Top tips for newborn settling

Written by Natasha Duffin from Sound Asleep Baby

Settling a newborn is all about replicating the familiar womb environment, to make them feel safe and secure. Imagine the womb environment for a moment; tucked up tight, warm, being gently swayed and the sound of your heartbeat and muffled constant noise of internal workings, like blood rushing past. When you think about it like this, it’s no wonder they often need ’help’ to fall asleep, right?

A good way to remember what they need is the five S’s:

  • Sway (or rocking/bouncing): motion will help them calm and fall asleep, because it’s so familiar. In utero they would have been constantly lulled to sleep by your movements whilst you went about your day.
  • Side lie: belly to belly cradled in your arms, brings them close to the sound and feel of your heartbeat.
  • Shhhh-ing (or white noise): replicates the muffled sounds familiar to them in the womb. Make sure its loud, about the level of a hairdryer when settling, especially when unsettled. You can turn it down once they are asleep, but leave it on.
  • Swaddle: dampens the startle reflex that can cause them to wake, but also makes them feel all tight and secure, like in the womb.⠀
  • Sucking: starts at 16-weeks gestation, so by the time your newborn is earth side, they’ve already been practising this skill for some time. So, it’s familiar and comforting. You might want to feed or use a dummy to help calm them when upset or to help them fall asleep (but I advise against letting them sleep with it in their mouth if possible).⠀

I have a brand new eBook with ALL the info you need to help your newborn sleep. Head to the link in my bio @soundasleepbabyau to download your copy now and let me know the thing you’ve struggled with most with your newborns sleep?

Hi, I’m Tash. I’m an Occupational Therapist working in infant and early childhood sleep and feeding, mum of three little kids and the founder of Sound Asleep Baby. My passion for helping families with their little ones sleep came from difficulty with my first child’s sleep.

Having lived and breathed all the feelings that come with sleep difficulty and sleep deprivation first hand. I know how it absolutely permeates every aspect of our lives. 

I started out on my sleep journey learning about the traditional ‘sleep training’ model, where intervention is based on a behavioural model, assuming that the sleep difficulty stems from a behavioural problem. What I soon discovered, through personal experience, meeting some amazing professionals and study, is that this is not always the case. Sleep difficulty is very often the ‘symptom’, not the underlying problem. To fix the problem you have to look at the why, which is where my training as a health professional in both paediatric feeding and sleep comes into play.

As an OT my view is that sleep is an essential occupation for both parents and children. When we sleep well, we are more likely to be able perform all our occupational roles (parent, wife, employee, friend, son, daughter, community member) to the best of our abilities. It lays the foundations for our children’s development, mental and physical health. Sleep is just as important as physical exercise and nutrition; it is a biological imperative, not a luxury. Which is why a strongly believe there should be no guilt or anxiety around asking for help. Don’t feel ‘selfish’ for wanting more sleep for you or your child, you are simply setting up great foundations for optimal health.

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