The first couple of months of motherhood are truly a blur for most. You are operating in a perpetual sleepy fog, energized only by the desire to care for your baby in the best possible way. Although your body screams for sleep, your mind is in a constant state of alert – listening for the slightest whimper or cry, even in your slumber.
Once you get through the first three or four weeks, your nervous system should be adjusting to the amount of sleep you are getting. Remember, this is a temporary shift. A lot of babies sleep through the night after the first 8 weeks.
Need sleep now? Here are some tips to get you and your baby to sleep through the night.
- Don’t let your baby sleep with you. While the “family bed” may be a more popular option, we’re willing to bet THAT family is getting the least amount of sleep. Your body is programmed to wake with every sound your baby makes, so when he sleeps with you, you don’t get any of the deep sleep that your body needs
- Put your baby in his crib as soon as possible. While a bassinet next to your bed can be comforting, you WILL wake up with every sound she makes. Move your baby to her crib in her room when you feel you’re ready. You can always get a baby monitor (set at low) to listen in on her. Or just leave your doors open. Don’t worry – if she cries, you WILL know it.
- Feed your baby when he’s hungry. In the beginning, this may be 2-3 times per night. It is important that you don’t ignore his cries of hunger, so that you build trust right away. If your baby knows he can depend on you to take care of his needs, he will enjoy a more secure and peaceful slumber.
- Rock your baby to sleep at first, but wean her from this within the first 2-3 months. Rocking can be very comforting to your baby, and you should rock her as long as you can. But don’t let your baby use it as a crutch to fall asleep. If you continue to rock her to sleep every night, she will begin to expect it. When you feel she is ready, start by rocking her until she’s sleepy, but not asleep. Then put her in her crib. Place your hand on her head to let her know you're there. Stay with her until she falls asleep. The next night, do the same, but just stay in the room for a brief time while she is sleepy, but still awake. Make your exit sooner and sooner every night. By the fourth night, you should be able to just put her right to bed without rocking her. If she is still crying, she may be gassy or have an upset tummy.
- Nap when your baby naps. We know you’ve heard this before, but who can nap when you haven’t eaten, your house is a mess, and you haven’t even had a chance to shower, right? Well, yes, eating and showering are number one priority. Don’t worry so much about the house. That’s what husbands are for! If he’s not getting up with the baby all night, he should be helping you keep the house clean. If not, get a friend to help watch the little one while you catch some zzz’s. Or, if you can afford it, get a cleaning lady, at least temporarily. You are no use to your baby or to anyone else if you are exhausted.
- SAFETY TIP: DO NOT fall asleep on the couch or bed with your baby, especially when you are sleep-deprived. You may think your maternal instinct would kick in if your baby was suffocating or falling, but remember, you are not yourself. With limited sleep, you may not wake up right away if your baby should fall.
I was at my parent’s beach house, staying with them for a week when Emma was 6 weeks old. I packed her bassinet and I went, thinking I could still have a good time. What a mistake that was! She didn’t sleep all night long. She was used to her crib and not the bassinet. She got up every 2-3 hours in the night and I was exhausted. During the afternoon, after nursing her while propped up on a double bed, I fell asleep with her on my chest. I meant to just close my eyes for a moment, but the weight of exhaustion swiftly bore down on me. I fell asleep thinking, I’ll wake if she slips. Next thing I knew, I was woken by her cries as she lay face up on the floor next to me. Thank God she was alright, but that was the last time I ever did that!
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Training Your Baby to Sleep