Sleepless nights, or seemingly sleepless nights, are a natural part of becoming parents. New babies wake to eat around the clock, and some seem to prefer the nocturnal hours for socializing. As normal as it may be, staying awake all night, or getting up three or four times in the night is exhausting and one of the most challenging parts of early parenthood. Fortunately, there are ways to survive.
Newborns are much too young for cry-it-out styles of sleep training, and they also should not go more than two to four hours between feedings until they are closer to six weeks of age. There are steps you can take, however, to help your new baby work toward a better night routine.
The most common newborn problem with nights is the baby prefers to sleep all day and party all night. Of course she wants company, so she keeps her parents up, too. To reverse this rather annoying newborn habit, be sure you wake your baby every three or four hours to eat during the day and add proper stimulation.
Keep the house bright with natural sunlight and maintain a normal volume of noise. After baby eats, stimulate her for a little while – not hours, just as long as she is willing to “play.” When she starts yawning again, put her back down for a nap in the middle of the action, or somewhere close enough to sense that the rest of the household is up and about.
At night, keep the room dark where she is sleeping and play a soothing white noise. Keep conversation and cooing to a minimum and don’t wake the baby to eat unless your doctor has instructed you otherwise or it’s been four hours since her last feeding. It won’t take long for your little angel to realize that days are for playing and nights are for sleeping.
Even with baby sleeping in two to four hour blocks at night, you’ll be tired. Use those daytime naps as well as you can to catch up on rest. Sleep when the baby is sleeping. Every hour or two of nap or quiet rest can make the sleepless nights more tolerable.
Take turns with your spouse to feed baby at night. If she is waking every two hours, alternate who is feeding her to give your significant other a chance for more sleep.
Even breastfeeding moms can take advantage of this. If you’re worried about your supply, take ten minutes to pump in the middle of the night. Ten minutes of pumping is better than thirty minutes of feeding and soothing. You might also realize that going four or five hours between feedings won’t hurt your supply, and you may be willing to sleep through within a week or two.
While many object, others find that co-sleeping is a viable option for getting more sleep. Putting your baby to bed with you may help her sleep longer as your presence is soothing and food is nearby. Of course, before trying co-sleeping you should research the ways to do so as safely as possible.
If all else fails, wait it out. At night feed your baby as quickly as possible and get her back to bed. Rock her for hours during the day, but help her learn to fall asleep on her own at night. This doesn’t mean leave her to cry, but snuggling while feeding and placing her back in the crib drowsy will help her learn this critical skill. In a few weeks her sleep will begin to lengthen and before you know it, she’ll be sleeping five hour stretches, which to a new parent, is what is blissfully called, “sleeping through the night.”
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