Most people are aware that when babies are born they don’t sleep through the night. And regardless of all the “sleep training” methods out there that claim to get babies at whatever age to sleep through the night for the most part it is unrealistic to expect a baby to sleep that long uninterrupted.
The main reason is that they need to be fed, little tummies need to be refilled more often and it doesn’t matter if you are feeding breastmilk or formula either.
But what’s a Mamma to do during those first weeks when the baby is waking all over the place and sleeping during the day?
Why Baby’s Wake At Night
First off, there are a couple of things to remember when thinking about baby sleep patterns. The big one is that their tummies are a lot smaller and need regular refills to provide the nutrition they need for all the growing they are doing.
The second is that baby doesn’t come with a regular day/night pattern yet, or if they do it’s likely reversed. Think about it, when we are pregnant the time of day that we are moving around and this movement effectively rocks them to sleep.
At night many Mammas complain that the baby keeps them awake with all the activity during pregnancy. This can be because they are not getting rocked to sleep the same as during the day.
How To Get More Sleep
So the question is how do we get more sleep while the baby adjusts to life on the outside?
There are a number of ways that can help but you may need to try a few to see what works best for you and your family.
Top Up Baby
Any time baby does wake, top them up with more milk/formula. A lot of times if you catch them early enough they won’t fully wake up, which means it is easier to go back to sleep.
This will get them used to sleeping more during the night.
Keep Baby Well Rested.
Cranky babies are harder to get to sleep, even if sleep is what they need. So learn to watch for the signs baby is tiered and even if you are in a time that it doesn’t work to have them sleep let them.
I know this likely sounds counterintuitive, but you are teaching them to listen to their body and the first few weeks are a bit of a gong show anyway with sleep. Soon enough you will be able to push them to stay awake a bit longer and shift the sleep around some. But up front, let baby sleep whenever.
Not everyone is comfortable with bed sharing and I get it, I swore I would never bed share before our first baby. But studies have shown that if you have the baby in the same room as Mamma there are a bunch of benefits including better sleep for Mamma and baby.
But in reality, baby is so used to being inside you that for the first few weeks your smell is going to be a huge comfort to them as they adjust.
If you have a husband/partner that sleeps in the same bed as you maybe kick them out to the spare room or couch for the first few nights if they aren’t helping. They will just tick you off when they sleep soundly through the baby waking up.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
I know you are likely annoyed at this statement already. I know I was, but your priority right now needs to be your own recovery. You can’t take care of a baby if you don’t first take care of yourself.
And baby needs you, the housework not so much. If the house does bother you get a cleaner or family member to take care of it. You know all those people that said “if you need anything just ask?” yeah ASK!
Don’t let them hold the baby (unless you want to) get them doing the chores you need to do so you can rest.
Create A Sleepy Space
Take a look around your bedroom, do you really feel restful there or is it full of clutter and busyness?
Everything is new to a baby, and the baby wants to learn and explore it all visually. So lots of busyness or clutter could keep the baby awake. Remove anything you can to help cut down on that.
A nice safe place to sleep with a nightlight nearby is usually enough to create a calm environment. You will benefit from this too, especially if you ditch the electronics like phones by the bed.
Create A Bedtime Routine
If you have read any parenting books that include sleep chances are you’ve heard about the bedtime routine.
Kids and babies LOVE consistency, it creates a safe space for them to relax. So whatever you include in the routine make sure it’s something that works for you long term.
We like to brush our teeth, then read books and say prayers in PJs before bed. And this started when our oldest was a baby. Even if he is super excited it usually is enough to calm him down enough to lay down and “rest his eyes” which often means he is asleep quickly.
I personally don’t recommend a bath at night for babies (they really don’t get that dirty) but as they get older if you want and it makes sense it can always be added.
Take Turns With Hubby
Ok, if you are exclusively nursing this may not work as well cause the baby needs the boob. But if you use a hakaa while nursing to collect the letdown on the other side hubby will have something to feed the baby.
And keep in mind that the baby won’t be eating much at a time right away. Their tummies are tiny, so you won’t need a lot.
I know during the earliest days with our oldest my husband helped as best as he could, but because I was nursing a baby there was only so much he could do.
Don’t worry our men are better at bonding than society gives them credit for. Being a father is also a full-time job and they have just as much capacity to care for a newborn as we do, we just need to encourage it.
and that is coming from a family where hubby considers himself very “traditional” meaning “hands-off for the baby stages. 😉
If your partner isn’t around or the father isn’t in the picture ask for help from friends and family. You deserve the time to feel like you can sleep. Honestly, the baby will be ok, and you will be better able to care for them if you get enough sleep.
Refresh Yourself In Other Ways
We don’t always get the chance to sleep when we need it, but other things can feed us energy without resorting to coffee.
Schedule time for things that you find energizing. Like reading a book, or having a phone call with someone you connect well with.
Or pick up a hobby that you love.
I love to read and cook, while my cooking habits had to change with a baby in my arms there is still some prep work and other cooking tasks that I could handle with one hand.
Just make sure the baby is in a safe spot (like a pack-n-play) if you are doing things like cooking.
Do Remember To Eat Well And Exercise
Now when you are immediately postpartum exercise may not be what you think of it as now. Make sure you are cleared by your doctor or midwife first before getting really into it.
But if you can start with walking. Even to the end of the driveway or a little way down the sidewalk with the baby in a stroller or carrier.
Just a little bit of movement is enough to help you sleep better.
Keep in mind that right after birth you will want to stay home and rest for as much as you can first though. I personally didn’t start walking until 2 weeks postpartum and I had a vaginal delivery with no complications for both births. And many people will take longer.
Don’t Substitute Caffeine For Sleep
Yeah, short-term coffee can give you a pick me up. But it isn’t a long-term solution and can actually make the situation worse.
There is a thing called Adrenal Fatigue which is caused by our adrenal glands overproducing adrenalin… exactly what things like coffee do to our body…
Take A Power Nap
You know the “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing? Yeah, think of it as a power nap. As mom’s, our brains get re-wired to handle the wonky sleep cycles of our babies, and that includes being able to power nap easier.
Just make sure the baby is in a safe spot first, then get comfy and snooze away.
Use Sleep Medication Sparingly
If you are having huge challenges getting sleep because of things like Anxiety sometimes it’s helpful to use a prescription or something like melatonin under a doctor’s supervision.
However, it’s not good to use them too often as it can backfire and create a dependency.
Don’t Ignore Sever Sleep Deprivation Signs
Even if you are doing everything possible, there are chances you could run your sleep debt pretty raw. It’s best not to ignore this and seek help right away if you notice any of the following red flags
- trouble concentrating
- mood swings
- blurred vision
- alterations to appetite
If you notice this get your support system to help and tell your husband to take the baby and go rest. Or get your inlaws down. Whatever it takes to get some rest.
Sleep debt can lead to some serious consequences for your health mentally and physically. And it’s not worth it, baby needs you to be your best so please make yourself a priority!