THERE ARE NONE.
Just kidding, don’t close your browser just yet 😉
I have four children and as such, have gone through the whole sleep adjustment four times over … crazy right?! So while my opinion on newborn sleep is not all all knowing and maybe not even all correct, I’d still love to share some the things I learned while navigating my fair share of sleepless nights because when you are going through the roller coaster of emotions a newborn brings, it sometimes feels like you just might die. While we all hope for that ideal baby who falls into routine quickly and sleeps “through the night,” the hard truth is that most babies are not born naturally great at sleeping. Their little bodies are hardwired to wake them up to make sure they get the sustenance and cuddles they need and sometimes those little bodies are just a bit confused as to precisely how much sustenance and cuddles they really do need, like my firstborn who felt waking every hour was a necessity. So here are some tips that, although may not be the “sleep miracle” you are looking for, will hopefully give you reassurance that you’ve got this and you probably won’t die.
Number 1 ~ BEFORE BABY EVEN ARRIVES, GEAR YOUR HEADSPACE. When I was expecting my firstborn all I could think about was this baby that I couldn’t wait to meet. I truly don’t think a gave a single thought to the fact that perhaps I had some sleepless nights ahead and when anyone mentioned it, I would quickly dismiss it. Ain’t nobody got time for Debbie downers! It’s the way we are ~ hardwired optimists which is a good thing, but boy was the shock massive in the first few nights when we arrived home with this gorgeous child that we had been waiting for, for so long. The next time I was smarter. I knew the first few weeks could be a little rough at night so I got my headspace ready for it. Not expecting to have much sleep actually makes it a little easier when it happens and who knows maybe you will be pleasantly surprised and get more sleep than you bargained for. It’s still hard when your body is desperate to go back to sleep, but every time that little squawk would wake me up, I would tell myself it’s ok. It won’t be like this forever. I was EXPECTING THIS ANYWAY. By the time my fourth arrived, I actually found myself sometimes (note sometimes) enjoying the night hours. There is something actually quite beautiful about how silent the world is at night and the bond you are creating with your newborn when it’s just them and you … that and the fact that the rest of the kids are sleeping.
Number 2 ~ FIND YOUR MOM SQUAD. Having a baby is hard. Amazing, incredible and exhilarating, but hard. Dealing with lack of sleep is really tough, but especially if you feel like you are alone. Find a tribe of moms you can relate to, share those amazing experiences with and commiserate with. Even a Facebook or a WhatsApp group can help when you share what you are going through and suddenly you realize that most moms are dealing with the same issues. The best type of support though, is face to face with real people. If you don’t have any friends close to you or friends who you can relate to, perhaps join a local moms group. You’ll often find them advertised at schools, churches, clinics etc. Get out the house during the day, even if it’s just for a quick coffee with a friend. You’ll be surprised at how much a change of environment can boost your sleep weary emotions.
Number 3 ~ GO AHEAD AND TRY “ALL THE THINGS,” BUT REMIND YOURSELF NOT TO FALL APART IF THEY DON’T SEEM TO WORK. Somehow that bath routine with Johnson’s Lavender products always gave me a little smidgen of hope even though at the back of my mind I knew that lavender wasn’t likely to be the sleep miracle we had hoped for. Some things really do help newborns sleep better, but more importantly it gives you hope for a better night! There are some great things you can try like:
* Swaddling. Have you ever seen how newborns wake themselves by jerking their arms and giving themselves a fright ? It’s a little reflex action they are born with and swaddling can really help reduce waking from it.
* Reducing day time nap length. This was a little trick a nurse told me when I had just given birth to my fourth (even after 4 babies you still don’t know it all!) Apparently newborns have a certain number of hours that they sleep out of 24 as well as a daily calorie “quota” so to speak. The problem comes in when they sleep solidly for hours during the day, using up up most of their daily sleep quota and not getting enough calorie intake, so it’s logical that they then become very wakeful at night to feed more often. She suggested waking baby for a feed every 2 to 2.5 hrs during the day which is not always easy with a very sleepy newborn, but certainly worth a try!
* Keep in mind that baby doesn’t have to be awake for long periods of time to “tire them out.” Babies have a very predictable wake, feed, play and sleep cycle. As adults we know that the more exhausted you are from your day, the better you sleep at night so naturally we think that if we encourage baby to play a little longer, they will sleep better. This is not true and baby ends up getting over stimulated and cranky and tends to have a restless sleep. Sleep begets more sleep with babies. Try get your baby back to sleep as soon as you see signs of tiredness like yawning and cranky behaviour.
* Try a dreamfeed. When you are ready to go to bed, give baby a little top up feed. This means that hopefully your baby won’t wake just as you are drifting off to sleep. I don’t know about you, but getting woken at that point was much worse than a middle of the night waking!
* Try changing your baby’s nappy in the middle of a night feed rather than at the end and keep the lighting very dim. This reduces the chance that baby will become fully awake and battle to go back to sleep at the end of the feed.
There are lots of tips out there and I’m sure the ones I’ve mentioned are just a few, but this for me is the most important one of all.DON’T EVER FORGET THAT THIS STAGE OF YOUR LIFE IS GOING TO PASS IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE. Sleepless nights may seem like an eternity when you are going through it, but before you know it you have a handsome 15 year old son who can’t seem to get enough sleep! You will survive, you will eventually get your bed back to yourself and you will get your 6 to 8hrs of sleep again, but something in you will always look back with nostalgia on those precious first few years of your child’s life. A time when you were the one fully able to protect them from the world. A time when you didn’t have to worry about their education, finding their way in life or finding the right partner. A time where you could always hold them close, smell their sweet scent and warm breath on your face. Take it from me mama, no matter how hard it feels right now, you’ve got this.