Gentle Guidance for Settling Unsettled Newborns
Posted: August 30, 2023
Dear BabyRoad families,
I hope you are all going well. You might have a newborn or be expecting so I wanted to share with you some helpful tips for navigating this period of time.
Newborns are quite the little miracles and this time is both absolutely perfect mixed with a lot of the unknown and overwhelm. As a former Paediatric Nurse, an infant and toddler Sleep Consultant for 9 years, Circle of Security practitioner, and Mother of 3 beautiful babes it’s safe to say the last 17 years working with families has given me some great insights into life with a newborn.
So here are my tips for supporting an unsettled Newborn.
Embracing a 4th trimester
Swaddles: Swaddling can mimic the comforting sensation of the womb. Use a lightweight, breathable swaddle and ensure it’s not too tight around the hips. This can help calm a fussy baby and promote sleep.
White Noise: Gentle white or brown noise can create a calming ambience reminiscent of the womb. It masks external noises and aids in soothing newborns.
Cuddle and Skin-to-Skin: Close physical contact helps babies feel secure. Holding your baby against your skin and engaging in skin-to-skin contact can regulate their temperature, heart rate, and breathing.
Motion: Our little ones will often soothe better with movement. This is where a baby carrier can come in really handy. Using opportunities to soothe by movement is a great way for you to get out and about. A little stroll even around the block and some fresh air and sunlight are so important for our own well-being.
The early part of Motherhood is often just one feed blurred into the next. The constant feed offerings are often necessary in the beginning to establish your supply and for bub to learn to feed effectively.
However, after the first few weeks if you find your Newborn is unsettled I actually recommend trying to focus on full feed offerings, then a proper sleep rather than just constant snack feeds, snack sleep.
When your little ones are in that cycle they tend to struggle more with wind and digestion and are often far more irritable as they haven’t had a proper sleep either. When you focus on a good sleep your little one will wake with the energy and appetite to have a better feed.
If your little one falls asleep on feeds, I recommend either rousing them to finish the feed or letting them sleep but then try and preserve that sleep.
If your little one gets really sleepy or drowsy on their feed, which is totally normal in the early days, they are likely to think that is their sleep done and then go on to refuse their nap ahead. This is because they have rested and lost their appetite.
Many people think their newborn has been awake for hours when in fact they’ve been drowsy on feeds, so much so that that is what they are counting as sleep. This is when you can either let them sleep and try to preserve that sleep even if it’s on you or awaken them to finish the feed, then a little more awake time, then off to sleep. Having a little space as an example 2 – 3 hours (if age appropriate) between feeds can also really give your little one the chance to rest and digest.
If your babe is still struggling with the wind, excessive crying etc I cannot recommend enough to get your little ones latch, suck and feeds assessed. Often excessive wind and irritability can be caused by issues around this.
The Gentle Village is a great LC here in Perth that also has extensive experience and education in recognising and treating any greater issues around feeding and unsettled babes.
Ensure you are giving your babes plenty of downtime without being over-stimulated. No need to fill the days with too many activities. Tummy time, chats, time on chest, and sleepy newborn cuddles are perfect.
When it comes to overstimulation rather than getting in your little one’s face, passing them around etc. try slowing things down. Crying is your little one’s attempt to block out external stimulation.
A dim room, white noise, skin-to-skin, babywearing, soft music, popping them down to see if they will sleep, and a walk in the pram can be great ways to lessen the stimulation and in turn, have a more settled babe.
Basically, we want to keep things pretty low-key.
It’s important to note that Newborns may need around 16 – 18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Their awake times may be around 45 minutes – 1.5 hours.
During the day I wouldn’t advise naps to go much longer than 3 hours. This is to help them adjust their day/night circadian rhythm and to offer enough feeds in the day.
During the day I would have a feed and awake time in the bright areas of the house, during the night keep your little ones’ feeds low-key and in a dark or dimly lit room. When your babe wakes or is making noises give them a moment. Make sure your little one is actually awake and needing you before you step in.
Newborns are noisy, they spend up to 75% of their sleep in light surface sleep, so it’s very possible they are having a little grunt or grizzle before resettling.
If you would like to learn more about little ones’ sleep we have a FREE resources section that includes a 30-minute video on Newborn sleep, please feel free to take a look https://gentlesleep.mykajabi.com/lm-free-resources-sign-up. This time is precious but it can certainly leave us feeling out of our depths and well somewhat alone.
Please know that we are always here to help you with your little one’s sleep and settling. We work with little ones from the very beginning all the way through to 8 years of age.
An article from Tara at The Gentle Sleep Specialist.