In a perfect world, every new parent would be able to afford a night nurse to get through those first few weeks of a baby’s life. Actually, since we’re already fantasizing, every parent would get their own personal Nanny Connie, a.k.a. Connie Simpson, who has raised cared for almost 300 CEO and celebrity babies in their so-called fourth trimester. It’s not that we think parents can’t or shouldn’t be the ones to care for their own kids, but with someone like Nanny Connie around to watch their newborns and get them to sleep, parents could also get a bit of sleep when they so badly need it.
Well, since we don’t appear to be able to redistribute the wealth of the world or to clone Simpson herself, we’ll have to settle for drinking in a bit of her wisdom. Simpson got on the phone with SheKnows recently to share her top tips for getting newborns to sleep at night. Because yes, those babies are going to wake up for feedings until their tummies grow, but from day one you can give them (and yourself) a regular bedtime routine and some quality chunks of shut-eye for everyone.
“After doing this for 30 years, it’s a truly exclusive club that I’ve been able to help,” Simpson told us. “But I felt like this club needed to be expanded.”
This is why she published The Nanny Connie Way back in 2018, why she’s amped up her social media presence, and why high-tech baby monitor company Owlet asked her to speak to even more parents through us. So, though unlike Jessicas Alba and Biel, we can’t have the warm friendly voice of Nanny Connie guiding us through a proper swaddling technique in real time, maybe the following advice will come close.
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Your Essential Newborn Sleep Supply List
“My mom talks about how the top drawer of the dresser was her first bed, and the Moses basket has that name because it was a basket, a laundry basket,” Simpson tells us. “Parents don’t need a lot in the very beginning. All you need to do is have diapers, your breasts, or whatever formula it is that you want to use, and the ability to be OK with failure as you’re learning — because you’re not going to have all the answers in the very beginning.”
OK, but maybe you want a little more than that, so here are some other supplies she suggests to set yourself up for sleep success:
A swaddle blanket: She likes the easy-to-use kind from brands like Aden + Anais or Woombie, that can give them that tight comfort and little chance of breaking free to wake themselves up with a flailing arm or leg.
A “nest”: This means the bassinet, crib, or dresser drawer of your choice. “You need to find one that you can feel comfortable with, and that’s the most important.” (Note: The National Institute of Health’s Safe to Sleep campaign urges parents to use only firm, flat sleep surfaces, not any kind of soft baby positioners, to lower the risk of SIDS.)
A soft baby hair brush.
Music or a noise machine.
Soothing scents from lotion or a diffuser. This is optional, but a nice sleep signaler.
Books to read to baby.
A monitor. Connie is a spokesperson for Owlet, which offers a video camera as well as a sock that monitors heartrate and oxygen levels. If that’s out of your budget, make sure you choose something that is easy to use and won’t accidentally wake up the baby if it runs out of batteries, gets unplugged, etc.
Your Baby Sleep Routine
From day one, you can start doing this with your baby, but don’t worry if you haven’t actually started yet, as research shows it’s still helpful if you start now. We’re not talking about sleep-training newborns here, but about establishing a stress-free routine. Each of these soothing steps signals to baby that it’s bedtime and makes life easier for parents too.
Begin in the early evening, at around 5 p.m. “It’s the witching hour for everyone,” Simpson reasons. “Dinner time, when you’re trying to decompress a little bit from a full day of being ‘on’ for everyone and being the captain of the ship and the rudder of the ship.” Babies pick up on your anxiety during that kind of transition time, which can add to their own overtired fussiness. That’s why everyone will benefit from starting this process early.
First, set up the bedroom. Dim the lights, lay out the PJs, swaddle blanket and nighttime feeding necessities; then turn on the music the music, the baby monitor, the diffuser, humidifier, etc. Fumbling with any of these things later will disturb the soothing nature of the routine.
Give baby a warm bath and a scalp massage. “Even before the umbilical cord drops off, I do the massaging of the head,” she explains of those early, early days when a full bath isn’t quite possible. “If you get your head scratched or if you get a good hair washing, it relaxes you, and that’s the same with an infant.”
The warm water relaxes baby, and that scalp massage can even get rid of their cradle cap, too. Once they’re out of the bath, get them lotioned, clothed, and swaddled, before you sit down and read to your baby — even the littlest ones. All of these things are “triggers,” according to Simpson.
“They connect those dots,” she says. Even if they don’t know what you’re reading to them, they learn that this is all part of bedtime. “That’s why consistency is so important in that bedtime routine.”
After reading and feeding, you can transition them to their nest. Simpson says not to leave the room until they’re asleep. Then you can sneak out. This is where that good monitor will come in handy, because you will want to check on them, but then you risk waking them up and undoing all your hard work.
Siblings: Now Do It All Over, But Different
How do you do all this when you also have a toddler or older kid clamoring for attention? With a lot of patience, firmness, and, if you’re lucky, teamwork.
“You go from man-to-man to zone coverage,” she tells us. (And I assume sports fans understand what that means?) “Your spouse or your partner will help with one, while you’re helping with the other. Then you switch, and you get the other one.”
In order to get both older and younger siblings accustomed to sleeping in the same room, start slowly, she says. “If the older ones are still in a nap process, they need to take a nap in the room with their brother or their sister, to start sharing the room… so then it’s not just all at once.”
Above all, Simpson tells parents not to be too hard on themselves if one child’s sleep process is completely different from the other’s, and definitely not if other parents tell you their babies sleep through the night no problem when yours won’t.
“No two children are alike; just like no two humans are alike,” Simpson says. “That’s what makes the world the world.”
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