Before having my daughter, Harper, I thought that I had it all figured out. I spent the bulk of the last four months of my pregnancy preparing our house and her nursery, as well as, scraping every little piece of information that I could from every corner of the internet on what to expect after giving birth. I just knew that I had all of my ducks in a row but, the unfortunate truth is, I had no idea just how unprepared I actually was, especially when it came to the subject of baby sleep (or lack thereof). Looking back now I think: What was I thinking??
Newborns and Sleep Patterns
The truth is nobody is ever 100% prepared for parenthood. You can read every book, attend every class and talk to every expert on the subject but, nobody truly understands just how exhausting those first few weeks can be. Sometimes you just have to experience it in order to understand and, this is no exception. So, for those of you heatedly searching for any baby sleep advice you can get, I’ve compiled a list of a few tips that helped me make it through all of those sleepless nights.
Recognising Night and Day
Unlike us, newborns have no sense of night and day. This is due to the fact that they have not yet developed their internal rhythms. Although it is impossible to “train” your baby in those first weeks, there are a few things that you can do to help ease them (and you) into a semi-normal baby sleep routine.
Keep it noisy
I know that it is tempting to silence everyone and let your baby sleep all day when the chance arises but, it can actually be more beneficial to keep things noisy during those hours. Make sure to let as much natural sunlight in as possible and to keep all of your normal every day sounds going, even at nap time. This will help your baby decipher whether it is day time or night time in the long run.
Tone it down
In contrast to keeping things going during the day, at night you want to keep it quiet. Make sure to eliminate as much noise as possible and to keep all lights dimmed or off. Your goal is to make everything as quiet and “boring” as you can. Even when your baby wakes up for all of those wonderful middle of the night feedings, you want to keep things brief and silent so that you don’t wake them anymore than you have to. Combining this with the previous tip will really help when sleep training your baby.
Another thing that you can do is to keep a journal of when your baby wakes, eats and sleeps. Keeping a log of your baby’s sleep routine can help you identify certain patterns which, in turn, can help you catch a few more stray hours of much needed rest.
Keep it consistent
Try to establish a bedtime routine right off the bat. For instance, you can start by turning the lights and noise down at 8 o’clock every night. Doing the same thing at the same time each and every night can help signal your baby to when it’s bedtime.
Wake, feed, repeat
Make sure that you don’t let your baby go more than 3 hours between feedings throughout the day. I know it’s tempting to leave your baby sleeping but, this can help prevent them from sleeping too much during the day and staying up all night. Another similar idea is to only let them sleep 3-4 hours at a time during the day.
Newborns tend to spend a lot of time sleeping but, when they are awake, it is a good idea to interact with them as much as you can. I know that they can’t do much at first but, doing things such as talking to them, making noise with certain toys and whatever else keeps their attention will help them stay alert and active and will eventually wear them out so that they sleep better at night.
Let them sleep
Okay, now I know that keeping your baby awake for long periods throughout the day may seem like a good idea but, I can assure you, that it’s not. Doing this will more than likely backfire and cause them to become overly exhausted and cranky which will, in turn, prompt them to fight their sleep. Make sure you choose a comfortable bed for your baby. It’s important to remember that when they are this tiny, they still need an adequate amount of rest and you should avoid disrupting them if at all possible.
Don’t give up
I know that it’s easy to get discouraged when things don’t change right away but, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to happen overnight. Every baby is different and it will probably take a little more time than you would like but, you will get some sense of normalcy back before too long. Just take it all one day at a time and you’ll be okay.
I am by no means an expert when it comes to babies but, I have been where you are. I know how physically and mentally exhausting it can be on a person. Just remember that there is no “quick fix” when it comes to a new baby’s sleeping habits but, following these few tips might just help make things a little bit easier.
Lastly, don’t forget that there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. Whether it’s asking your significant other, or another family member, to help with chores around the house or asking someone to watch the baby while you get a few extra hours of rest, it’s important that you do what you have to do to take the time you need to function better. It took me a long time to figure this out but, we can’t do it all, and sometimes a break is just what you need in order to be the best mom you can be.