How A Pediatrician Mom Educates Newborn Parents About Sleep
Families depend on pediatricians to guide them to sleep! Through the years, I’ve heard some not-so-great stuff, and when I find families who love their pediatricians, I love hearing about them!
Social Media is quickly becoming a wonderful resource for parents to connect with professionals to help their parenting journey. I think this is a HUGE reason to celebrate being a parent in 2019! So many ways to access great information and connect with real people! Dr. Hillary Lewis of Pediatricians of Dallas is one of those valuable resources on Instagram! We chatted together LIVE a few weeks ago, and I instantly knew this message needed to be shared with other parents.
I invited Dr. Lewis on to speak with me specifically about what message she could share with parents about sleep training. Here’s our conversation!
“I always tell families this is for your child. It’s important to have healthy habits and it’s a gift to the whole household when you sleep! I think we think it’s selfish to want to get your kid to sleep later, but it’s a mindset shift. We need to serve their needs. And if they sleep better, you sleep better. It’s a win-win.
With that in mind, all children are different. Not every baby is going to sleep 11 hours by 2 months. But we have to set up for success from the beginning!”
Dr. Lewis and I connected about the Newborn Course which is not sleep training, but setting these foundations for parents and educating them on safety for newborn sleep...which Dr. Lewis reviews first and foremost with her patients!
“When I meet with a newborn parent, our focus is on safety, which is paramount. Then we focus on incorporating healthy habits to create a great environment for longer stretches of sleep.
Many parents are already aware, and very cautious, of SIDS. And I praise them for educating themselves and on their awareness. It’s important to validate this concern, but separate caution from worry.”
With every newborn parent visit Dr. Lewis reviews the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations: provide a firm and flat crib surface, free from blankets, pillows and all other soft objects so that if and when they do roll, they won’t have anything impeding their ability to breathe. (See AAP guidelines here)
And while monitors like the Owlet and Angel Care are popular for parents, Dr. Lewis wants parents to understand it’s not a guarantee.
“There’s also not a lot of evidence proving that monitors prevent SIDS. You can certainly use it if you want, but it should not be used as an excuse to provide an unsafe sleeping environment. For instance, placing your baby on their tummy, but thinking it’s okay because you have your monitor. Back to sleep is always the recommendation for babies!”
So you’ve got a safe environment for baby- check! What’s next?
“Now that we’ve conquered safe sleep habits, it’s time to move on to healthy sleep habits that influence a longer night’s sleep. Once your baby has gained their birth weight back, they can sleep for as long as they want!”
This is good news for many parents!! And a reminder for you to continue to check back with your Pediatrician as baby grows between check-ups. Home scales such as this changing pad + scale are available, but pediatrician visits for routine well child checks are paramount.
“Once we’re good to allow for longer stretches of sleep, we discuss the differences between daytime and nighttime rhythms. They’ve been in the dark for 9 months! Their brains aren’t giving normal cues yet and aren’t producing melatonin, so it’s our job to provide little cues to help them learn these rhythms. Some babies learn quickly, and others take more time. And that’s okay!
During the day when baby is awake, turn on the lights and expose baby to natural light. During night wakings, use dim lighting.”
Even as baby grows to 4-5 months and there may be one night feed, we want to encourage that feeding happens alert, to ensure a food for nourishment not for sleep expectations. Cuing a low light is part of that process! Dr. Lewis agrees working on trying to put your baby down awake when possible is a good thing to prioritize after 2 months.
Why wait until 2 months? So often those early weeks are full of snuggles, a super sleepy baby, and no strict schedule. It’s nearly impossible to have all feeds awake in those early weeks.
“I want families to enjoy the newborn period and the fact that you don’t have to be on a strict schedule. And if we can begin to model healthy sleeping behaviors for our children at a young age, we model other healthy behaviors for them as well because SLEEP is one of the best ways to take care of ourselves.”
I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Lewis! Sleep is absolutely one of the best ways we can prepare our babies to have a healthy, happy life. And...for mom to be happy, healthy and well-rested!