How to Sleep Better During Pregnancy

You’re tired. You also have a bit of heartburn. Your back hurts, your legs are cramping. Maybe you feel restless, anxious about the future, overwhelmed with so many things going on at once. You might feel short of breath, and find it hard to get comfortable. And then, as you finally start to drift off, you get that uncomfortably-full feeling in your bladder and up we go to the bathroom yet again!

In your first trimester, you’ll find that you feel extra sleepy all the time, which is brought on by high levels of progesterone. Your second trimester might bring a period of peaceful sleep, but don’t get to used to it because when the third trimester comes along, with that beautiful belly getting bigger every day, sleep may seem like a distant memory.

You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep! Help!

Sleep Position:

Lying on your side with your knees tucked in is likely to be the most comfortable position. It also take some stress off your heart, because it keeps the baby’s weight off of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood back to the heart from your feet and legs. Also, if you sleep on your left side, it helps take the pressure of your uterus off your liver. It also helps with digestion and improves circulation to the heart, fetus, uterus, and kidneys.

Pillow Relief:

Some women feel more comfortable with a pillow under their tummy, between their legs, or at the small of your back may help to relieve some pressure. This is something you’ll have to experiment with a bit, and maybe try one of the various “pregnancy pillows” on the market.

maternity pillows

Watch what and when you eat:

Take it easy on the caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, and tea. If you can’t give up your caffeine, try to restrict it to earlier part of the day.

You need to get plenty of fluid and nutrition during the day, but try to avoid eating and drinking a lot within a few hours of bedtime. Eat larger meals for breakfast and lunch, and a smaller meal at dinner. If you’re bothered by nausea, a few crackers before you go to sleep may do the trick.

Relief for Heartburn:

The first step is to avoid foods that trigger heartburn. Some common culprits are carbonated drinks, alcohol, caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, mustard, vinegar, mint products, processed meats, and any foods that are spicy, highly seasoned, fried, or fatty.  Again, eat small, frequent meals, and chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Don’t eat for a few hours before bedtime.  Elevating your head and upper body may help keep stomach acids where they belong.

Create an inviting sleep environment:

If you can get into a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, it will help you fall asleep at night. Try to do something relaxing just before you get into bed, like taking a warm bath, drinking something soothing, like tea with honey, or ask your partner for a little foot massage. Exercising during the day may help your body release pent up energy which will help you sleep at night, but don’t exercise right before bedtime.

Leg Cramps:

No one can sleep through a leg cramp! To make it go away, try pressing your feet hard against the wall or to stand on the leg.  Also, make sure that you’re getting enough calcium in your diet, which can help reduce leg cramps.

Reduce Stress:

If your days are always spent on the go, consider a prenatal yoga class or some other relaxation exercise to help you unwind. If you are worried about the birth or how you will cope with a new baby, a childbirth or parenting class will help you feel more confident about the future. Knowledge, and the company of other women in a similar position, may be comforting and help you sleep better at night.

Take Naps:

Regardless of everything you do, there are times when you just can’t sleep. In these cases, short naps during the day can be a life-saver. Instead of tossing and turning, get up and do something: read a book, catch up on letters or email, put in a load of laundry, wash the dishes. Eventually, you’ll probably feel tired enough to get back to sleep.  Then, you’ll have cleared up some space the next day for a nice hour’s nap!

3 Reasons to Avoid Bottles at Bedtime

If your baby is being bottle-fed, it is tempting to give him a bottle of milk, formula, or juice and let him fall asleep while drinking it, but unfortunately, this is far from being a healthy habit! What could possibly be wrong with such an easy and soothing way to fall asleep?

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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

When babies fall asleep sucking on a bottle of milk or juice, the liquid tends to pool in baby’s mouth, as swallowing and saliva production decrease. Then the sugars in the mouth are converted to acids, which wear down tooth enamel.  The process is gradual, but this type of severe tooth decary begins to be noticeable on the front four teeth around 12-18 months. In severe cases, the teeth turn into brown stumps that are totally decayed.

Maybe you’re wondering: Is this so terrible, since these are “just” baby teeth that will be replaced by adult teeth later on? Dr. Green warns that baby bottle decay can distort the spacing of permanent teeth. Furthermore, these baby teeth are the only ones your child will have during the years when much of his personality and self-image are formed. It is far kinder to help your baby find alternate ways to fall asleep, rather than risk tooth decay.

Some dentists caution against night-nursing, saying breastmilk can cause cavities in the same way that other calorie-containing liquids can. However, studies have shown that night-nursers don’t have any more cavities than children who are already weaned. In fact, breast milk prohibits acid and bacterial growth in the mouth. Furthermore, breastmilk does not generally pool in the mouth since it requires active sucking (and swallowing) to draw the milk out. Night-time nursing is vital, especially for small babies, and should be continued as long as possible.

Bottle Feeding and Ear Infections

Bottles should not be giving to a baby who is lying down flat on his back, as he would be at bedtime. When bottle-feeding in the lying-down position, formula may travel from the back of the baby’s throat up through the eustachian tube into the middle ear, causing ear infections (Dr. Sears). Hold your baby in a partially upright position during bottle-feeding. This helps prevent formula from dripping into the eustachian tubes (March of Dimes).

Furthermore, the vacuum created inside the bottle as the baby sucks can also cause problems in the ear. According to Dr. Brown: Negative pressure generated in the mouth is transmitted up the tube and into the middle ear where, as a result, fluid can build up. The increased fluid can cause hearing difficulties and infections. Interestingly, none of this occurs with breast feeding, which does not create any kind of vacuum and which actually creates positive pressure within the ear. Breastmilk also contains antibodies that help protect a baby from many infections, including those that can cause ear infections.

Bottle-Feeding and Obesity

In a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers analyzed thousands of children, identifying those that were still using a bottle at age 2 as their primary drink container, and/or were put to bed with a bottle with a calorie-containing beverage (milk, formula, juice, etc).

The results show that infants who were bottled fed with calorie-containing beverages until the age of 2 showed a greater propensity toward obesity as they got older. About 23% of prolonged bottle users were obese by age 5.

This may be because bottle-feeding encourages the child to consume too many calories. “A 24-month-old girl of average weight and height who is put to bed with an 8-ounce bottle of whole milk would receive approximately 12% of her daily caloric needs from that bottle,” Rachel Gooze explains.

The authors suggest that pediatricians and other health professionals work with parents to find acceptable solutions for stopping bottle use at the child’s first birthday. Beginning by cutting out night-time bottles is an important first step. (Journal of Pediatrics)

Tips to Stop Night-time Bottle Feeding

  • One idea is to reduce the amount of milk, formula, or juice your baby is consuming at bedtime. You want to get to the point where she can fall asleep without drinking a bottle at all. Gradually reduce  the amount of milk or formula by 30ml per night until there are no more feeds. Depending on baby’s age, you can replace bottle feedings with some other comforting ritual, such as rocking, patting, singing, or reading stories.
  • Another way to reduce the amount of milk/juice your baby is drinking at night is to gradually dilute the feeds with water until your baby is just drinking water. And this may be so boring that he’ stop asking for it altogether!

10 Tips to Help Baby Sleep at Night

As any new parent will agree, getting enough sleep is top priority. Meaning, getting baby to sleep better is top priority. But first, it’s important to remember that babies have different sleep cycles and different sleep needs than adults. Night-waking is inevitable for many months, and even has developmental benefits. But there are ways to make sleep more attractive for your baby, so that gradually he’ll start sleeping longer stretches.

1. Cool it down

Cooling your room down a bit, to around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, may help baby sleep better. If you can’t adjust the temperature, just open the window or turn on the fan. If you want to shorten daytime naps, use this trick in reverse– just keep the room a little warmer. (But never put baby in an overheated room!)

2. Adjust the lights

Babies don’t know they should sleep through the night. Train your child’s internal body clock by dimming the lights towards bedtime, even if he’s not yet ready to sleep. This sends the signal that it’s time to slow down and prepare for sleep. Using the same principle, bring your baby out into the bright sunshine when she wakes up in the morning, and keep your baby’s room brightly lit in the daytime, even during naptime.

3. Use white noise

Is utter silence the only thing that keep baby asleep? Must you speak in whisper, turn off phone ringers, and tiptoe around once baby’s asleep? Actually, the sounds a baby is used to are womb sounds– the swoosh of fluids, digestive sounds, and even your voice, so a silent house can be disturbing. Instead, try playing soothing sounds, such as a nature music CD, a fan, or a TV turned to static. The bonus is, that if there are any sudden loud noises, your baby is less likely to be jolted awake!

4. Fill that tummy

Many babies naturally tend to cluster-feed toward the end of the day. This means that they want to eat more often. For example, if he tends to ask for milk every three hours, start feeding him every two hours after 5 p.m. Just don’t rush your baby to begin solids, thinking that this will fill his tummy better and cause him to sleep longer at night. The “stuffing baby at bedtime” syndrome does not work, and may backfire.

5. Try a massage

It would work for me, so why not baby? Studies show that babies fall asleep faster after a gentle massage. Just pour a little organic, baby-safe oil into your hands, rub palms together to warm it up, and slowly stroke his chest, limbs and back. Use moderate pressure, and try to maintain eye contact—not only is this a great sleep trick, it’s a wonderful way to build your parent-child bond.

6. Swaddle

Have you ever seen a newborn suddenly fling his arms and legs out,  startling himself awake?  Swaddling your baby makes him feel safe and snug, and helps him sleep better.

7. Resist the urge to play

Do pick up your baby when he starts to cry in the middle of the night. It’s a crucial stage for building his sense of safety and trust, knowing that when he calls for help, his needs are met. But here’s the secret: don’t make eye contact. Baby gets excited when he sees his mother’s face- his blood pressure and his heart rate increases. So comfort him but resist his efforts to play.

8. Avoid unnecessary wakings

Newborns will wake up at night to fill their tiny tummies. But well-meaning parents often wake them up unnecessarily. For example, it’s okay to skip diaper changes at night as long as your child is just wet and doesn’t have a rash. If it makes you feel better, use extra-absorbent diapers and a protective layer of cream. There’s also no great need to burp baby after feedings, since babies tend to drink more slowly and peacefully at night, thereby ingesting less air.

9. Get a swing

Babies love movement, and it does help to lull them back to sleep. But instead of rocking your baby to and fro all night long, get a baby swing to do the work for you. Many baby swings also have a “vibrate” function that is calming for colicky babies.

10. Keep baby close

Even if you use a baby monitor, having your little one sleeping down the hall creates difficulties in quick soothing. It’s best to have baby as close as possible, so that the moment he starts to fuss you can calm him down and everyone can get back to sleep. A bassinet by your bed, co-sleeper, or even having baby in bed with you are great for nighttime parenting. For the nursing mother, baby can easily latch on and everyone drifts off back to sleep, barely even waking at all!

reference 10 secrets to get baby to sleep through the night

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The “Stuffing Baby at Bedtime” Syndrome

I bet there’s no parent out there who hasn’t heard the advice to “stuff” your baby with cereal or baby food before bedtime to help him sleep better (by which they mean, not wake up as much during the night.)  But not only does this filler fallacy not work, it may actually create early problems in appetite control, leading to later-on obesity.

Between the ages of six to nine months, babies can begin to taste “real” food, such as mashed banana and rice cereal. But up to a year of age, all the nutrients a baby needs are obtained through breast milk or formula. For a baby that’s nursing, there’s no reason to rush into solid food, which will only be taking the place of more nutritious breast milk.

Despite this fact, there are those who think that solids will fill your baby’s tummy better because they are more, well, solid than milk.  It would be logical to think that baby will wake less often to nurse if his tummy feels fuller. Nevertheless, controlled studies show that infants who are fed solids before bedtime do not sleep through the night any sooner than infants who do not get this extra meal.

Instead of focusing on ways to get your baby to sleep through the night (which, by the way, is defined by five hours of uninterrupted sleep–not eight or ten!) it would help to understand your infant’s sleep patterns, and why frequent night waking is actually beneficial to your baby’s health!  All babies reach the milestone of “sleeping through the night,”  but it is something that will happen when baby is ready.

Source: The Baby Book. See also Dr. Sears online

feature image: WebMD: Common Baby Feeding Problems

Sleep more, Loose weight!

If you want to loose that baby weight, and have any spare time between feedings and diaper changes, you’ll need to work on 3 steps to a slimmer you: Exercise, eat right, and get a good night’s sleep.

“Researchers have presented a conundrum to new mothers, saying that women who want to lose the extra weight gained in pregnancy should try to get more sleep,” according to an article at smh.  “…This study shows that getting enough sleep – even just two hours more – may be as important as a healthy diet and exercise for new mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight,” said Erica Gunderson of Kaiser Permanente, which runs hospitals and clinics in California.  Gunderson and colleagues studied 940 women taking part in a study of prenatal and postnatal health at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

This is not surprising, as studies among the general population also link adequate sleep with weight loss. The Diet Channel points to a link between sleep and the hormones that influence our eating behavior.  When you’re sleep deprived, mixed up hormone levels result is an increased craving for food, while not feeling full.

Bottom line: New mothers who sleep seven hours a night or more loose more weight. (Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.) This is easier said than done, and research is needed in a new area: How to accomplish this with a fitful newborn in the house! Be sure to wake me up when they figure that one out!

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Benefits of Sleeping with your Baby

With a new baby on the way, you often hear talk about decorating a nursery. Have you been busy buying baby paraphernalia (like cribs, mobiles, and crib sheets with matching curtains) and dreaming of your small bundle of joy smiling at the dancing bunnies overhead and she drifts off to sleep? In the USA, when most expectant parents think about nighttime, they imagine placing baby in a crib, dimming the lights, and tiptoeing out of the room, leaving a peacefully slumbering baby behind. Is this the way you picture your baby’s sleeping arrangements?

There is no right or wrong place for baby to sleep. We believe, and Dr. Sears agrees, that wherever all family members sleep the best is the right arrangement for you. But in contrast to the scenario above, over half the world’s population sleeps with their baby, and more and more parents in the U.S. are sharing sleep with their little one.

Dr. Bill Sears’ simple definition of co-sleeping: Mother and baby sleeping within arm’s reach of one another. The closer that mother and baby can sleep together the healthier it is for both of them. Here’s why:

1. Babies sleep better

Sleep-sharing babies usually go to sleep and stay asleep better. Being parented to sleep at the breast of mother or in the arms of father creates a healthy go-to-sleep attitude. One of our goals of nighttime parenting is to teach baby learns that going to sleep is a pleasant state to enter.

Put yourself in your baby’s shoes. A baby passes from deep sleep into light sleep as often as every hour. For a small baby, this is a vulnerable period for nightwaking, and it is difficult for baby to resettle on his own into a deep sleep. You are a familiar presence, whom baby can touch, smell, and hear. Your presence reassures baby that “It’s OK to go back to sleep.” A familiar touch, perhaps a few minutes’ feed, and you comfort baby back into deep sleep without either parent or baby fully awakening.

Explains Dr. Sears:

Many babies need help going back to sleep because of a developmental quirk called object or person permanence. When something or someone is out of sight, it is out of mind. Most babies less than a year old do not have the ability to think of mother as existing somewhere else. When babies awaken alone in a crib, they become frightened and often unable to resettle back into deep sleep. Because of this separation anxiety, they learn that sleep is a fearful state to remain in (not one of our goals of nighttime parenting).

2. Mothers sleep better

Many mothers and infants are able to achieve nighttime harmony: babies and mothers get their sleep cycles in sync with one another.

Martha Sears notes: “I would automatically awaken seconds before my baby would. When the baby started to squirm, I would lay on a comforting hand and she would drift back to sleep. Sometimes I did this automatically and I didn’t even wake up.”

Contrast sleep-sharing with the crib and nursery scene. Baby awakens alone out of touch. He first squirms and whimpers. Finding himself still alone, baby’s cry escalates into a piercing wail that jolts mother awake and sends her staggering reluctantly down the hall. By the time mother reaches the baby, baby is wide awake and upset, mother is wide awake and upset, and the comforting that follows becomes a reluctant duty rather than an automatic, nurturing response. It takes longer to resettle an upset solo sleeper than it does a half-asleep baby who is sleeping within arm’s reach of mother. And mother may be wide-awake by now and too jittery to fall back asleep herself.

Dr. Sears explains: If, however, the baby is sleeping next to mother and they have their sleep cycles in sync, most mothers and babies can quickly resettle without either member of the sleepsharing pair fully awakening. Being awakened suddenly and completely from a state of deep sleep to attend to a hungry or frightened baby is what leads to sleep-deprived parents and fearful babies.

3. Breastfeeding is easier

In order to preserve sanity, most veteran breastfeeding mothers have learned that sharing sleep makes breastfeeding easier. They often wake up just before the babies awaken for a feeding. By being there and anticipating the feeding, mother can breastfeed baby back to a deep sleep before baby (and often mother) fully awakens.

(Note: Breastfeeding mothers find it easier than bottlefeeding mothers to get their sleep cycles in sync with their babies.)

Dr. Sears explains:

Mothers who experience daytime breastfeeding difficulties report that breastfeeding becomes easier when they sleep next to their babies at night and lie down with baby and nap nurse during the day. We believe baby senses that mother is more relaxed, and her milk-producing hormones work better when she is relaxed or sleeping.

4. It’s contemporary parenting

Sleep-sharing is even more relevant in today’s busy lifestyles. As more and more mothers, out of necessity, are separated from their baby during the day, sleeping with their baby at night allows them to reconnect and make up for missed touch time during the day. As a nighttime perk, the relaxing hormones that are produced in response to baby nursing relax a mother and help her wind down from the tension of a busy work day.

5. Babies thrive

Dr. Sears explains: Over the past thirty years of observing sleep-sharing families in our pediatric practice, we have noticed one medical benefit that stands out; these babies thrive . “Thriving” means not only getting bigger, but also growing to your full potential, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Perhaps it’s the extra touch, in addition to the extra feedings, that stimulates development (yes, sleep-sharing infants breastfeed more often than solo sleepers).

6. Parents and infants become more connected

One of your early goals of parenting is becoming connected with your baby. Infants who sleep with their parents (some or all of the time) during those early formative years not only thrive better, but infants and parents are more connected.

7. Reduces the risk of SIDS

New research is showing that infants who sleep safely nestled next to parents are less likely to succumb to the tragedy of SIDS. (Yet, because SIDS is so rare– .5 to 1 case per 1,000 infants– this worry should not be a reason to sleep with your baby. For in depth information on the science of sleepsharing and the experiments showing how sleep benefits a baby’s nighttime physiology, click here.)

image from cornerstork

Sleepsharing is an optional attachment tool. Co-sleeping does not always work and some parents simply do not want to sleep with their baby. You are not bad parents if you don’t sleep with your baby, but you should try it. If it’s working and you enjoy it, continue. If not, try other sleeping arrangements (an alternative is to place a crib or co-sleeper adjacent to your bed).

Dr. Sears explains:

New parents often worry that their child will get so used to sleeping with them that he may never want to leave their bed. Yes, if you’re used to sleeping first-class, you are reluctant to be downgraded. Like weaning from the breast, infants do wean from your bed (usually sometime around two years of age. Click here for tips on transitioning kids to their own bed). Keep in mind that sleep-sharing may be the arrangement that is designed for the safety and security of babies. The time in your arms, at your breast, and in your bed is a very short time in the total life of your child, yet the memories of love and availability last a lifetime.

Visit Dr. Sear’s website for more information on sleep-sharing:
Our Co-sleeping Experiences
Our Experiments
Co-sleeping Research
Stories From Co-Sleeping Parents
7 Benefits of Co-sleeping: Medical and Developmental
Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet
Co-Sleeping and SIDS
Co-sleeping Safety
Sleep Safety

Sleeping Safely with your Baby

People will often point out things you should or should not be doing with your new baby… “You hold him too much, you’ll spoil him! You should give her solids, she’ll sleep better at night! You should dress him more warmly! You should take off those blankets! What, you let your baby sleep in bed with you? Don’t you know how dangerous that is?!”

I slept with my daughter until she was two and expecting my second child. Now I sleep with my 5-month old son and have no plans yet to move him out of my bed. When people comment on it, I reply that I like having him close by. Yes, it’s slightly uncomfortable to sleep with him next to me (my arm gets numb and tingly if it’s wrapped around him too long, my back hurts when I’m curled around him in a funny position, or when I fall asleep feeding him…) but for me that’s better than having to get out of bed and go to his room a few times a night to feed him. I like that he’s so close by I can sense him wriggling around and can feed him before he wakes up completely. I like to know he’s right there next to me and that he’s OK.

For those who are unaware of the facts, sleeping with your baby in bed may indeed sound like a dangerous practice. What if she falls off or gets stuck between the mattress? What if one parent rolls onto the baby, or she gets smothered by a pillow or blanket? But when you examine the reality of the situation, it’s apparent that sleeping with your baby in a safe manner may actually be healthier for her than putting her to sleep alone in a crib.

Dr. Sears points out that the incidence of SIDS is dramatically higher in a crib versus a parent’s bed. Although there are cases of accidental smothering and entrapment, such situations are very rare. The September/October 2002 issue of Mothering Magazine presents research done throughout the whole world on the issue of safe sleep. They conclude that not only is sleeping with your baby safe, but it is actually much safer than having your baby sleep in a crib. Infants who sleep in a crib are twice as likely to suffer a sleep related fatality (including SIDS) than infants who sleep in bed with their parents.

Instead of warning parents not to sleep with their babies, Dr. Sears advocates teaching parents how to sleep safely in bed with their babies. Much of this is common sense, but here are the guidelines he suggests:

  • It is unlikely for baby to fall out of bed while sleeping next to mother. Dr. Sears compares it to a heat-seeking missiles; babies automatically gravitate toward a warm body. But to be on the safe side, place baby between mother and a guardrail or push the mattress flush against the wall and position baby between mother and the wall. Be sure there are no crevices that baby could sink into.
  • Place baby adjacent to mother, rather than between mother and father. Many mothers feel they are so physically and mentally aware of their baby’s presence even while sleeping, that it’s extremely unlikely they would roll over onto their baby. Some fathers, on the other hand, may not enjoy the same sensitivity of baby’s presence while asleep; so it is possible they might roll over on or throw out an arm onto baby. After a few months of sleep-sharing, most dads seem to develop a keen awareness of their baby’s presence.
  • Place baby to sleep on his back.
  • Use a large bed, preferably a queen-size or king-size. A king-size bed may wind up being your most useful piece of “baby furniture.” If you only have a cozy double bed, use the money that you would ordinarily spend on a fancy crib and other less necessary baby furniture and treat yourselves to a safe and comfortable king-size bed.
  • Some parents and babies sleep better if baby is still in touching and hearing distance, but not in the same bed. For them a bedside bassinet or co-sleeper is a good option. This arrangement gives parents and baby their own separate sleeping spaces yet, keeps baby within arm’s reach for easy nighttime care. Dr. Sears suggests the Arm’s Reach® Co-Sleeper® Bassinet (
  • Do not sleep with your baby if:
    1. You are under the influence of any drug, alcohol, or tranquilizers. If you are drunk or drugged, these chemicals lessen your arousability from sleep.
    2. You are extremely obese. Obesity itself may cause sleep apnea in the mother, in addition to the smothering risk.
    3. You are exhausted from sleep deprivation. This lessens your awareness of your baby and your arousability from sleep.
    4. You are sleeping on a cushiony surface, such as a waterbed or couch.
  • Don’t allow older siblings to sleep with a baby under nine months. Sleeping children do not have the same awareness of tiny babies as do parents, and too small or too crowded a bed space is an unsafe sleeping arrangement for a tiny baby.
  • Don’t overheat or overbundle baby. Be particularly aware of overbundling if baby is sleeping with a parent. Other warm bodies are an added heat source.
  • Don’t wear lingerie with string ties longer than eight inches. Ditto for dangling jewelry. Baby may get caught in these entrapments.
  • Avoid pungent hair sprays, deodorants, and perfumes. Not only will these camouflage the natural maternal smells that baby is used to and attracted to, but foreign odors may irritate and clog baby’s tiny nasal passages.

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