Foster Baby and Sleep
It is hard enough when you have a new baby and you are waking every night to feed and comfort them as they get used to life on this side of the womb. There comfy dark warm and cozy spot has been taken away and now they are exposed to the harshness of this world, the lights and sounds, the hustle and the bustle. This shock can be to much to bear for some of these babies but they have their mothers there to comfort and soothe and eventually get them to sleep.
What happens when their mothers arms are not there? Trauma.
What happens when their brains have been altered due to prenatal substance exposure to drugs and alcohol? What happens when they have to spend the first several weeks or months of their lives in the NICU detoxing?
Have had their needs neglected and they are used to being starving in the night ? Or when they have been shaken or physically abused?
No matter the reason babies come into care there is some level of trauma and we cannot expect that they will sleep well. If a baby does sleep well than count your lucky stars because they certainly defy the odds.
I want you to go into fostering babies with the mindset that it will likely be difficult. They have a lot to overcome right from the get go. I do not recommend any sort of cry it out method, expecting super long naps, or even to be sleeping through the night anytime soon. Then that is not the case then you will be pleasantly surprised.
Many foster parents are new parents as well so I shared these tips in my 9 tips on how to get your baby to sleep as well!
So what can we do to help get our foster babies to sleep?
- Set yourself up for success, make you have good self care strategies in, you carve out pockets of time in the day for naps. Have a partner or friend for relief. And buy all the soothing things. Here is a great list of items I have used and still use.
White Noise Machine
Projector with Sound
I used to use the Fisher Price Rock n Play and swore by it but it has been recalled 🙁 So I will be trying out this soothing bassinet next baby we have.
- Routine – Keep your bedtime and naptime routine consistent. Do the same thing every time. Your baby will know what to expect and it will help them to wind down and prepare for sleep. Bath, massage, read a book, sing a song, turn on white noise, swaddle, nurse/bottle/soother, rock, place in crib drowsy. This is my basic routine. I will change it up slightly depending on the baby I am caring for but I do this every night, and every nap time. I make sure I am consistently home for nap time as much as possible. Life happens and the odd stroller or car ride nap will happen and some babies are better at this then others. Overall trying to be home consistently for naptime will really help if you have a baby struggling with their sleep.
- Happiest Baby on the Block – Read this book. I promise it will help. Knowing approximate awake times for each age is mega helpful!
- Swaddle – I know the swaddling recommendation comes and goes and is super popular in some circles and completely frowned upon in others. Here are my 2 cents. Babies are squished inside your womb for 9 months. Babies have a startle reflex. Babies like to be warm and cozy. Swaddling mimics a warm, cozy squished womb, and doesn’t allow the startle reflex to startle them! Swaddle your baby if she/he is having trouble sleeping.
- Shush – Did you know that what your baby hears inside of you is the equivalent of having a vacuum cleaner beside your ear? Loud, sudden, abrupt noise can startle sensitive babies. Constant noise like what they have heard for the past 9 months will help them to sleep. Get a white noise machine. Personally, we use a fan. My kids are 2, 3, 3 and 5 and they still sleep with fans….so do I.
- Suck – Sucking is a calming technique for babies. Breastfeed, use a soother, let them find their fingers. I will let you be the judge of which option to use but let your baby suck.
- Sway – Again back to the womb. You didn’t sit still for 9 months, your baby is used to your movements. All of a sudden you stick them in a crib and they are still. They don’t get it and they don’t like it. That will come in time, but right now being still is not what will clam them. Use a swing, rock and play, your arms etc. Try and put them down in a crib/bassinet super drowsy but not asleep. Sway til you get to that point.
- Pat their bum – May seem a little silly, but it mimics a heartbeat and for whatever reason, it really works!
- Black Out Curtains – Guess what? Light doesn’t peak through your belly button. It is pitch dark in there. Mimic that.
- Sleep breeds more Sleep – Please do not keep your baby up all day in hopes that they will sleep at night. It simply does not work. All that does is makes your baby overtired and cranky and disturbs their natural sleep cycles. If they are overtired it is very hard for them to get into the deep sleep phase. It may seem like an odd piece of advice but it is true, the more well rested a baby is the easier it is to get them to sleep.