As most new parents recognize, sleep deprivation is part of life with a newborn. Whilst most adults function according to their circadian rhythms, i.e., alert during the day and sleep at night, newborns are not yet meant to work this way. A newborn’s natural sleep pattern is fragmented, allowing for only a few chunks of ‘longer’ sleep in a 24 hour period. They only start to really consolidate sleep after 6 months of age. Parents are often overtired and can become frustrated about the quality and quantity of their sleep.
The current Canadian Safe Sleep recommendations are the following:
Provide a smoke-free environment, before and after your baby is born.
Breastfeeding can protect your baby.
Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, at naptime and night time.
Provide your baby with a safe sleep environment that has a firm surface and no pillows, comforters, quilts or bumper pads.
Place your baby to sleep in a crib, cradle or bassinet next to your bed.
A breastfeeding parent may find it overwhelming to be the only one to offer feeds to their baby every 2-4 hours around the clock for 6 months. Many families admit to bringing their baby into bed with them or falling asleep together on a chair or couch as a ‘survival’ tool to function throughout these first few months, even if they never intended to co-sleep. Because of this, it is important to know and understand how to sleep safely with your infant ahead of time so that if unexpected bed-sharing occurs in the middle of the night, a safe sleeping environment is already ready for the family.
In their book, Sweet Sleep, Wiessenger et.al. discuss why it is not only normal and healthy for babies to wake several times per night, but also how to achieve a safe environment for co-sleeping. It is stressed in the book, that their recommendations are only suitable for a healthy breastfed full-term infant, in a smoke-free, sober environment.
I found the book to be extremely informative for ALL parents as it also discusses a newborn’s physiology and why fragmented sleep patterns are actually protective to the baby and why artificially prolonging sleep with heavy top ups may be dangerous.
For more information on postnatal life and breastfeeding, Melanie Jacobson ND IBCLC is available at Dupont Naturopathic Family Centre on Tuesdays and offers free 15 minute meet and greet visits.
Wiessenger, D., West, D., Smith, L.J., Pitman, T. (2014). Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime
Strategies For The Breastfeeding Family