Infant Sleep Expert Becca Campbell On the 6 Newborn Sleep Tips She Swears By
Becca Campbell, an infant sleep expert, explains that redefining co-sleeping and finding new ways to self-soothe can be the difference between a rough night's sleep and a peaceful night's sleep.
*New mom sleep* is like regular sleep but without sleep, amiright? And if you’ve been struggling with living in this new, very exhausting world of parenthood, then know that you’re not alone. One of the most asked questions in our #MomForce Facebook group is: How do I get my newborn baby to sleep? We know that sleep habits are so important for all ages, so we brought your questions to baby sleep consultant Becca Campbell of Little Z Sleep. Campbell dove into the nitty-gritty of what those sleepless nights look like, talked through some of the bad habits many of us have picked up and explained how every baby really can sleep through the night. Get ready for that baby to go to bed so you can lovingly stare at photos of her face in your Instagram Photo Book Series.
Here are Campbell’s top tips for getting infants to sleep…
Many parents will stress that short naps mean the baby isn’t getting enough sleep. “You know, 45 to 60 minutes is really okay,” says Campbell. “It’s really not a junk nap.” Instead, Campbell recommends parents look at how much awake time their child can handle. Newborns can handle being awake for about 45 to 60 minutes, and then it’s back to sleep. So it’s important to find that pattern of awake time and asleep time for your baby. And remember: All naps are good naps.
Additionally, parents might feel that holding their baby while they're napping will ruin their sleep patterns. “That’s the joy of a newborn,” says Campbell. “It’s okay to hold the baby while they are sleeping.” And honestly, is there anything better than newborn snuggles? *heart eyes*
“I myself don’t teach co-sleeping,” says Campbell. She warns that there are risks of babies going under the covers and other safety hazards associated with co-sleeping. However, Campbell is fine with parents putting their newborns in cribs or bassinets next to their beds. And if your baby coos a lot in their sleep, maybe don’t have the crib right next to your pillow. “I’m not asking you to move the baby to their own room — that’s whenever you’re ready — but maybe a few feet from your head,” Campbell advises. Those little grunts that are the best sounds in the world can quickly turn into a no-sleep soundtrack for every mom struggling with postpartum.
A lot of parents might be all too familiar with driving an extra few laps around the block to keep their babies sleeping in those carseats. And many of you may be asking the same question that we got in our #MomForce Facebook group, which was: How can I get this child comfortable enough to fall asleep? There are a lot of marketing gimmicks out there, according to Campbell. “I try to be anti-container as much as possible,” she says. “In all safe sleep practices, back is best.”
Campbell recommends firm bassinets or cribs, and one of her favorites is the Fisher Price Soothing Motions™ Bassinet.
Campbell uses an analogy of a driver and a passenger when it comes to newborns and sleep. For the first few months of their lives, you are the driver to get your baby to sleep: whether it be rocking, holding, or literally driving to get that baby to fall asleep. Of course, at this time, the baby is the passenger in their sleep habits. Babies that are a little older — around 4 months or so — will start to shift from being the passenger to the driver. They learn to self-soothe. “You teach your baby, when it’s age appropriate, to be in the driver’s seat,” she explains. “Teach them to put themselves to sleep by sucking on their thumb or their two middle fingers, or a stuffed animal.”
This will help babies when they wake up in the middle of the night to recognize that they are their own driver and they will be able to self-soothe to go back to sleep.
The “cry-it-out” method is especially hard for parents because no one wants to leave their helpless baby crying all night. But Campbell says that, once that baby figures out that they are the driver, you’ve got to make a plan. Consistency is the biggest thing in sleep training. “I ask parents to look at why their baby keeps crying,” says Campbell. “If there is no consistency, it’s because you don’t have a plan.”
Campbell advises parents to be as consistent as possible. Don’t half-heartedly attempt sleep training only to give in and get the baby a bottle in the middle of the night when they won’t stop crying. Campbell says that, by the third night of sleep-training, parents should see a light at the end of the tunnel. “I’m incredibly passionate about people doing things with a purpose, and not hitting the reset every single night.”
A lot of parents wrote that they have babies a bit older (12 to 16 months) who, once they are sleep trained, will start waking up at unseemly morning hours (we’re talking 4:00am). Campbell suggests that sleep for these babies is like a math equation. “If that kid is on two naps a day, then the first place it will take away sleep from is the mornings.” For those older babies, it might be time to start moving toward one nap a day.
Additionally, parents will want to take a look at their bedtime and morning routines. Older babies need to start consuming three meals a day. If you’re feeding your children immediately in the morning, they might be waking up earlier because they sense that excitement of food. If you are putting them down in front of the TV before bed or in the morning, you may be training them to have an unhealthy sleep pattern. Evaluating your routine and regulating that routine will give babies much better consistent habits.