When it comes to a lack of sleep and needing more of it, sometimes it’s hard to tell who wants to cry louder, you or your new baby.
The truth is that it takes time for you and the baby to adjust to a new sleep routine. And there’s the irony: You need time to get the rest you need before you and the baby are back up again. You’re also wondering if your baby is getting a normal amount of healthy sleep. After all, especially if this is your first child, you have no idea what “normal” really is.
Your baby’s sleep patterns in the first months
During the first three months, newborns usually spend 14 to 17 hours sleeping during a 24-hour day. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And it may make you wonder why you’re still so tired if the baby’s asleep more often than awake.
Here’s the key: It’s not 14 to 17 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The baby’s sleep-time is chunked into shorter periods, during which diapers are changed, and the family enjoys spending time with the newest member. And then there are the all-important feeding times: Babies who are breastfed usually need to eat every 2 hours, compared to the 3 hours bottle-fed babies need.
Keep in mind, these sleep patterns can be all over the place during the first four months or so. Don’t worry if your newborn isn’t exactly following the schedule above.
Sleep tips for the newborn
It may feel like the foggy, groggy days and nights with your new baby will never end. But while you wait for that happy day (or rather, night) when you’re all sleeping soundly, there are some things you can do to help you and your baby get the healthiest amount of sleep you can.
Cue the calm
When you have a calming ritual for bedtime, your baby will learn cues for going to sleep quickly. These cues can be anything from a warm bath to a few minutes of rocking the baby until he’s drowsy. The things you do with the baby before it’s time to sleep can create habits that help reinforce sleep in the future.
Keep baby busy during the day
Gently introduce stimulating behaviors to your newborn during the daytime hours. Try talking and singing to her, going outdoors, turning on lights and playing. This helps her waking times go on longer and may help her sleep longer at night.
Put a drowsy baby to bed
The baby doesn’t have to be fully asleep when she’s put in the crib. Instead, put the baby to bed in a state of drowsiness. This approach can help your infant learn to fall asleep on her own instead of needing to have someone holding her until she nods off.
Quiet the night
When your baby is feeding or being changed, you’ll want to have a darkened, quiet room if possible. It’s easier for the baby to sleep afterward if she’s not playing or being awakened for anything other than regular feeding.
Sleep tips for the new mom
There’s no gold medal for new moms who try to do it all themselves. And if no one offers to help, ask for it. People get caught up in their own busy routines, but many friends and family won’t hesitate to help if you ask. Remember, the baby usually will sleep in spurts, so grab someone who has a few hours to spare. Then grab someone else for another round of feeding, changing and watching the baby while you rest.
First, clear the clutter where you sleep. That means if you can move loads of laundry, workout equipment and bills somewhere else, do it. Too many distractions—things you need to do (fold laundry) or should do but don’t (work out)—can keep you from getting the most refreshing sleep.
Sleep deprivation, or sleep debt, shouldn’t be ignored
Are you feeling like being deprived of sleep is taking a serious toll? Then it’s time to take action. Sleep debt can impair your thinking and the way you behave—something you certainly don’t want with a new baby to care for. Signs to look for include:
- Blurred vision
- Changes in appetite
- Mood swings
- Trouble focusing
Call on your partner, a family member or a friend to step in right away and help with the baby. Then you can start getting the sleep you need for your—and your baby’s—sake.
Step away from the coffee cup
You feel like nothing can prop your drooping eyes open like a blast of caffeine. But the problem is, if you drink it throughout the day, it may keep you awake. But then it will do the exact same thing when you don’t want it to and keep you awake when you want to go to sleep. Enjoy your coffee but try to go easy on it and avoid drinking any caffeinated drink late in the day.
Safety first for a sleeping baby
More than anything, it’s vital to practice safe sleep habits with your baby. Put your infant in a crib, and make sure that sleep space contains only a firm mattress and a fitted sheet. There shouldn’t be any toys, blankets or pillows in the crib and babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep.
Sleep patterns change over a baby’s first year. Those chunks of time will extend into longer and longer episodes until one day you’ll wake up and realize you’ve all had a good night’s rest.