Congratulations on your new baby! Coming home with your first child can be amazing and overwhelming moment, all at the same time! I can remember that day clearly. I’m pretty sure that I will never forget it, likely you won’t either.
How do you properly feed him or her? Bathe them? Luckily, in the hospital we are given tips on those responsibilities. What we don’t talk about much in the hospital is sleep. Sleep is very important for your new baby, but it is also very important for YOU and your partner. If you are getting the sleep that you need, it will help you to better care for your newborn.
I know you will most likely be getting sleep advice from a variety of sources.
To help narrow that advice down, I will share a few tips with you, for both you and your baby:
Helping Baby to Sleep
Newborn to 8 weeks
This is a special time! It is a time for bonding with parents and recovery for mom. Your baby sleeps more during the day than the night and has no real set sleeping pattern. At this point, don’t worry about creating habits, right now it is all about keeping your baby well rested and sleeping in a safe space. It is as simple as ABC: Alone, on their Back and in their Crib – ABC. Don’t worry if your little one will only fall asleep nursing right now.
6-8 weeks to 12 weeks
Now is when you might catch his or her first smile! However, you may just have a fussy baby in the afternoon (this is totally normal). Night sleep will start to come together at this point and you may just see 4-6 hours of sleep at a time in the night. Celebrate! (Get some rest too, you need and deserve it!)
This is when you can begin to set into place healthy sleeping habits. Create a soothing bedtime routine, a nursery that is safe and conducive for sleep and introduce the crib as the main place to sleep. Keep an eye out for sleepy cues – at this point your little one can only stay awake for short periods of time.
Keep up the good habits you’ve created. Night time sleep will continue lengthen while bedtime starts to come at an earlier time. As your baby approaches the 16-week mark, you will start to see a pattern developing with day time sleep and your baby will soon be ready for a set sleeping schedule.
After 16 weeks
After the 16 week mark (from due date), this is when you can officially begin to work with your little one on sleep. If you are struggling with sleep at this point, it might be helpful to get some guidance or a personalized sleep plan from a Certified Sleep Consultant. A Certified Sleep Consultant can hold your hand and lead you in a direction that you are comfortable with in attaining your sleep goals.
Helping Mom and Dad
Help Over Advice
Take your parents, friends or neighbors up on any offer for assistance. I know it can be hard to accept help, but do know that this is a huge transition in your life – take the help! This can come in the form of a home cooked meal, assisting with household chores or simply just holding your baby for a little while. When our second baby was born, our baby sitter came over and prepared me a handful of home cooked meals – this was the greatest gift.
Regarding advice, take what you want and leave the rest behind. In the end, this is YOUR baby. Try not to stress over what other people think you should be doing. Trust me, people will have opinions, do not let them phase you.
Take Turns and a Break
A new baby whose sleep is confused between night and day is exhausting. Take turns with your partner, a friend, your parents – anyone who will help. Try to squeeze in sleep whenever you can. Yes, I know it is so very hard to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” because there is still so much to do. However, take it from someone who has been around the block twice on this now – there will always be chores to do and errands to run – and it will still be there later. Get some rest, because the better rested you are, the better you can care of that little bundle of joy. Pretty please.
This Too Shall Pass
My mom used to say the phrase, “this too shall pass” often. As a child, I rolled my eyes at the statement – because I heard it so frequently. BUT this is the phrase that got me through the newborn phase, because it does pass, it passes sometimes too fast. It might be challenging in the moment, but do what you can to soak in the goodness of that little one needing you. Cuddle that baby if he or she needs it, nurse to sleep if that is the only thing that works, rock and bounce – whatever it takes. Tomorrow he or she will be walking and soon after they will be dressing themselves. The point is, with struggle comes goodness, hang in there as you can and will succeed. Do what you need to do to safely get through this time and remember to enjoy every precious moment.