Some babies sleep through the night from 6 weeks old and are excellent nappers. Hopefully, that is what will happen to you but it’s not quite what happened with us!
5 Baby Sleep Tips
Here are 5 things that I learned about baby sleep that I hope will help you as you struggle or thrive through the first year.
1. Baby sleep is extremely complicated
There are lots of books and websites out there that promise to help you achieve the perfect sleeper. Ha! Your baby will enter the world with his own ideas of how to do things and you’ll probably end up jumping through lots of hoops to get him (or her) to sleep. There is no magic solution. Some babies are great sleepers, some are not. Just knowing that makes things easier!
I had no idea how complicated the word “sleep” would become when I became a mother. You have to figure out awake times, nap times, nighttime, self-soothing plus the nightmare called an overtired baby and it won’t always be easy. They will refuse to sleep, sleep at the “wrong” time, require you to move mountains to get them to sleep – it’s a full-time job.
You might find yourself driving or wearing your baby to sleep, using a yoga ball to bounce them to sleep, hoping that 5 minutes of crying will get them to sleep – I’ve done it all! Baby sleep can be very complicated but you will figure it out as you get to know your baby. It will get better in time.
2. Read the books, but don’t take them too seriously
My baby slept through the night on Christmas Eve when she was 7 weeks old. She slept for 6 hours straight in her Swaddle Me and it was heaven. For some reason, she was a great nighttime sleeper (except for months 6-9, see #3) but naps were a totally different story.
For the longest time, she would only nap for 45 minutes and she was very high maintenance. So like any responsible first-time mom, I decided to read all the major sleep books out there! I read The No Cry Sleep Solution (my favorite) and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, as well as The Baby Whisperer and of course Ferber’s book.
I learned something from each book but I also found myself getting extremely stressed out after reading them. A lot of what they said did not match up with my experience or my baby and the advice I tried did not work! I found myself getting more and more anxious about my baby’s sleep (or lack thereof) when I should have been spending more of my energy just enjoying those precious and fleeting moments.
My daughter was not the perfect napper and sometimes it really wore me out and frustrated me but you know what? We are okay. She was not permanently damaged by those short naps and I have (almost) forgotten what sleep deprivation feels like. I wish I had worried less about her sleep.
3. Regressions are normal
Your baby will have regressions. Mine had one at 6 months when, for several reasons, she needed to nurse a lot at night. This went on for 3 months and she didn’t sleep more than 3 hours straight for even one night! I tried all kinds of methods from the books I mentioned earlier and nothing really worked. Then, right before she was 9 months old she started self-soothing and a couple weeks later she was sleeping 12 hours straight at night. It was a difficult 3 months for me but it is normal and it won’t last forever. Most sleep regressions are not that long so don’t worry too much – just know that things will improve.
Then, right before she was 9 months old she started self-soothing and a couple weeks later she was sleeping 12 hours straight at night. It was a difficult 3 months for me but it is normal and it won’t last forever. Most sleep regressions are not that long so don’t worry too much – just know that things will improve.
Regressions can happen with toddlers too. Your little one might have been sleeping through the night for months and months and then all of a sudden they start waking up. For us, the cause was the dreaded molars and it went on for a couple of months. The night awakenings were not that difficult to deal with but we didn’t expect it! Eventually, things got back to normal.
4. Take care of your own sleep
Sleep deprivation is rough and it is easy to give all your attention and energy to making sure your baby is sleeping. However, it is important that you remember yourself! If I could go back in time, I would try harder to nap. I refused to nap because I felt like I was abandoning my baby even though someone else would be caring for her. Part of that was probably New Mom Syndrome and another part that I was breastfeeding. I felt like sleeping was the same thing as disappearing and I felt so much responsibility for keeping that precious baby alive and well.
However, I would have functioned much better if I had taken naps because nighttime was really rough. So please, make sure that you get the sleep you need. Forget the house cleaning for awhile, ask your family and friends to help out with the cooking, and make sure you rest because sleep deprivation is not for the weak!
5. Every family is different so do what’s best for yours!
One of the least fun things about being a new parent is all the advice you get. I try really hard not to do this to my friends and family now that I have been through it. No one likes to feel criticized or judged because of how they are going about handling a new baby. However, chances are that you will get lots of advice. Try to remember most people are actually intending to be helpful but don’t worry about what they are saying. Are you safely co-sleeping or bed-sharing and your mother-in-law
Try to remember most people are actually intending to be helpful but don’t worry about what they are saying. Are you safely co-sleeping but your mother-in-law is appalled? Do you have friends telling you that you’re creating bad habits, spoiling your baby, or just plain doing it wrong? Don’t be afraid to ask them to kindly let you do it your own way because it is your baby and your family. It’s okay if you do things differently even if people in your circle don’t understand. Do what is best for your family and remember that every baby is different. Follow your gut!
Also, you will sleep again. I PROMISE.
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- 10 Must-Have Baby Items for the First 10 Days
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- Baby Freebies
Originally published on December 6, 2013.