Secrets of a Night Nanny
Parenting hacks and tips to maximise sleep and make life with a newborn (or newborns!) that little bit easier!
Each time I work with a new family, it is always fascinating to be reminded of just how unaware new parents generally are. There’s plenty of advice out there if you go looking for it…but what if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Most people know to research birthing and breastfeeding before giving birth, and more so now than ever parents-to-be are looking for education on sleep before their little one arrives. But what about the little tips, tricks and hacks to make life a little easier? You may get passed some advice from friends, but having spent 15 years working with babies, I thought I’d share my top 10 tips to get you through the newborn period.
1. The perfect one-handed scooping solution
Ever wondered what the piece of plastic is that sits diagonally at the top of the formula box? It’s a formual leveller! When your baby is screaming at 2am, you need to make a bottle instanlty but you just can’t put them down? Formula brands have thought of the perfect solution and put it right there in the packaging. No need for knives to scrape away the excess, or indeed two hands. And once you’ve had a baby, anything that you can do single-handledly is a winner.
2. You can never have too many muslins
Many expectant parents receive more muslins than they know what to do with. That all changes once you realise that muslins are the most versatile bit of baby kit. From wiping dribble, to mopping up spills, protecting your clothes from baby sick and lightweight swaddles blankets. They’re also a great as eco-friendly changing pads to go on your mat to catch the inevitable fountain of wee from running off the mat! And as comedian Tom Parry recently said during his interview with Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicome on their podcast ‘Lockdown Parenting Hell’ muslins are f***ing incredible. Just beware the washing.
3. Keep the lights low at night
One thing that I’ve learnt the most from working nocturnally with babies is to protect my own sleep and health as much as possible. As new parents, we often accept that we won’t get much sleep, but by keeping the lights low and screen time to a minimum during the night, it can really help you to fall back to sleep quickly once your baby is fed, changed and tucked in for the next stint. If your baby is only going to sleep for 2 hours, you don’t want to spend an hour of it falling asleep. Plus there’s huge benefits for getting your baby into a night and day routine too.
4. The thin blue line
The yellow strip on the front of your baby’s nappy that magically turns blue at times isn’t just for show. It’s actually an indicator that tells you once your baby has a wet nappy. Although once a bit bigger you can feel the full nappy without the need for an indicator, it’s great for the first few weeks when urine quantities are small but need to be monitored carefully. Especially useful for breastfed babies as it’s often the only immdiate indication as to whether your baby is getting enough milk.
5. Noisy newborns
Newborns are very noisy sleepers – grunting, groaning, gurgling all night long. It’s always the one thing that takes parents that I work with by surprise. Firstly, using some sort of white noise can really help for the first 6 months whilst you’re room sharing can be a life saver. Secondly, knowing these noises are completely normal can help you when considering how to respond. A study from 2018 found that responding to your baby when distressed, but holding back when their noises were not distress calls, was the best balance between achieveing better long term sleep but also good attachment. So before intervening, always check your baby is actually awake and needing you in the night before swooping in.
6. Vest shoulder flaps
Yet another design feature that is not obvious to the pre-parent eye, yet is just as ingenious, is the neck opening on baby vests. Not only does the wide opening make it easier to get it over your baby’s head, it also makes it easier to pull down, avoiding the head altogether. And once you’ve had your first poo-explosion, you’ll know why!
7. Little boy ‘showers’
You may have heard stories from friends about not being a true parent until you’ve been covered in either their wee or poo (or both!). Sadly, that is mostly true and you really are doing well if you can avoid it. A good way to try and prevent an unexpected fountain when changing your little boy’s nappy is to touch the skin just under their belly button with a cold wet wipe before opening. If you’re still worried, you can also try using a well-placed cotton pad or wipe during changing!
8. Sleepy baby, sleepy parents
Some parents wait until the end of a night feed to change the nappy, resulting in a wide awake baby just as you’re about to settle them back to sleep. Others, change first, only to find their nappies are filled midway through the feed. A middle ground I’ve found that works well for the majority of babies is to start the feed, change at least half to three-quarters of the way through a feed, then use the rest of the feed to lull them to sleep without having to disturb them again. Better still, if you’re using a swaddle suit or sleeping bag, make sure you pop them in there for the end of the feed too. The aim of the game is always to get everyone back to sleep as quickly as possible…and this is one of the best ways I know how!
9. There’s not always a burp on the way
Babies do of course get windy, which in itself causes restless nights, and you should always try for 5-10 minutes after a feed to see if your baby has some wind that needs help finding it’s way out. But what if you don’t get a burp? It’s quite common for parents to worry when nothing happens and can spend up to an hour trying. This is wasting valuable sleep time over night, and sometimes there simply is no wind at that time. If you baby squirms a bit after being placed in their sleep space you can always pick them back up and try again…but the chances are they’ll be just fine.
10. Don’t forget the vaseline!
Lastly, (and incase no one mentions this to you during pregnancy!) don’t forget to pack vaseline in your hospital bag. A baby’s first poo called meconium is a very thick, sticky substance that is a nightmare to wipe away…unless you have vaseline! Use it as barrier until your baby’s poo starts to turn yellow and all the meconium has passed.
Do you have any tips or trciks of you own to share? If so, we’d love to hear! Post a comment below or share with us on social media via the links below.
P.S. why so many poppers on sleepsuits?! Choose zips instead!
Blogged by Emma Osborne, Paediatric Sleep Specialist, founder of HushaBoo & Mum to one little boy who tested all my hacks and much more!