My beautiful baby girl was born a month ago. Oh my goodness. She is my fourth so I’ve done this a few times. But I seriously fall head over heals every time I meet one of my gorgeous little people. I’m sure you understand. It’s a life changing moment.
This birth was different than my others because I had a scheduled c section. Let me tell ya, walking into the operating room on my own two feet rather than being wheeled in under stressful circumstances was both a relief and very eery. I was nervous and excited and full of anticipation. And nothing calmed my nerves until the moment my baby girl was pulled out and my husband told me the wonderful news that we were both so overwhelmed with joy to hear; it’s a healthy girl. Oh my. I didn’t even have to see her to love her. But thankfully, within a few minutes my husband brought her over to me and I laid eyes on that precious thing.
That is how our journey with Samara in this world started.
And as you know, the beginning is the calm part. Usually. And this was the case for us. Samara slept and ate and just laid there, being her adorable self. She did nothing else. She was happy to be held and loved and snuggled. Very little interrupted her sleep in this first week. Most often her only disturbance was if we tried to set her down. These little people have just spent ten months being encased by you. They prefer it that way. So, don’t be surprised that baby wants to be held at all times and try to enjoy it. It can be exhausting to never have the chance to put baby down without her waking, but she will grow in this and it won’t be the case forever. During this first week, however, keeping her close will make her most comfortable.
Also, for this first week, I had no set wake times for Samara. I let her eat and sleep on demand. Because this is basically all she is doing at this time, there is no need to mess with it, in my opinion. You can count on the fact that baby will need to eat every 2-4 hours (usually, the longer stretch for babies who are formula fed and the shorter stretch for breast fed babies). In between that time, she will just want to sleep and be snuggled by you. Just enjoy this early time when baby will sleep through most anything and will happily curl up on your shoulder or in your arms.
Week two looked much like week one. Samara wanted to snuggle, eat, and sleep. And she still wanted to be held (or worn) as much as possible. The only change I made this week was close to the end of the week when I started giving Samara two wake times each day. These are times that I made sure she was out in the house with the rest of the family. I never did this first thing in the morning as the first morning nap is pretty much an extension of night time sleep, so I didn’t want to try to keep her awake then when her body is naturally ready to just stay in sleep mode. However, a few hours later, I made little Miss Samara stay awake for a short period of time after she ate. I suggest that this wake time could be around thirty minutes and shouldn’t be longer than an hour. Once you keep baby up longer than an hour, you will likely have a very tired newborn on your hands and she will be harder to get back to sleep. The point in doing these wake times is to encourage baby to have her awake times during the day and to sleep longer stretches at night. Trust me, you’ll be so very thankful you put effort into this as you will soon have a baby that sleeps through the night. I’m not even joking. Your friends will be super jealous.
Here I also want to note that though baby sleeps through most things still, she will sleep best in a dark and quiet (with the exception of a white noise machine) room. There is a common misconception that you can train baby to sleep in a noisy and light environment. She just came from a dark environment where the only sound she heard was similar to white noise. Trying to make her sleep in an environment totally opposite from where she just came will likely be a somewhat losing battle. And honestly, even though baby will do this in these early weeks, they will not do it in the long run. So, making a dark and quiet place for baby to sleep is really of utmost importance.
Also, a note about helping baby soothe herself. Babies naturally want to suck to soothe. So, if you are breastfeeding, baby may be using you to soothe herself. For bottle fed babies, this is where a pacifier comes in handy. For mamas who are getting sore from breastfeeding, a pacifier may offer some relief as well. Just ensure you are aware of introducing a pacifier while breast feeding as some say that using one before breast feeding is fully established (after a couple weeks) can cause nipple confusion. For Samara, I allow her to have a pacifier whenever she wants. She uses one almost constantly at this point. However, after she has been awake for an hour or longer, she has wanted to have a little snack while falling asleep. This can really be a helpful tool when baby is just a bit too tired because she wasn’t able to get back to sleep quick enough and has now become overtired or even feeling just a little hungry. Honestly, with Samara being my fourth and being home with all four by myself, this has happened much more to her than any other child. So, if I haven’t been available to help baby girl get back to sleep (because at this age she most definitely needs my help to get back to sleep, especially after her daily wake times), she often needs just a little bottle to help soothe her and fill her tummy.
Here I will mention ‘associations.’ Sucking in order in order to soothe is something that can last quite awhile. This is called an association because baby associates going to sleep with sucking. This can happen with many things that are offered while baby is falling asleep: being rocked, being in a baby swing, being fed, being held, etc. These are all things that can be very useful in helping baby fall asleep. They may also become associations that you will eventually need to break. This is totally your call. I have chosen to allow certain things to be an association with sleep and I then choose when I break those associations. For now, I allow Samara to suck on a pacifier when going to sleep (or most any time at this point). If she is up for more than an hour, I also offer a small bottle. And finally, I am willing to hold her to help her fall asleep at this age. These are all associations I allow because I know that she is much too young to comfort and soothe herself. She is simply incapable of it and it is my job as her mother to slowly teach her how to eventually fall asleep on her own. This is already where that begins! I allow only certain things to be associated with sleep and, as you will see, I slowly break those associations over time as she becomes more capable of soothing herself. I would say this is one of the top things parents need to understand about baby sleep. Apart from a schedule (which I am a huge proponent of), associations can be a huge obstacle when it comes to baby falling asleep on her own. You can already have all of this in mind at this early age and make intentional choices about what you allow. Then, as you will see with Samara, you can make a concerted effort along the way to break those associations when it is age appropriate (which will not be too far down the road).
This week I have added another wake time for Samara whenever possible. So, the goal is to give her three wake times, which will lead into her daily schedule that will start in another couple weeks. The difference between now and a few weeks down the road is that I am not controlling when she wakes up to have these times. I am going with her (almost constant) desire for sleep, but helping her have some wake times during the day to make sure she gets closer and closer to sleeping through the night. At this point, Samara will wake and eat between 9-11pm, again 12-2am, and then 3-5am. Those are what I consider her night wakings and they really just depend on what we have had going that day and when she has been sleeping during the day. She is pretty consistent in sleeping for a good three hour stretch at a time, on average. At night I have already seen longer stretches of 4-6 hours at a time. As I start to structure her day time sleep in a few weeks, my prediction is that she will start to sleep through the night. Make sure you stay with me to see if that happens and how I work hard to make sure it does!
This week I am also often trying to allow Samara to be put down in bed before she is drop dead asleep. One of my golden rules is: drowsy baby = head to bed, tired baby = too late. Previously, I have been more likely to hold Samara until she was deeply asleep and then simply lay her down. This week, I am helping Samara begin to break the association she has with being held and going to sleep. This may feel too early for you. After all, this is only week three and you are still likely enjoying newborn snuggles. I totally get it. This one is up to you. I have a need to have my hands free because I have three other kiddos that need me. My oldest is five so I am still busy helping meet most needs for my kids. So, while I enjoy the newborn snuggles so very much, I can’t spend my whole day holding Samara. I tend to take advantage of holding her in the early morning before the other kids are up and letting her sleep on me after my big kids are in bed and I’m hanging out with my husband. Other than that, I try to at least provide Samara with the opportunity to be put down while she is still awake or drowsy. She doesn’t take me up on these opportunities every time, but that is part of learning. If she falls sleep on her own once or twice a day, that is a huge win for me. And I know that it is leading her towards the goal of that being her normal routine. I can promise you this works as all three of my other kiddos have always been put down for their day time naps totally awake and they fall asleep on their own. I literally walk them into their room, put them in their crib/bed, and they take care of the rest. This is the case at bed time after they stop taking a bottle also. The work you do now will pay off in the long run. Again, your friends will be totally jealous.
This week Samara has continued with three wake times each day. As mentioned, this will continue to be her pattern once I get her day time schedule more established and will not change for a very long time. The only thing about it that will change is how long her wake times last. For now, I’m sticking with 30-60 minutes and taking my cues from her.
I have continued to put my little nugget down drowsy but awake whenever possible. She continues to fall asleep on her own a couple times a day and I’m so very thankful for that! I know she’ll continue to get better and better as I give her the opportunity to practice falling asleep on her own.
This week Samara also had her first experience of sleeping through the night! That’s right, my friends! My four week old slept from 9pm-6am. The night before that, she slept for six straight hours. She keeps getting better and better at this sleep thing and I’m so very glad I’m helping her do it. I did nothing special these two nights to help Samara sleep these longer stretches. Her body naturally wants the sleep, so I just focus on protecting her sleep during the day with her short wake times that lead her back to bed. I make sure she has the opportunity to sleep in her dark room with only white noise. I try to give her the chance to sleep in her own bed, despite having to take my older daughter to and from pre school (more on that below). All of this is helping Samara get the rest she needs, at the times she needs it. When I focus on doing that, she will continue moving towards these longer night time stretches. And that makes for both a happy baby and mama!
Every baby teaches me something new. And they don’t wait until they are walking, talking, or being more independent to do that! Right away, I’ve dealt with some things that I’ve not had to deal with with the other newborns. To start, my poor Samara got both a cold and thrush when she was two weeks old. This can obviously make for a challenging situation, but I continued on my sleep training path of wake times and knew that if I made sure Samara could sleep while she was fighting both these things, she would be better off for it. This also meant that I knew she was more uncomfortable so I used my Moby wrap and ring sling as much as I could to help her sleep close to me as often as possible. I also did things like propping her Doc-A-Tot slightly and using a Nose Frieda (very gently) to help with her stuffy nose.
Next, at Samara’s two week check up I told the doctor that I could see Samara was starting down the path of having some digestive issues, which I believed was from having to be on formula right away. Two of my other kids had the very same issue, so I knew what to look for. My dear, sweet doctor told me it was colic and I would just have to deal with it. However, I went with my gut and decided to try a probiotic (after confirming with my doctor that it was safe to try it). Within 24 hour we were good to go and Samara’s stomach cramping, straining, and pushing was all gone! The probiotic, along with some stomach massaging, an inclined bed, keeping her upright while feeding and for 10-15 minutes after feeding, and good burping got us through and kept my little one sleeping well.
Another challenge is the pacifier. Remember I said I use this as a soothing tool and I love it….but I also hate it. That stinkin’ thing falls out when she relaxes or if she just accidentally spits it out and quickly decides she wants it again…immediately. Ha. So, I spent my fair share of Samara’s sleep time running back to her room to put that pacifier in again. I’m willing to do this right now because I know sucking helps her relax and fall back to sleep. I could have made things easier on myself (in some ways) if I would have just held her to let her sleep. But I just can’t do that and get everything else done with my other kiddos. So, I traded holding her with running back in to put replace the pacifier.
And finally, three days a week I take my daughter to pre school and everyone else has to be toted along with! We also live far enough from pre school that we have to stay out while Hadessah is at school. So, I have had to figure out how to work that in for Samara’s sleep. For now, it’s working well enough that she wakes around 5-6am, sleeps until 8am and then I wake her to eat and get in the car by 8:30am. She doesn’t love the car seat so she doesn’t usually fall asleep on our 30 minute drive. If she does, it isn’t very quality sleep as she wakes continually to let me know how much she dislikes it. After dropping my big girl off, we head somewhere to let the middle two play and I wear Samara in the Moby or ring sling and she can get a good 2-2.5 hour nap in before I wake her to feed and get back in the car. We only have another month of pre school but I’m still unsure how these three days a week of being out will effect Samara’s morning nap once I work to get her day time sleep more organised. I’m thinking through that and we’ll have to see what I come up with to make it all work!
MY MUST HAVES
There are a few things I am so thankful I’ve had this month and I want to share those with you.
First, a noise machine. My house is noisy. All. The. Time. We are working on our ‘inside voices’ but in the meantime, I still need Samara to sleep. So, she has a noise machine going in her room at, what would seem to be, an unnatural loudness. However, the womb is actually a very loud place and the loud white noise makes a baby feel right at home. Even if your house is quiet, giving baby a little white noise will be very comforting and help her sleep.
Next, a friend lent me her Dock-A-Tot. I LOVE it. It’s a safe way for baby to sleep in bed with you or you could easily drop it in the crib or bassinet. Baby has been curled up inside you for quite some time. They are not looking for a huge space to sprawl out in. In fact, being snuggled up helps baby sleep so much better. The Dock-A-Tot allows baby to feel snug, thus feeling safe and comfortable. Whether you use a Dock-A-Tot or not, I do recommend getting something small for baby to sleep in initially. This can be a bassinet or Moses basket, for example. Anything that helps baby feel snug and safe, like they did in the womb, will help her fall, and stay, asleep. I will also mention that what I love about the Dock-A-Tot is that I could easily position Samara. I put a folded blanket under the head of the Dock-A-Tot to elevate her head just a little to avoid hiccups, help with digestion, and ease a stuffy nose. I could also lay her down slightly on her side when I wanted. I love being easily able to do these things to try to help Samara be as comfortable as possible, avoid hiccups, and help her stay asleep for long stretches!
I also love my Rock ‘N Play. Because I have to use formula right away, my babies have dealt with extra gas and, at times, constipation. The way baby sits in the Rock ‘N Play has been really great for these times of gassiness and I love that I can bring baby around with me without leaving her on the floor, where other kiddos can get to her when I’m not there.
My Moby wrap is another great tool that I use in the first weeks. This is a secure, soft, and comfortable baby carrier that allows me to bring baby around with me but gives me the ability to be hands free so I can still get other things done or help my other kiddos. It can be a bit cumbersome to get on, but once it is on, I like it a lot. However, because I am now having to do a pre school run and be out and about more than I ever have with any other newborn, I needed something that I could use more quickly. For that reason, I’ve recently been using a ring sling. I don’t find it as comfortable and have to adjust it much more often, but it is a lot quicker than a Moby. With either wrap, Samara is asleep within a couple minutes. This just shows how much babies enjoy being as close as possible to mom and is a great option when you need to help baby sleep but need to be hands free.
LESSONS TO REMEMBER
As I have a newborn all over again, I’m reminded of a few lessons that I have learned over time that are still proving true!
- Don’t go to baby too quickly. Newborns wiggle and grunt and make all sorts of little noises. This does not mean they need your attention. Give them the space and time to sort themselves out. This is all part of them learning to go to sleep and stay asleep on their own.
- I already mentioned babies want to suck to soothe! Very helpful to keep in mind.
- Samara loves to be close to me. At night, I took advantage of having her next to me in the Dock-A-Tot where I could easily keep my hand on her back or snuggle near enough that she could smell me. Sometimes I just held her little hand and we fell asleep like that. Newborns like to know you are near. I used that both during the day and night.
- Babies love a good swaddle…most of the time. Until they don’t. Ha! Samara was happy to be swaddled for the first couple weeks. Then I could tell she was trying to get out! I found that if I continued swaddling but let her have her hands up by her face, she didn’t resist. This is comforting to her because in the womb, babies are used to having their little hands up by their face. So, when I started letting her do that, she was happy to be swaddle again.
Well, friends, there ya go. I hope this recap of Samara’s first month was helpful. I am excited to be on this journey with you. Let me know if I can answer questions or help you in any way. I am a baby sleep nerd, so I actually love this stuff. Send me a note! I’ll help if I can!