For many parents surviving the holiday season with kids of any age can be a challenge. With a new baby this can be even more overwhelming.
There are a number of things on the minds of a new parent when they think huge family gatherings with their new bundle of joy.
There is one topic that is on everyone’s minds, Sleep.
Where will my baby sleep? Won't it be too noisy? Can I put them down? Will I have to leave my events when babe needs to sleep? How will I keep a routine? Will my baby get overtired and overstimulated? I am here to tell you as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and an NDC Accredited Practitioner, infant sleep specialist and as a mum, that you can absolutely enjoy your holiday season and allow bub to remain safe, fed and well-rested.
When it comes to babies and sleep there is a lot of misinformation out there. The fear of
Babies thrive on sensory and changing stimulation. Much like any mammal, a baby needs rich and changing sensory input to help their incredible little brains learn. In fact, if a baby does not get enough of this sensory stimulation they will actually begin to get stressed. Their adrenaline dials up and they can start to cry, fuss, back arch, and scream. This can often be mistaken for overtiredness when in fact this is a baby calling out for a change in the sensory environment. Not necessarily less sensory, just different and often actually more sensory stimulation. Many people think that rocking and singing to a baby is taking them away from sensory stimulation. It actually isn’t.
Rocking offers a baby vestibular stimulation as their body moves in space. Singing offers sounds, words and the vibrations of the adult’s chest. All of these things are actually an increase in sensory stimulation and help to dial a baby down and calm them.
If there is one important thing this pandemic has shown us is that human beings are social
A baby needs to see and be involved in these ever-changing environments to help keep their sensory hunger satisfied. So how better to do that than to enjoy the holiday season.
Of course, many babes can get dialled up and stressed with too many new faces, or with lots going on. It is important to be prepared with things you will need for your events away from home.
The number one thing you need is a BABY CARRIER. This is your tool to help keep your baby calm and connected to you if situations do get a bit much for them.
Ensuring that you have a carrier with you at all times means that if your little one starts to become unhappy you can take them outside, a rich ever-changing sensory world of adventure and settle them with a feed and a walk in a carrier. The carrier also helps to keep bub snug against you. I promise in most situations relatives and friends are far less likely to ask for a hold when a baby is snug in a carrier like a little kangaroo joey. So, if germs are on your mind the carrier is key.
So, what does a baby really need to be able to fall asleep? Firstly they need to be tired. Like really tired. We call this sleep pressure, and there is no point trying to put a baby to sleep if their sleep pressure is not high. Then there is parasympathetic drive. Meaning being relaxed. This is where many parents miss their babes’ cues. Remember your little one needs sensory stimulation to calm them? They need fun and adventure and changing environments to keep them dialled down and content. Thirdly they need security, touch, and comfort from their primary carer. Lastly, they need to be physically comfortable, not hungry or cold etc.
If you are out and about for a family lunch or dinner, consider these four things.
- Is my baby tired enough to fall asleep? If not, then waiting a little longer while keeping them happy and calm will help. Then offering to help them sleep when their sleep pressure is higher.
- Is my baby calm? Finding ways to calm them down before trying to put them to sleep. A feed can be very helpful here. Breast or bottle
- Is my baby in Contact with a primary carer? Time to pop your carrier on!
- Is my baby warm and fed? Offer a feed. Check they are changed and comfy.
If all of these things have come together and your baby is still not sleeping then I am afraid step one is maybe not quite there yet. They are just not tired enough. A baby will not deprive themselves of sleep. In fact, over a 2 week period a baby will take all the sleep they need if all other needs are met.
So, if bub is particularly interested in the events of the day and doesn’t get “enough” sleep for that day then they will likely just sleep more later. One important point I will leave you with is that the events of today do not affect how they sleep that night. They effect the overall two weeks to follow.
Just because bub didn’t sleep much today doesn’t mean you can expect your little bundle to suddenly sleep through the night that night. It just doesn’t work that way. We are not striving to keep them awake or hold their eyes open. We are not pushing them to exhaustion. We are focusing on their cues, doing what we need to keep them calm and content. Keeping in mind that sensory calms a baby when we find the right sensory for them. What we are aiming for is to allow babe to fit in with the fun and exciting events of life and find sleep, when needed in the comfort of a loving carer giver’s arm, among the light, noise, and fun of the day.
I hope this piece gives you the confidence to go and enjoy yourself this holiday season. After the 2 years we have had, you deserve it.
I wish you all a happy holiday season and an amazing new year as you grow and enjoy watching the incredible transformation your baby will make through the new year.
Words: Written and supplied by Jessica Kahan of Holistic Lactation & Sleep Consulting