Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To my future self: Newborn Sleeping Tips

I find history repeating itself a bit with our newborn sleeping struggles and my response seems to be consistent as well. Therefore, from a sense of self-preservation I'm sending my future self (and any of you that are interested) sleeping support at the two-month mark. For context, sleep is really important to our function and our kids seem to function better with more sleep too. I reached my personal sleep deprivation tipping point last week at about the same time I did with B. Immediately thereafter Miss M's sleeping pattern dramatically improved... Obviously. In any case, here are my tips for what they are worth.

1. This will end. --- The problem is, of course, that you don't know when. That said, your baby will ultimately sleep through the night and so will you. Sadly, I can't tell you when this will happen. For B, it was about 3-4 months. I've heard for others as few as 6 weeks and some well.... you don't even want to know.

2. Make a plan with your spouse addressing who will get up with the baby. (I am assuming here that your spouse will be sharing nighttime duties. The type of help they give would vary if you breastfeed, but at our casa we each take turns in nighttime feedings). Our experience is that two somewhat tired people makes more sense than one completely exhausted to the point of not being functional person regardless of who is leaving to go to work. That said, the plan may be as specific or vague as you and your partner need. Figuring this out while mostly asleep is not good. Our recently re-worked plan is more specific than you would want to know, but discussing it while awake and rational works much better than at 5am. Make discussing it a priority even if it involves a mid-day call during work hours. Sanity is key all around here.

3. Just because you have a plan for who gets up does not mean you can't or shouldn't change it, freely. --- Brent and I had a lovely plan. We each "covered" a five hour shift and if she woke during that time we were responsible for taking care of her. Well, Miss M decided to stop waking up during Daddy's shift and then wake up say, 4-5 times during my shift..... any guesses where this headed? Yes, I lost it one lovely 5am morning just as I did with B's sleep years early. Note to future self--- Just ask for help before the tipping point next time. He really will do anything and does want to help but you must tell him. (Have I mentioned that my husband is awesome and I'm insanely lucky???) This talk/re-organization is much preferred by all to sleep deprived angry tears. You are both too sleep deprived to rely on the other just figuring it out. New plan - we alternate getting up. (there are actually even more details than that, believe it or not).

4. It is normal to lie there waiting for her to wake up in transition periods when she starts sleeping longer. That said, do try to sleep. She is doing you a favor and I promise she will wake you when she needs you.

5. Learning to sleep by oneself is important for babies unless you plan to sleep with them indefinitely. Therefore, you can help the baby practice sleeping by themselves by frequently putting them down while they nap or sleep at night. That said, there may be times when you want to hold them or they just need to be held. That is OK do not beat yourself up or think your sleep training will be ruined by these little moments. You need to bond, snuggle and hold them if that is what you feel like you need to do. Just keep the long-term situation in mind as well as the dream of sleeping in a bed again:)

6. No two babies are the same. What works with mine may not work with yours. What worked with B will not necessarily work with M. For example, B had trouble falling asleep, but M puts herself to sleep easily, yet has trouble staying asleep. This leads quickly to..

7. Just keep trying things. There are lots of ways to put babies to sleep and lots of ways to ensure that they and you get enough sleep. Talk to your friends, family, spouse, and moms you see in the park. Google is your friend (but do try not to get freaked out by some of the horror stories out there). Keep talking and keep trying things. You can do it!

8. Just about the time your little one starts sleeping longer one begins to ponder when they'll learn to fall asleep on their own. For B, we moved to this around 8 months. I think it could have been earlier if we were paying attention and this time we will be. She has already, on occasion, put herself to sleep when set down in a drowsy state a time or two so we'll keep watch on that. I believe Jamie's advice here is not to wait until 16 months, but overall do what works for you and your kid (as always).

9. I find myself wishing I had some memory of the sleep progression with B so I'm outlining how it has gone with M thus far below for your and my future reference:

Weeks 1-2 - about every 2-3 hours as expected and eating some each time.
Weeks 3-4ish - Dreamy - she went to sleep around 9, woke up at 3 and 6:30 or so. Audra and Able were here and we all got some awesome rest. At least one or two nights, I didn't get up at all!
Weeks 4ish-8 - The wheels came off the sleep wagon so to speak. She would wake up relatively randomly, but something like 10, 12, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7..... Yeah. She did not eat all these times, but would randomly eat a lot and then nothing another time which wasted a lot of formula and was tough to predict. Gradually, she started eliminating the midnight waking or pushing it back to sort of merge with the 2pm slot. I had a horrible time getting her to stay asleep after 4am. Would sleep with her after 6am, but would try to put her down until then, usually. I wasn't very successful and was VERY tired by morning.
Week 8-9. Starting right when she hit 8 weeks and I hit wall, things shifted. We've moved (she says hopefully) to just two feedings a night. The first continues to shift further back. It is now around 2am. The next is moving later too (5, 5:30, and 6:45 over the last few days). I'm optimistic this is moving us towards one feeding a night as the last feeding is getting close to my normal wake up time of 7ish.

10. Napping when the baby naps is solid, in concept. However, with newborns it is very hard to know if it will be a 20 minute quick nap or a longer power nap. It is also rather tricky to do this if you have more than one kid in the house as napping at the same time is a bit advanced in these early days. I think the concept is sleep when you can as it needs to be a priority even when there are other things you might "want" to do. You need to remain functional for everyone's sake so take some naps and go to sleep early when possible. You'll be happier in the long run.

In Summary - See number 1 - You can do anything for a little while. Look at the challenges you've overcome thus far. If possible, take a big step back and see that this time with your little one is also about bonding, snuggling and staring at each other. You are bonding and becoming a family. You are all doing your best and your little one would like to sleep too. Years from now, you'll wish you had your little one to snuggle regardless the hour. So, take a deep breath and forge ahead together.


(Note: For another take, you can listen to last week's momversation on the divisive sleep training subject, but they are a bit further along in sleep works than we are just now. That said, I'm pretty sure I could never let my kid cry it out all night for 14 nights.... wow...)

1 comment:

DebB said...

I might add: remember that babies are not malicious. They are just learning how to live in the outside world and do not do things to make you miserable. As Audra says: Pooping is difficult for them, as is everything else.

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