Today we welcome Nicole Johnson, the Lead Sleep Consultant from The Baby Sleep Site to The Crunchy Mommy. Getting babies to sleep more and better is a popular topic and here’s what an expert has to say!
While baby wearing is a great way to get through the fourth trimester and bond with your baby, some parents worry that baby wearing may negatively impact sleep. Some parents worry that their baby won’t sleep without them while others worry their baby won’t get adequate sleep unless in a crib. Neither things are true! Baby wearing and sleep can go hand-in-hand.
3 Ways To Help Baby Get More Sleep While Baby Wearing:
Mind the Sleep Schedule and/or Awake Time
Newborn babies can’t stay awake very long between sleep periods (think an hour or less) while older babies can stay awake 2-3 hours at a time. Knowing the appropriate sleep schedule expectations for your baby’s age can do wonders to maximize sleep. Keep in mind that keeping your baby awake too long can lead to short naps and more frequent night-waking. So, ensuring your baby is not over-tired before the next sleep period is one key to better sleep.
Taking that a step further, you can plan your baby wearing around the next sleep period. For example, if your baby can comfortably stay awake for 2 hours before their first nap and you’d like to take your older child to the park, you can start walking to the park around the 1 hour 45 minute mark, so your newborn will fall asleep on the way and allow you to interact with your older child at the park. You can hold your toddler’s hand or watch your toddler go down the slide a million times and really be in the moment.
Also, if your baby is 4-8 months old, he or she may still be taking a third nap in the late afternoon. This third nap of the day is very often “on-the-go” even if all the other naps are, in fact, in a crib or bassinet. This late afternoon nap is a great time to go do some shopping or go on a walk with your baby in the carrier. It’s a great way to get some exercise in, get some fresh air, and bond with your baby. My toddler used to chase me around the island in my kitchen while I put the baby to sleep in the sling, for example. It was both fun for my toddler and soothing for my youngest.
Tame the Evening Fussiness, Colic and Reflux
Evening fussiness at night is very normal for many newborns, but baby wearing can be a great way to help your baby get to sleep on time but without the fussiness or crying. Your baby was held in your womb for 9 months and when he or she first comes out, lying flat does not necessarily come naturally. Being upright in a carrier can help tame the evening fussiness and get your baby some sleep in the evening when you might be having dinner with your significant other or putting older children to bed.
Furthermore, many babies are struggling with colic and reflux and keeping your baby upright in a carrier can ease their symptoms. After your daytime, naptime, or bedtime feeding, you can put your baby in the carrier to keep him or her upright to let the milk settle before you put them down for sleep. If your baby is more settled at sleep times, he or she may sleep more soundly for naps and at night. Usually, the better they nap during the day, the better they sleep at night. We call that setting them up for success!
Encourage Awake Time
To maximize sleep, sometimes you want your baby awake. As odd as that sounds, allowing your baby to sleep all day can result in day/night confusion and encourage more time awake in the middle of the night when you hope you are both sleeping. Once your baby is old enough and should stay awake a bit longer between sleep periods, you can choose a baby carrier that can be used with the baby facing out. This can encourage awake time while keeping your hands and arms available for other things like tidying up, putting on makeup, and shopping.
Just because you wear your baby doesn’t mean your baby’s sleep will suffer. Many babies are able to sleep in the carrier sometimes and in their designated sleep space at other times. So, don’t be discouraged from baby wearing just because it might cause sleep problems, because the odds are you can have a baby who sleeps well and is worn some of the time. The benefits of babywearing are clear. And, in my 10 years as a sleep consultant, I can tell you every family’s definition of “success” is different, so find your unique journey to a better night’s sleep.
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help!