Newborn Sleep – ages 0 – 8 weeks(ish)
An interesting question came up this week during Terrific Talk Tuesday:
We have a new baby on the way, and I’m wondering what advice you have to set the baby up to be a successful sleeper. In other words, if you could do it all over again, what strategies would you implement right from the beginning?
I try to answer these questions quickly, given the bit of information I’m given, I’m providing the bit of information I feel will be helpful. Often, my quick answers don’t do the questions justice. But I feel this was a great question to elaborate on. In fact, this is the first installment of an Infant Sleep Series.
Are we really equipped for what we’re getting into? When we’re expecting, we read the books. We buy cute little outfits and decorate cute little nurseries. We get weekly updates from Baby Center so we know the size of our baby, relative to a fruit or vegetable. We might see Snooki’s or Jessica Simpson’s Twitter feeds and have an idea of what to expect with a newborn, but are we really prepared for what to expect, after we’re expecting?
I know I wasn’t prepared for the depth and breadth of my exhaustion when we had our son. While there are a lot of things I wish I knew then that I know now, the top of that long list is knowledge about sleep. As a new parent, you’re going to get tired. But there are things you can do in the early stages to create healthy sleep habits.
Newborns typically do a few things. They eat, and they sleep . . . oh, and they cry too. Their sleep needs are as high as 20 hours per day. You can expect most of that sleep will come in the form of long and short naps. Remember newborns have TINY tummies and will need to feed often. What often drives their waking cycles is the need to eat.
That means that sleep can be erratic. You might look for patterns, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any. So take sleep when it comes. That may mean your baby sleeps more in the day than in the night in the beginning.
What should I do?
Here’s some suggestions to help you cope:
1) Whatever it takes – This is your new motto. Embrace it. Keep your baby as well rested as possible. You may need to help your baby to sleep. Don’t worry about spoiling your baby or forming any “bad habits” (like nursing/feeding to sleep). It’s too early for habits to stick and it’s really too early for patterns and biological rhythms to emerge.
2) Take care of yourself – Ensure you’re eating well, drinking lots and sleeping as well as possible. Only if you’re taking care of yourself can you take care of the new life in your hands. This means protecting your sleep too. Split “shifts” with your partner if possible, and/or enlist the help of willing and capable grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.
3) Enjoy your baby – Be responsive to their cries, you’re not going to spoil them or get them into any bad habits at this point. Marvel at the miracle your baby is. Get to know each other. You’re in this for the long haul, so you might as well be friends.
Stay tuned for next week as we look beyond, into the 8-16 week old range.