These are all things that I have learned that I wished I knew right away. All babies are different and you are going to get lots of advice. It won’t hurt my feelings if you feel that these things aren’t right for you. These are just the things that were right for me. Above all else trust yourself. Your baby is your baby and so you are the only one who will know exactly what he or she needs.
There is nothing more beautiful and peaceful than a sleeping baby. I can easily add to that that there is nothing more stressful that living with a baby who is having a hard time sleeping. When my daughter first came home her days and nights were turned around. She only slept for short periods during the day. I had a really hard time sleeping during the day because I was so excited to have some time to myself. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to clean my house and get things done. It drove me crazy that I couldn’t keep up with my day-to-day life so I chose not to sleep. Big mistake! My daughter would cluster feed all night long starting at 11:00 and would finally fall asleep at around 7:00 am. This was horrible. I felt like I was going to die from not sleeping. I have never experienced anything so intense in all my life. That all by itself was all my husband and I needed to know that our decision to have only one child was the correct one. I know it’s cliché and everyone will say this to you but sleep when your baby sleeps. It doesn’t matter that the dishes aren’t done. A clean organized house is not worth dying over. As the months go by both you and your baby will learn new skills and you will adjust to this new life and learn how to do everything again. Human beings are designed to sleep at night so don’t worry eventually all babies turn around. Here are a few tips to help make it quicker. I think that it is important to note here that this doesn’t happen to everyone. So with any luck it won’t be your experience.
- Keep the lights off at night-time! I know that it’s hard to see what you are doing at first but this is the most important thing. My husband and I actually used a head flash light that straps to a person’s forehead to check on the baby at night to avoid turning on overhead lights.
- Feed baby extra during the day so that he won’t be hungry at night. There is a school of thought that if you feed your baby no more than every three hours at night that they will switch too. However there was no way I was going to deny my baby food when she was hungry so I just started feeding her every two hours during the day and that worked perfectly for us.
- Try not to let the baby sleep while he’s eating (or use you as a soother) because what happens is that the baby then can’t sleep without eating. I was spending 10 or more hours per day with my baby breast-feeding and barely had time for anything else. If you don’t let baby sleep while eating make sure to give baby a chance to nap often. Babies need lots of sleep. Sleeping is a skill that babies need you to help them learn. An important thing to note here is that if your baby is using you as a soother and you let baby do this they will be pretty happy and content most of the time. If you then decide to stop your baby will be pretty upset because you have made a dramatic change in his or her life. My daughter cried all day long for three days when I made this change in her life. Looking back on it now I wonder if it was worth upsetting her so much. By the time she was a little more than four months old she probably would have stopped on her own. A good thing that came from this change however is that she learned how to nap in her crib without me holding her during the day. This gave me free time and really helped me feel like me again. So maybe it was worth it. Sometimes you will be left wondering if you made the right choice. Just try to trust your own instincts.
- Babies can eat while they are sleeping so if you want baby to sleep a little longer or if your breasts get really uncomfortable while baby is sleeping you can give baby a “dream feed”. Just pick baby up and feed him while he is asleep. You only really need to do this when he or she starts sleeping for more than 8 hours at a time.
- Use a really loud fan as a white noise machine while baby is sleeping. This will make it so baby can’t hear loud sudden noises outside his or her room and as a result will sleep longer. I use a fan and an actual white noise machine at the same time. my white noise machine also has a projector on it. The projector really helps my daughter sleep. She loves watching the pictures roll by. I don’t think it’s great for a baby to sleep with light on but if she is having a hard time falling asleep I leave it on for her.
- I use a Swaddle pod or a Woombie.These things will help your baby sleep. At first baby has no control over his or her arms. So babies wake themselves up by flailing and scratching themselves. These zip up swaddlers will keep their arms away from their faces and help babies fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. It’s good to have a few in case the baby drools or pees all over it in his or her sleep. You can always zip it up with one are out too if your baby is a finger sucker. I was slightly concerned at one time that I would have to stop using them when my daughter could roll over but the provide enough room for a baby to stretch out his or her arms inside of them in order to roll back over. Of course use your own discretion if you are concerned about your baby’s safety.
- It is important to always be sure to put baby down in a different spot facing a different direction every time you put baby down for a sleep. This will prevent baby’s soft skull from developing a flat spot.
- In the beginning I rocked and sang my daughter to sleep or fed her to sleep. By the time she was about 4 months old it just didn’t work anymore. I’d get to a point where I was rocking her for nearly two hours and she just wouldn’t sleep. She also stopped falling asleep while eating because the world around her was far too interesting (even in the dark). I discovered by eventually needing to take bathroom breaks from rocking her that she just wanted me to put her down and let her fall asleep on her own. Without fail every time I came back from the bathroom she was fast asleep. It is important to remember that crying is the only way your baby has to communicate with you. Sometimes your baby may be trying to tell you that they don’t want to be held anymore. Babies are human beings too and you are not a bad parent if you give them some alone time. I would go crazy if I had to sit on someone’s lap all day long. Even if I really loved them.
- When I put her down to sleep without rocking she usually does cry a little before she falls asleep. It’s more of a whiny cry than a desperate cry. I would never let her frantically cry without comforting her. By the time your baby is 4 or 5 months if not much sooner you will be able to tell one cry from another. When she cries herself to sleep it is really more like a cry where she is letting out the stress of the day. If I go in there and pick her up it can sometimes make her cry harder. I can usually tell when she’s crying because she’s upset that she’s alone.
I learned all of these things through experience. All babies are unique. Some of these suggestions may not work for you. Some of these suggestions could be life savers. I hope that this has provided a little help and encouragement in what can be a difficult time. If you have any tricks that have worked well for you that I have not listed here please by all means share them below. I have lots to learn too.