We are now three deep in this babies and sleep thing. And now with Emma here, it’s kind of NUTS to remember how much stress I was under in the beginning! Managing my personal stress having to do with my child sleeping was like a full time job, with a ton of overtime. I have not figured anything out necessarily but I wanted to take down a few things that have helped me relax through it all.
I remember those initial days and nights with Luke, so anxious and unsure of how to handle his wake ups, and shuddering at the idea of nursing him again (it was really painful first time around). Long story short, we figured out nursing and found our groove. After his newborn days had passed (probably at about three months), he would wake once in the night to nurse and did that for almost his whole first year. Because of his start which was so rough with nursing, I didn’t want to compromise anything we’d established so I didn’t do any “training” for him to skip the night feeding. When he weaned, losing the night feeding was simple and he simply stopped. We were due for something easy after the nursing and a nutso delivery!
With Kate, I had a whole different attitude (thankfully less anxiety) and approached it freshly. She nursed a whole lot easier and I felt fine letting her sleep through the night when she did, which was early (I think 8 or 9 weeks). And by “though the night” I mean she slept for a good 7 hour stretch 🙂 She was much more independent and still is, so her neediness at night was just different.
This time, I had decided I would nurse to sleep whenever the heck I could, let her fall asleep on me much more during the daytime, etc. For us, this helped us immensely! It was easier to interpret her needs as well and knowing when it was time for a diaper change, clothing adjustment (my kids always wanted less clothing with more cozy blankets, sleep, a walk around in the carrier, those things were more intuitive.
She also found her fingers (both hated pacifiers, which I didn’t totally mind..) and self soothed. I didn’t have to schedule Kate, I ended up just figuring her out. She is just naturally a sleeper and can still nap twice a day (she’s almost two), which Luke couldn’t relate on as he was completely finished with any nap whatsoever months before turning three!
So far, Emma (who is now six weeks), sleeps, eats and poops a lot 😉 I won’t actually try much with her right now except to soothe her and feed her and help her get used to being out of my womb, ha. I try and help her to know when it’s daytime vs. nighttime (her siblings are happy to help with that one..), and make sure I nurse as much as I can during the day. Truthfully she’s already getting the idea. She gave us some good long stretches at night this last week!
I’ll start here and see where we end up! Like I said, no stress is key for me 🙂 I guess personalities of children and parent(s) play such a HUGE factor here too.. there is no finite guidebook to kids, no formula. NO. FORMULA. All that said, here are some personal ways I have found help us and the children get sound sleep.
- PEP TALK! .. I get it. You’re cozy in bed (as much as a postpartum body can get “cozy”) and you just hope, pray, cross fingers that you’ll get a certain amount of sweet spot sleep (if you even have the chance to get in bed..)! Sleep does come.. Nighttime may be no biggie or may be the most dreaded thing you encounter. So something I try to remember that I WILL have to wake up at an ungodly hour and I WILL most likely get bugged, it is part of the deal. Sometimes those nighttime hormones and adrenaline give you superhero energy, sometimes you will extremely unhappy. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. My husband and I figured out I do better at night and then he can be superman in the day for me, nighttime jacks him up. So we err on remembering these things. Think about what might work best for your situation, and adjust accordingly!
- GETTING THROUGH THE NIGHT .. Make yourself comfortable and have everything you need readied for you before you get underway (or ask your partner, of course!). My go tos for nighttime feeds are my water bottle (I always prefer the big gulp sized one they give you at the hospital or birth center!), a nursing pillow or feeding items ready, a comfortable place to feed them, your phone or something with a little light so you can see what you need to and possibly scroll something to keep you engaged (my kids were really light sensitive so a gentle light was important for us) and a cracked window you can swing open for when your postpartum heat flashes flare up.
- SLEEP CLOSE .. sleep close to your baby so you know when they begin to wake. My babies both slept right next to my bed and it made it easy to hear them when they first stir—and avoid them getting hungrier and louder by the time I get to them (commence new outfit and milk everywhere,!). A LOT of people swear by the Dock-a-Tot sleepers (I haven’t tried one before but curious!). Kate loved her bassinet sleeper (here), which has a sort of cocoon style nap attachment on top. It was such a help and super easy to travel with! Luke slept in a Moses basket style rocker next to me. We seem to give away everything after our child is in the next phase (I have no idea why) but I have a new Moses basket and frame this time around, along with a Halo Bassinest next to our bed. Find what works best for your room, family, etc.
- SLEEP AIDS .. So, at first, the nice thing is newborns want to sleep a LOT. But there are fussy times of day no matter what, and they may drive you near insane. Do as much as you can to ease your pain. Deploy the arsenal of sleep aids.. Swaddlers (I found SwaddleMe a good fit, arms in or out), noise machines and/or fans (we use a Dohm and love it), a rocker or glider or a cozy place to snuggle, a swing, etc.
- NURSING .. in the beginning, to establish nursing, I go no longer more than 2-3 hours without a feeding (although I don’t mess with this at nighttime if they’re gaining well). Or worry too much if it’s more often and they’re just hungry! My kids have been turned out to be really hungry to start but I’ve had people tell me they should be done after this much time, on this side etc etc, which had me confused often. Pay attention to what feels right for your own child, Luke was slow but I didn’t really realize it and he just took awhile to learn; I wish I would’ve had more grace for that in hindsight. A site I visited daily with Luke and then again with Kate for nursing advice was my nursing lifesaver (here). Also, there’s a lot of differing opinions out there on this but my kids did wonderfully nursed to sleep, so I did. And dayuuung it was great—theybslelt so much better!
- MORNING FROM THE START .. since we now have more than just one on our hands, helping establish an atmosphere of morning wake up has been great. And thankfully not hard, as the kids wake up the whole house without trying (ha). But I think there’s something refreshing about opening the blinds, nursing amongst the pitter patter of little feet and getting baby used to the feel of daytime.
- BEDTIME FROM THE START! .. Likewise, we will work hard to establish a bedtime in the evenings, emphasizing that it’s dark and quiet and different than daytime. Pjs, rocking, quietness, noise machines, a song or a little saying before bed, whatever speaks bedtime, that helped us immensely. Any feedings after the 7ish bedtime will be in their dark room to help keep it consistent, though I don’t follow this at the beginning as much since they’re nursing so often..
- CARRY THEM WHEN YOU CAN .. with my first, we had an emergency c-section so I was laid up in bed and not out and about. With my second, I was walking, and miraculously enjoying it, within five or six days. I found that a walk in the carrier (whether I’m carrying or James..) was pure sleepy dust, a guaranteed nap and depending on your situation, refreshing. And that is a very good thing. My favorite carrier is the Happy Baby Wrap and my Ergo 360 (which is currently lost, sigh). I’ve also heard rave reviews about many others, like Wildbird, Sakura Bloom, Sollybaby and Boba. I haven’t got one yet but am thinking about grabbing a ring sling.
- NAPS .. so I usually shot for a morning walk with the carrier, which was, like I said, basically a guaranteed sleep. For other naps, I didn’t fuss too much about timing except that I would wake them (I know!) if it was going beyond 2-3 hours after their last feeding. This was mainly for me and to get nursing established and not let the nighttime sleep marathon accidentally happen in the day. Although Emma has been gaining well and some days she just sleeps all day and night with nursing in between; I chock that up to growth spurts!
- DON’T STRESS.. enjoy them with all your might! This phase will soon be over and you will find yourself missing their littleness.
Well, there are my thoughts! What did you do to survive newborn sleep?? Every parent and baby is so different, it’s entirely fascinating. I read so much at the time and wherever I found comfort, I’d take tidbits and add them to my mental arsenal.
Some things were so helpful, some things threw us in a terrible direction, which is why that parental intuition cannot be bartered with. So cheers to using yours!—it’s a very fine thing!