Sofiya Chats with a Newborn Sleep Consultant

November 1, 2021

Miss B is going on three months. Where did the time go? 

Since I last connected with you, she’s been sleeping much better and I can attribute that to a number of factors:

  • A warm bath at the same time before bed (to calm baby – and we all know that a calm baby means a happy mama).
  • A sleep sack to keep Miss B cozy in her crib.
  • A white noise machine to lull her to sleep.
  • An early bedtime – between 6 and 7 p.m. (the more baby sleeps the better baby sleeps).
  • The dream feed at 11 p.m. to help lengthen the stretch of night sleep.

I also engaged the help of an expert newborn sleep specialist. What a life changer!

In my last blog post, I reflected on the first six weeks of Miss B’s life and how it truly changed my perspective on parenting. It was not the easy-peasy experience I thought it would be. In fact, it was challenging – and that surprised me as I was the one many mothers would come to for newborn advice. 

It got me thinking a lot about newborn sleep struggles and how so many moms go through similar situations. After a lot of research, and thinking about my next steps, I finally reached out to Certified Child Sleep Consultant Rachel Ross, founder of Fast Asleep Consulting.

Below, I’ve shared my questions for Rachel, along with her answers.  If you’re challenged by your newborn’s sleep patterns, you’ll want to read this.

Tell readers about yourself and your business. How long have you been a newborn sleep specialist? Tell me more about the clients you serve.

My name is Rachel Ross. I’m a Certified Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Fast Asleep Consulting, a practice dedicated to helping families with little ones who need help falling asleep, staying asleep, or napping. I offer customized sleep plans based on the needs of the parents and children I work with. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to sleep! Every situation is unique, and to find sleep success, you need the right approach along with the support and guidance of an experienced sleep professional. I love what I do and am honoured to help parents achieve their goal of a well-rested family.

I’m a mom of two myself, so I know how hard it is when you are sleep-deprived and trying to ensure your child is getting the healthy sleep they need. And I also know how much easier it is and how much more you can enjoy being a parent when your whole family is getting enough sleep! 

For the last five years, I’ve worked with families with babies, toddlers, and young children who are struggling with sleep. It could be that they have difficulty falling asleep or can only fall asleep in a way that isn’t sustainable for the family. They may have multiple night wakings (other than those necessary wakings to feed during the night when babies are young). Other issues are mornings that are way too early, short or missed naps, nighttime fears, night terrors, bedtime struggles, kids not sleeping in their own beds all night, and more.

At what stage of a newborn’s life do you typically hear from parents?

I often hear from parents when their little ones are anywhere from six to 16 weeks old. Parents will contact me because their babies are not sleeping for more than an hour or two at a time or are barely napping during the day. When babies are getting closer to 16 weeks of age, parents will reach out for help because this is when you start to see signs of the four-month sleep regression. That can throw everything off, even for a baby who was sleeping well up until that point.

What are some signs that parents should engage with a newborn sleep specialist?

There are so many reasons a family with a newborn may want to engage a sleep consultant, such as wanting to set up healthy and safe sleep practices from day one or looking for methods to soothe their baby to sleep more easily. 

If your baby is getting less sleep than is recommended for their age, they will become more and more overtired over time. And the more overtired a child is, the harder it is for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

What age range of children do you help with sleep education and preparation?

During the first few months of a baby’s life, I can give parents information about safe sleep and setting up healthy sleep habits from the beginning. However, babies aren’t ready for sleep training until they are 16 weeks of age, adjusted. Adjusted means that we have to account for babies who are born prematurely. If a little one is born six weeks before their due date, then we wouldn’t begin sleep training until it has been 22 weeks since they were born.

Do you see many parents getting in touch with you prior to the arrival of their baby to educate themselves ahead of time? 

Most parents don’t reach out until after they’ve had their little one, but there are things I wish I’d known about sleep before having my first son! It doesn’t hurt to be proactive and learn everything you can about newborn sleep before having your baby.

Tell us a little bit about newborn sleep schedules and patterns, and some things that can really throw some newborns off?

Newborns need 14 to 17 hours of sleep every day. At first, they may sleep better during the day than they do at night. But once a baby is between six and eight weeks of age, their bodies start responding to darkness and light as ours do. So, after the first eight weeks or so, more sleep will begin to happen at night. 

There is no newborn sleep schedule. For the first few months of your baby’s life, you are simply responding to their cues. Your job is to make sure they are sleeping safely and are not staying awake for too long, causing them to become overtired.

Why can some newborns sleep during the night while others can’t? 

Some newborns can sleep for long stretches right away. Others will wake every hour or two to feed. Other factors that can impact newborn sleep are things like colic, GERD, or PURPLE crying. 

I want every parent of a newborn to know that, as long as your baby is sleeping safely and you are doing your best to make sure they are not staying awake for too long between those periods of sleep, you are doing it right. Don’t compare your baby to other people’s babies or even your other children. The newborn stage is so special, but also unpredictable and exhausting. Keep doing your best and, once your little one is 16 weeks of age or older, you can always use a sleep training response to teach them to sleep well if necessary.

What’s your first piece of advice to parents who are trying to cope with sleep deprivation when they have newborns that aren’t sleeping?

The most important thing for parents of newborns is to make sure their little ones aren’t staying awake too long. Newborns can only stay awake for one to two hours at a time before becoming overtired. So, 45 minutes to 90 minutes after they’ve woken up from their last sleep, you should begin to soothe them for their next sleep. Keeping a baby awake for too long will lead to an increase in hormones in their system that make sleep even harder for them. So my number one piece of advice is to keep those awake windows short!

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