I have recently been chatting with women all over the US about the challenges they are having with their babies. Some are over a year old and some are just brand new. And it’s the mamas of a brand new baby I want to write to today.
In the hospital, everything is a whirlwind. You are soaking in your new little person like the air you breath. Meeting them is one of the most amazing experiences of your life.
And you are surrounded by nurses and perhaps both family and friends, all of whom are there to help you when you need it. They can hold the baby while she sleeps or change the diaper while you lay in bed recovering. They can answer questions for you as they come to mind.
Then you go home.
It’s just you and baby after your husband returns to work. And if that isn’t the scariest moment of your life, I don’t know what is. Realising you are responsible to keep this little sweetheart alive all on your own is kind of a shock, isn’t it?! It was for me and for many mamas I’ve talked with!
These first days and weeks can be so hard. Helping baby sleep can be one of the biggest challenges but I just want to encourage you that it can get much easier, very quickly.
In my opinion, it is never too early to look at a sleep schedule and start to gear your day around it. In fact, the sooner you start, the less chance you will find yourself months down the road with a baby who doesn’t sleep and a mama who is totally frazzled, at her wit’s end.
When my third baby was four weeks old, I began adhering to the sleep schedule you can find in the link just above. By five weeks old, he was sleeping through the night. I did the same with my girlies, though I didn’t think to start as early and had started at eight weeks with my first and 12 weeks with my second. But, by baby number three, things had to start a little sooner as both my time and attention were already in high demand.
To make life easier for all of us, I got on my sleep schedule! And you can, too! I would recommend letting you, your baby, and the rest of your family just get used to the recent new addition. Give yourself a few weeks of snuggling and enjoying being close with baby. She needs it and let’s be honest, newborn baby snuggles are pretty much the best thing ever. You and baby don’t want to miss this special time. Then, after you’ve all settled a bit and delirium from a few weeks of newborn night time wakings, start looking at the sleep schedule and working to put it in to place.
Start by determining the time you will get the day started with baby. I suggest 7am as that is what is modelled in the books (by authors Weissbluth and Ford) that I love. I will say, however, that my first baby slept until 8am every single morning! It was the best! So, I never woke her because her morning wake time was something I could count on and I didn’t need to mess with it. I still found how to get her all the day time sleep she needed and she continued to sleep from 6pm until 8am. Both my other babies have had 7am wake times in the morning and we work with that. This is a great place to start!
As you get your day time wake time established, quickly get that first morning nap established. With brand new babies, they last about an hour and are ready to head back to bed. You can use both the clock and her cues (tired eyes, little fusses, etc) to make sure that you are getting baby to bed when she is drowsy and not yet tired. Some great advice right there…
Drowsy = Head to Bed, Tired = Too Late
And as you get these morning practices down, things will continue to fall into place the rest of the day. A new baby will not be awake more than 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Anything longer than this and you will have a grumpy, overtired baby on your hands who has a very hard time going to bed. So, let baby sleep for an hour for her morning nap (which would be from 8am-9am, using the 7am wake time) and then be ready to take her back to bed before 11am so she can be sleeping by 11am. Let baby sleep for 2 1/2 hours an wake at 1:30pm. After another two hour awake window, you will be taking baby back to bed around 3:30. Remember, watch for her cues to see if she is tired as nap time is approaching and as soon as you see she is drowsy, that is the time you want to take her in to bed. You always want baby to be in her bed, falling asleep or asleep by the start of the nap time. So, if the next late afternoon nap is to start at 3:30, you may start to head to the dark, quiet room around 3pm to nurse/bottle feed, diaper change, and rock. Your goal is to be able to lay baby down and have her sleep (whether she was asleep when you laid her down or if she was in a drowsy state and fell asleep on her own) right around the 3:30pm mark. Baby will sleep for an hour at this nap time and be up around 4:30pm. This will now be baby’s last day time awake time so enjoy your last hour together before you start a bedtime routine. Bedtime routine can include a bath, a massage with lotion, and some extra snuggle time before bed. This longer, different routine before bed time is the cue to baby that night time is here and longer sleep stretches are needed! Like I said, with my third baby, he naturally started sleeping through the night a week after I started more closely regulating his day time sleep. Their brains and bodies are wired to sleep as this schedule outlines and they will follow along if you protect this schedule and give them a quiet, dark place to sleep.
You can do this! You grew and birthed this little person and now you get to teach them so many things in this world, including how to sleep. Your job is to protect their sleep time, give them the right environment to sleep in (quiet and dark), and help them as they eventually learn to self soothe. Right now, just follow the schedule as best you can and you will see your baby’s sleep fall right into place. There may be bumps along the road, but you can do this. God chose you to be this little baby’s mama and you are the perfect mama for her!