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Preparing for Healthy Infant Sleep Prenatally by Dr. Kelsey Alford, DNP, CPNP-PC | Featuring The K Family

As new mamas we prepare a lot during pregnancy! From setting up the photographer to packing a birth bag, it can be a joy to plan for your little one’s arrival. As you are prepping, the one thing you’ll hear both on neighborhood walks or during your baby shower is, “get your sleep now because you won’t be sleeping well again for a very long time!”. I’m here to help you plan a bit for healthy sleep so that period of sleep deprivation won’t be as long and overwhelming. 

Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Setting up the nursery and sleep spaces

When you are making that registry keep in mind that your sweet babe will be spending the first few months in your bedroom. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants should sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for at least the first six months. Their sleep surface can be a bassinet, SNOO, pack n’ play or standard crib.

Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

In addition to having a bassinet it’s helpful to have a number of items that you’ll need overnight close by, such as:

  1. Swaddles (Velcro or Zipper): They can help with the startle reflex. We also want to avoid any soft objects or loose bedding in your baby’s sleeping area. Have a bunch of these since they will get covered in spit up. Stop swaddling as soon as your baby shows any signs of trying to roll over. 
  2. Night light for those midnight feeding sessions to keep the room dim. This helps the baby start to know the difference between days and nights). More on night lights here: https://nestedsleep.com/lets-talk-night-lights-for-babies-and-kids/
  3. Diaper caddy and changing pad. Many people have the changing table in the nursery which is good. You’ll also want a portable changing pad for your room and to move around the house. 
  4. Snacks for the parent doing feedings, believe me you’ll get hangry overnight! The supportive parent can do a lot to prep going into the night, more on that here: https://nestedsleep.com/how-to-involve-your-partner-in-baby-and-child-sleep-care/
Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

How to get your baby on a schedule

So much about parenthood is unpredictable. From pre-conception to your birth plan, it usually doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. It’s a challenge, especially for a Type A mama like myself! But the good news is that the development of your baby’s first schedule, or their circadian rhythm, does have a pattern. 

Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

The development of the circadian rhythm does not fully occur by birth, but rather it really starts kicking into gear by about 2-4 months of age with starting to produce and secrete melatonin (this tells your baby they should get sleepy in the evening). (Yates J. The long-term effects of light exposure on establishment of newborn circadian rhythm. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(10):1829–1830.). Up until this time the most important thing you can do as a new parent is to support their body clock.

Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Here is how you can support the development of your baby’s first schedule:

  1. Light exposure (especially in early morning hours)
  2. Play during the day (tummy time, dancing together, smiles, laughs)
  3. Mom’s diet and breast milk when breastfeeding (if pumping be sure to label bags day vs night): Mamas: make sure you have a relatively predictable sleep schedule as your melatonin is passed onto your baby. Try to go to bed and wake within 1-2 hours every day.
Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Plan your support team

Just as you plan out your OB/Midwife and doula team it can be helpful to plan out how you will support your rest. Some things to think about is who will be taking parental leave and when? Over the last few years I’ve noticed an increase in fathers taking some of their paternity leave in order to prioritize sleep for their families. In addition to taking some leave early on post birth, or adoption, many dads are using the time moms are going back to work, post-maternity leave, to sleep train their babies and prioritize sleep for the whole family. So if your partner can stagger their parental leave that can work really well!

Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Postpartum doula support can also be a really good fit for your family if you don’t have a lot of family close by, your partner doesn’t have a lot of parental leave, and/or you need daytime or nighttime support. A postpartum doula is often trained in caring for both the mom and the baby and can offer a variety of services to help you rest and heal after birth. 

Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Lastly, chat with a sleep specialist! Knowing who your village is even before having your baby can be so helpful. I offer free 15 minute consultations to chat about all the sleep support I provide and decide what support is best for your family. You can book a free call here: https://nestedsleep.com/discoverycall/

Lifestyle, in-home newborn session with new family of 4 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Dr. Kelsey Alford is a pediatric nurse practitioner, sleep consultant to babies and children ages 0-18 years, certified positive discipline parent educator, and founder of Nested Sleep. She has over 18 years of experience working in the field of pediatrics. She is married and a mom to two kids ages 6 and 8. Her mission is to ensure families don’t have to walk the world of parenthood alone and get the support they need to have happy, healthy, and well-rested kiddos. She lives in the Northern Virginia area and works with families virtually around the world. Follow her on Instagram here! She can also be reached at Kelsey@nestedsleep.com or (206) 588-6304.

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Blaire is a premier Northern Virginia photographer serving: Great Falls; Fairfax; McLean; Arlington; Vienna; Clifton; Alexandria; Ashburn; Oakton; Chantilly; Round Hill; Hamilton; Aldie; Herndon; Haymarket; Manassas; Springfield; Bristow; Sterling; Broad Run; Purcellville; Reston; Gainesville; Burke; Leesburg; Falls Church; Warrenton; Lovettsville; Centreville; Dunn Loring; Waterford; Paeonian Springs; and Washington DC.

 

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