It is almost normal to expect that your baby will not sleep much the first few weeks of its life. I expected it, and lived through it with my babies.
From day one, my babies never slept at the same time; one slept while the other was awake. While I’d be putting one down for a nap, the other would be waking up. The few hours they slept at the same time in those early days, were wonderful moments to catch my breath and do chores (not a good idea), instead of catching up on my beauty sleep.
What I later found out was the reason for the daily vigil was the fact that they had their evening bath early, around 6pm, which meant both of them would sleep for say the next few hours. And you are right for thinking that by the time they would awake, I’d be so tired, all I would want to do is sleep. But then, who was I to sleep in the face of crying babies? And that was how the night would go, with me changing diapers, feeding them, and getting little to no sleep.
My last babies were even worse in the sleep department! Those ones moved from nightly breastfeeding to cereal, and then to tea, and right now, we are on the water breaks, all in the middle of the night. But I don’t wake up all the time anymore. I put the water where my son can reach it, and sometimes ignore him when he calls for water. Yes, my three year old son can be that demanding. He will see the water, be able to reach for it, but will want me to get it for him. Sometimes, I indulge him, and other times, I just change position and continue with my slumber.
The only reason I can allude to this situation is the fact that there was a high level of dependency on me by this lil’ guy, compared to his sister. He was the one I struggled to wean, his sister was easier. The truth is, we both found it hard to let go of our cuddle sessions, aka breastfeeding marathon. I missed him, and he missed me, so there are times he insists that I do things for him that no one else would do at such times, which is fine…but not all the time.
Back to sleep matters, here are some pointers that you can use to get your baby into healthy sleeping habits, and relieve yourself of the catching-up-with-sleep routine, and the short temper that comes with it.
First on the list is:
1. Let your baby learn to sleep by itself
Ah!!! I wish. All my kids were rocked to sleep in my arms, and their dad’s when he was available, and their grandmother’s too. If I need to do other things, while rocking them to sleep, I put one on my back, and have someone help with the other. It was way easier than putting them down when they had not slept deeply, and having to go back and forth to carry them. I just couldn’t do it. So we rock ourselves to sleep.
However, I was simply setting myself up for the future, when it would be just me to care to the two of them. They had come to expect to be rocked to sleep, fed to sleep, so much so that when they woke up during the night, they would always cry.
If you have been caught in this habit, and think it is hard to let go, know that these bedtime rituals need not go altogether. You can rock or nurse your baby until she gets drowsy. The point is to put her in her bed while she’s still awake, so that the last thing she sees is her mattress – not you. Should she wake in the middle of the night, she will be so accustomed to this familiar sign, that she will probably fall back to sleep. All things being equal.
2. Avoid co-sleeping
Numerous sleep studies have shows that both adults and children sleep better ALONE; your movements and arousals are likely to disturb your baby’s sleep, and vice versa.
Importantly, teaching your baby to sleep alone is an important part of her learning to separate from you, without much anxiety. Experts say that it’s a mistake to bring your baby into your bed, solely as a solution baby’s inability to sleep through the night; it’s more likely to compound the situation.
If it becomes a norm, your baby will not sleep, except she’s sleeping beside you.
3. Start teaching your baby the difference between night and day
For one, this habit needs to be started early. One expert advised that once the baby is about two weeks old, mom can begin to teach him/her the difference between night and day.
In the daytime, as soon as she’s alert
-Bathe and change her clothes, which shows that it’s the start of another day
-You will likely be tired, but interact with your baby as much as you can
-Make daytime feeds social times, make it a time for talk and interaction
-Gently nudge her awake, should she fall asleep during a feed.
Night time routine can include:
-Another change of clothes, but now into pajamas, to signify the end of the day
-Forget being social during feeding time now. Try not to speak to her when you feed her.
-Keep lights and noises low.
All this should help your baby to start to understand that night-time is for sleeping.
4. Avoid the use of sleeping aids
Sleep aids, like pacifiers, swings, rocker chairs etc. are quite addictive for babies. Some are unable to sleep if they are not using these aids, which is not such a good idea.
However, you can consider using one until your baby is six-months-old. Once your baby begins crawling, it would be time to call off these sleeping aids. Your baby will be getting lots of action herself, and might fall asleep easier than before.
5. Consider using bottles at nights
If you have not started, it is a good idea to let your baby get used to bottle feeding during the night, while breastfeeding can continue during the day.
That way, you can share baby duties with your husband. If the baby gets used to it, you won’t have to be up most parts of the night. And guess what, it’s a good way to prepare your baby for bottle feeding, when the time to wean her comes around.
For babies, the more sleep he/she gets, the better for its development. Also, the more sleep a new mom gets, the better she is at this mothering business.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here