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The first sleep

Babies don't know the difference between night and day when they're born. Naturally, this affects your sleep! However, as long as you are prepared for the situation, coping is easier than you think.

Many expectant mums think “I better take the chance to sleep before the baby comes.” But, much to their frustration, they sleep worse than ever when they’re pregnant. You wake up needing to go to the toilet or it’s uncomfortable or it’s painful or you simply can’t sleep.
This is your body preparing you for what’s to come – nights and nights of broken sleep!

Baby needs to feed at night
For the first few months, your baby won’t sleep that well at night, partly due to their inability to tell the difference between night and day, and partly because of their need to feed regularly.

In the beginning, it’s essential for your baby to feed day and night – simply to get your milk production going and to get the nutrients they need. This is a natural instinct.

Follow baby’s rhythm
The best advice we can offer you is to follow your baby’s rhythm, and to sleep and rest when you get the chance. Forget about any “musts”, because there really aren’t any, except to eat properly. Keeping your strength up is especially important if you don’t get a good night’s sleep week after week.

At first, most small babies fall asleep while breastfeeding, completely exhausted by the nutritious food – they lie at your breast or in your arms in some kind of milk-induced coma. Your baby will also happily fall asleep held close to one of his parents, listening to their comforting heartbeat.

You can help your baby distinguish between night and day. In the daytime, let your baby sleep in the daylight. But at night, it should be dark, quiet, and actually quite boring. Don’t talk too much. Nighttime feeding should only take as long as it has to. Don’t change nappies, unless your baby has done a poo. It shouldn’t be fun to be awake during the night. Let your baby know that nighttime is different; it’s when you sleep.

Children should sleep on their backs
Remember that babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. Put your baby to sleep on a firm mattress - do not let them sleep on soft things, like cushions, pillows, blankets, the couch, sheepskins, foam pads, or waterbeds.

Also, don’t let your baby get too hot. Dress them in as much or as little as you would wear. Don’t wrap them in lots of blankets. If your baby is sweating, has damp hair, or a heat rash, they may be too hot. A baby that has a fever, is breathing fast, or is not able to rest, may also be too hot.

For more information on reducing the risk of SIDS, go to www.sids.org.nz .

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