One of the biggest stresses in having a new baby is lack of sleep. Seriously, how can you function without sleep?
Of all the “bad” things people warn you about when you’re expecting your first child, this one concerned me most. Sleep is important to me.
It can be difficult to get new babies on a good sleep pattern – but don’t worry! It can be done.
I’ve made a little list of general principles that have helped us get our babies the on the right track, because -surprise! – in order for you to get enough sleep, baby has to sleep. While none of them are magical fixes (sorry!), they really help develop good habits.
I wish I could put these all in chronological order (first, you do this, then move on to that…), but different things twig with different people – parents and babies – so I’m just kind of throwing them out there randomly. Starting first, with one that’s notorious for sapping a lot of time that should be spent sleeping.
Tips For Getting Enough Sleep When You Have An Infant
- You don’t had to change their diaper every time they wakeup. Wait, what? Newborns often go “stinky” at night, and that’s one case where you do need to change them, but really, if you dot have to change them, don’t! You and baby will both end up wide awake, and have a more difficult time getting back to sleep.
- Get some meals in the freezer so that you can sleep with the baby. Yeah, you know how everybody says “sleep when the baby sleeps”? And then you’re like “uh-huh, and I’ll wash dishes when the baby washes dishes to, right?” It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Putting a few meals in the freezer gives you some wiggle room though, on those days when you just have to have a nap.
- Use paper plates if you have to. I hate throwing money in the trash like that, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. If it wasn’t for Gabriel those first few weeks, the landfills might be a lot more full right now.
- Get help if you can. Family, friends, husband, etc. The biggest thigh at keeps me up after everyone else has gone to bed is unfinished housework, finding a few volunteers to help out now and then so you can get to bed on time can be a sanity saver.
- Do your best to teach baby to self sooth. I don’t believe in the cry it out method, but habit training is important. If you teach baby to put herself to sleep by laying her down when she’s drowsy, you’ll thank yourself later. If you don’t, you’ll kick yourself. During the newborn phase, there’ll be many failures, but don’t give up! Baby will catch on eventually.
- Co-sleep if necessary. I know, a lot of people think co-sleeping is dangerous, but I’ve never known anybody to ever roll over on their baby. Your subconscious knows he’s there. If your really concerned, try sleeping with a baby doll first. Co-sleeping is helpful because you can nurse baby back to sleep, while falling asleep yourself, it also comforts lonely babies, and helps the baby pick up on your sleep rythms, which helps him stay asleep. With said…
- Start baby off in her own bed if you can. This is habit training again. Learning to sleep by herself will pay off in the future. For us, Hadassah starts the night in her own bed, then I put her in bed with me the first time she wakes up. We both fall back to sleep quickly, and she may or may not wake up again before morning.
- Don’t stimulate baby at night no matter how awake he/she is. No talking, playing, etc. not unless you want to be up all night, and not unless you want to confuse baby about what we do at night (sleep!).
- Go to the bare minimum of effort to calm baby – don’t get him used to unnecessary coddling. If baby’s having a hard time going back to sleep, don’t go all out trying to calm him unless you’ve tried lesser means first. For instance, if you have to pick him up, don’t immediately start waking, and bouncing, and singing. Just pick him up and see if that works first. Remember, habit training. You want to create the habit of going to sleep with as little help as possible.
- Use a pacifier. This one is controversial, and if your child doesn’t need it, more power to him. But for many babies, being able to suck on something sends them over the edge into the land of nod. Nursing to sleep sounds great and all, but laying him down after he’s asleep can be a real trick.
- Don’t pick baby up every time she whimpers. Above, I said that I didn’t believe in crying it out, and I don’t – at least not for little babies. Too often when a baby starts crying, it’s because they have a gas bubble, or a burp, and they need your help getting it out. Or maybe they’re cold, or just uncomfortable and need to change positions.
But there’s also the flip side. Sometimes, a baby is overly tired, and the only thing she can do is cry. Babies will often start to cry… And then suddenly fall asleep. One sure sign that your baby needs you to pick her up is “bicycling feet”. That’s a good sign of a gas bubble or burp.
When Hadassah was a month old, I would often pick her up, and put her back down again five times before she’d finally go to sleep, probably due to my poor timing with putting her down the first time. Other times, I’d end up rocking her to sleep. These days however, she goes to sleep almost every time with very little intervention from me – and she’s never cried it out once.
here’s the most important thing of all: You are the baby’s parent, you know the needs of your baby better than anyone else. Lots of well meaning people will try to tell you how to do things, and lots of that advice will be good. My advice (lawl) is to run all that advice through a filter, and use your own best judgment.
What are your thoughts on this list? Is there anything you’d add or clarify?