Why do newborns have their days and nights mixed up? I don't know that there is any scientific reason, but maybe God is giving me a chance to bond with my baby or giving me a lesson about selflessness, etc. If it's a chance to bond, I fail miserably at this in the middle of the night when I'm so tired I can barely think.
When you have a new baby the doctor or midwife will tell you to sleep when your baby sleeps. This advice is fine for a first time mom, or even a mom with older children that you can depend on to let you take the nap you need. As a mom to several young children this advice doesn't work as well, unless of course you have full time help and you can sleep even with the hustle and bustle of everyday life going on around you.
So how do I try get my new baby to sleep during the night, so I can function better during the day and not be extremely exhausted or grumpy with my kids? Here are my seven ideas on helping my newborns sleep better at night and how they are working for us right now.
1. For the first week of any of our new baby's lives Jeff has stayed home and helped with the other kids, housework, and cooking. This has allowed me to rest, take extra naps as I could, and in general save energy that I would need when he returns to work. At night we have learned that it works best for both of us to get a little sleep if we tag team to stay up with the baby as needed. That means that I might nurse the new baby and then go to sleep while Jeff stays up with the baby until it is time to nurse again and then he wakes me up and I will stay up with the baby, etc. Of course if the baby goes to sleep we go to sleep, too.
Last week didn't work as well for tag teaming this time around. Clark wanted to be awake from 12-3 am or 1-4 am. Little naps that result in him waking up when you put him down don't count. One night Jeff was up with Clark and Clark had finally fallen to sleep, when the tornado sirens went off at 2:30 am. Then it started to get really windy, so we decided that maybe we should get the kids up and go to the closet under our stairs. There was no tornado, but the possibility of 80 mph gusts. We'd rather get the kids up, than regret that we hadn't. So of course Clark got woken up and we didn't get much sleep. Even though we had all the older children back in bed before 3 am Jeff and I were both pretty much awake until 4 am. It makes for some tiring days when both Daddy and Mommy didn't sleep much.
2. The midwife tells us to feed our new babies every 2-3 hours, no matter what. I try my best for the first few days, but then I switch over to survival mode. How can I get them to sleep at night, so I can sleep and feel rested to take care of all my children the next day? I start letting them sleep as long as they will, or as long as I can let them sleep at night.
3. Snuggling the baby. Sometimes all it takes for a new baby to sleep is snuggling. The drawback is you can only snuggle so long before you need to switch positions and often the baby will wake up. Yes, I can sleep sitting up, but it isn't very comfortable or restful.
4. Co-sleeping with the baby. I know that this is a controversial topic. It is also not my favorite to do, but if it is the only way to keep the baby asleep then it works for me. Kaomi was the first baby we co-slept with. She ate so often at night that it wasn't practical for me to get up to feed her, go back to sleep and 30-45 minutes after I fell back asleep she would be up again. Sometimes just having a hand on the baby while we sleep helps the baby to sleep better.
5. Using a buzzy chair. Of course you can only use this when they are very little and it is safe for them to not fall over the edge. As soon as they start to show signs of beginning to sit up by themselves even a little bit this is not safe any more.
6. Using the baby's car seat carrier. This one is my favorite. So far we have used this method successfully with 3 of our children. We didn't try it with Kent. It worked for Katy, Felicity and now Clark. Kaomi couldn't get comfortable in it and would just scream. I don't buckle them in, so when they start to get wiggly and wiggle down or out of the car seat this is no longer safe.
I will nurse Clark and then wrap him snugly in a blanket and set him in the car seat. I place a rolled up blanket next to him to help keep him from flopping over to the side. He sleeps quite well like this. I wonder if it makes him feel snug like he felt before he was born. The last couple of nights he has slept for 3-5 hours at a time. I've actually gotten him up to nurse him the last two nights and he didn't even really wake up. He just ate and then went right back into the car seat for 3 more hours. This is the most restful for me, because I don't put him in his car seat for the night until I am ready to lay down and go to sleep myself.
7. During the day at least once I try to put them in their actual bed to let them practice sleeping there and get used to it. It is much easier to deal with a baby who is having trouble sleeping during the day than it is in the middle of the night. When the above ideas no longer work for us they are usually ready to transition to their bed and continue sleeping well.
If you have any suggestions for helping a baby to sleep better at night, please leave a comment and let us know what you do.