terrible experience with layovers. The amount of times I've missed layovers for various reasons or I've even been stuck overnight at a layover location due to weather issues... would be extremely stressful with babies and toddlers. I've also had luggage not make it through the layover. Direct flights are a good idea when flying with babies and toddlers.
Mistake #4. Driving in a hurricane or tropical storm. I have driven on road trips by myself with two toddlers through BOTH a tropical storm AND a hurricane, with rain so hard I couldn't see an inch in front of me. It was terrifying, and when you're on the interstate with nowhere to pull off, it's even scarier. Now, I always check the weather ahead of time and plan my road trips according to the weather.
Mistake #5. Being too rigid with schedule and letting it stress me out. I remember a family beach trip with our 15 month old, and I was SO rigid with his schedule, that I stressed out when we were out late one night at dinner after his bedtime. He was completely fine, and we made up for the lost sleep the next day and he got right back on track. It's important to stick to the schedule as much as you can, but also, sometimes it's ok to loosen up and be flexible every now and then, and let your kids stay up a little late or have a late or early nap, when you're on vacation. Some kids handle it just fine. If your child doesn't handle it well, you can always get them back on track the next day.
Mistake $6. Starting new sleep habits that you don't want to continue. I let my 3 year old son sleep in bed with me every night for a week when I was staying at my parents' house for a visit, and when we got home, it took weeks to break that habit. In the future, I always recommend trying as much as possible to keep the sleep environment as close to your home sleep environment as possible and try not to start new sleep habits that you don't want to continue at home.
Those are just SIX of my travel mistakes with my kids. But I can say that I'm proud I at least venture out with my kids and I'm not afraid to fly with them or take long road trips with them, even by myself. We learn from our mistakes, and we have fun! Thankfully, my kids are great travelers. So don't be afraid to venture out with your little ones. Chances are, it will go better than you think, and it will create wonderful memories.
If your child does get off track with their sleep after a trip, it should only take a couple of days to get them back on track once you get home, so don't stress about it. If you want help, I have a Sleep and Travel Guide that gives tips for traveling and getting good sleep for airplane rides, road trips, beach trips, and a list of my top 10 products for baby and toddler travel. And I also offer a 30 minute consultation before your trip to help you talk through and schedule or sleep challenges you might face on your trip, or tips for getting back on track after the trip!
Do you have any travel stories or mistakes to share? If so, drop them in the comments.
All parents have been there- the dreaded car nap. You're on your way home, and it's not quite nap time yet, and you notice your little one is snoozing away. While some babies hate being in their car seats, for many babies and toddlers, the motion, vibration, and sounds of being in the car will lull them to sleep easily. Unfortunately, even if that car seat nap was only 5 minutes long, it can relieve your child's sleep pressure and make their real nap or bedtime more difficult. Here's how to handle car seat naps:
1. Let your child sleep for as long as you can. The goal is to get as close to a full nap as possible. If you can drive around, or even swing by a Starbucks and grab a treat for yourself, go for it. I have literally driven around my neighborhood over and over for an hour, just to extend my child's car seat nap. While a moving car seat nap isn't ideal, and isn't as restorative as a nap in your child's crib, it's better than nothing. If you know you'll be traveling during a nap time, plan to leave a little early if you can and drive around longer to give your child as close to a full nap as possible.
2. Attempt a transfer. Some babies will transfer from the car seat to their bed seamlessly (especially younger babies). And if the transfer is unsuccessful and they fully wake up when you get in the house, some babies will be fine with a condensed version of their bedtime/naptime routine and put them back down and go right back to sleep.
3. Extend their wake time when you get home. If you can't prolong the car nap or make a successful transfer at home, you will likely need to do a full wake window (or close to it, depending on the length of the nap) before putting your child down again.
4. Wake your baby up in the car. If you notice your child starting to drift off in the car and can catch it before they've been asleep for a few minutes, you may be able to keep them awake by rolling down the windows, playing high energy music, and singing or talking to them. Just make sure you stay focused on driving.
5. Plan ahead. Plan travel for right after naps, instead of before naps, if possible. If you know you'll be driving home late at night or close to bedtime, you can even put your child in a new diaper and their pajamas before your drive home, so the transfer to the bed is easier.
SAFE CAR SEAT SLEEPING
I'll admit that I didn't know this when my first was a baby, until someone pointed it out to me - It is not safe to allow a baby to sleep in the car seat unless the car seat is properly installed in a vehicle and the baby is properly strapped in. It's common to want to pull the infant carrier car seats out of the base and bring them inside to allow them to finish a nap. If you see a friend or family member allowing their baby to sleep in the car seat outside of the car, tell them it's not safe. They may not know.
Sleeping in a car seat while not installed in a moving vehicle is dangerous and can put a baby at risk for positional asphyxiation.
It is not safe to add anything to the car seat with the baby, such as positioners, unless it came with the car seat. It is not safe to add blankets or coats under the straps of the car seat.
If you have a travel system with a stroller attachment, it is safe to allow the baby to sleep in the infant car seat while properly strapped in and properly installed into the stroller that came with the car seat.
CLICK HERE to read more and take an online course called Safe in the Seat that teaches parents car seat safety.
Another danger of car seat sleeping is forgetting a child in the car. Hot car deaths are tragic and too common, especially when parents are sleep deprived. Set your phone in the back of the car so you will have to go open the back door to get it when you get to your destination. This article provides more tips for helping prevent hot car deaths with babies and toddlers.