What you need to know about sleep shaping

What is sleep shaping?

Sleep shaping is one of our favorite tools to help new families while we help them as Postpartum Doulas or as they adjust to life with a newborn.

We have spoken a lot about normal newborn sleep patterns, what to expect in your first few weeks with a newborn. Life with a newborn can be challenging and full of unknowns, but when parents have a better idea of what to expect and how to be better prepared.

We know newborns wake often and have to eat often, regardless of if they are receiving breastmilk or formula or a mix of the two. Knowing that, how can you make nighttime better while also safely meeting your baby’s safety and food needs?

Enter sleep shaping

It is important to note that sleep shaping is NOT sleep training. Sleep shaping is a skill that you can utilize to help your baby sleep longer stretches once they are ready, but before they are old enough to sleep train.**

This is not a deal where you force your baby to miss feeds or go longer stretches, sleep shaping is a gentle transition that allows your baby to slowly lengthen their sleep stretches. Newborns wake often and tend to sleep round the clock or maybe more during the day and less at night.

How do you sleep shape a baby??

The best way to do this is to first, get past the first few weeks before starting stretches. In those early weeks, your milk supply is regulating (if you’re breastfeeding or pumping) and your baby will need to eat often, but do not hesitate to follow their lead. You may begin to see a natural schedule in those first few weeks, take note.

As your baby starts to naturally lengthen their sleeping times, when they wake you can work on gently soothing them back to sleep for a bit longer. If they go back to sleep, then you know they just needed to work on sleeping longer or reconnecting their sleep cycles.

Awake time and going down awake

Another helpful thing you should do is to place your baby down awake from the beginning! This gently teaches them the skill to go to sleep by themselves, meaning without rocking, swaying, bouncing and so on. It will not be as easy in the beginning and may require patting and rocking, but your baby will learn the skill and they can learn it without crying.

If sleep shaping is so amazing, why don’t more parents do it??

Sleep shaping mostly focuses on stretching night time sleep and you guessed it, it can be difficult because it can cause parents to loose even more sleep. Lets be honest, nursing or feeding or rocking your baby to sleep can be a quicker method to get them to sleep VS waking up every time your baby wakes up or stirs and resettling them with patting and shushing. In the long run you are rewarded, but it can be difficult to do this when you are exhausted from working, being a parent, managing a house and caring for a baby. So we get it, it’s a great thing and many parents want to do it, but many parents just want to let their baby do what they do in the first few months and then sleep train as soon as their baby is old enough. Routine with newborns is keys and setting up a nighttime system is key to better sleep!

Keep your eye out for more blogs about sleep with a newborn!

** It is important to note that there are usually strong feelings around sleep training, usually good and bad, we understand and respect that. As long as a baby/toddler is developmentally ready and sleep training is done safely, we 100% support it! We offer live-in sleep training support for families who’s babies are ready for sleep training and families desire in home sleep coaching.

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