Unless you’re superhuman, or used to working in a job where you have to function on very little sleep, it’s normal to find the first few months (or more) with your newborn to be … challenging. Waking up multiple times after midnight to feed or change a crying baby isn’t anyone’s idea of a good night’s sleep. Plus it can be hard if your partner has returned to work and you’re home all day with baby and then responsible for all night wake-ups as well.
We asked sleep coach Kelly Murray, for her advice on making it through those sleepless newborn (days and) nights.
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A MamasUncut fan asks:
Is it normal to completely hate the newborn stage? My daughter is three weeks old. Love her to death, but the newborn stage is killing me. My husband works Monday-Friday, so I’m the one up with her every single night during the week. He leaves for work at 5:30 AM, and most nights he doesn’t get home until 5:30 PM. She sleeps all day then refuses to sleep at night. My mom comes over to help during the week, but honestly, it’s like she doesn’t have any idea how to do this baby thing anymore. My baby likes to be in a diaper, no clothes, and swaddled in order to sleep. My mom will get her dressed, and I tell her no, and she just ignores me and dresses her anyway. She won’t swaddle her, let’s her flip on her side and sleep, just does nothing that I want as a mom. Does it get easier past the newborn stage. Am I a bad mom for hating it?
Mama, I feel your pain. I was not a huge fan of the newborn stage either and looking back, I wonder if it’s because I didn’t have a clue about newborn sleep. I find that if your newborn baby is sleeping well, everything else falls into place.
Now that I have an education on how to help newborns sleep better, I want to share some helpful tips with you so that you can start to enjoy this exhausting, but sometimes magical, stage a little more.
First, it sounds like your baby has day-night confusion. This is very normal: babies are born without a sense of circadian rhythm, which is what tells our bodies that daytime is the time to be alert and nighttime is the time to sleep. To fix it, I would recommend allowing your baby to be exposed to as much light as possible during waking hours. That means you should expose her to sunlight and artificial light from the time she wakes up until you start the bedtime routine. The only exception is when she’s napping. She can nap in a dark room, which will most likely lead to better naps as light is stimulating.
When you start the bedtime routine, begin to dim the lights. Once she is put down for the evening, turn the lights off and keep them off until she wakes up for the day. For example, if she goes to bed at 8 PM, dim the lights around 7:15 PM and keep them off until 6:00/7:00 AM (your baby’s “night” should be 11 to 12 hours long). This means that for any feedings or diaper changes after “bedtime”, you want to keep the lights low, speak softly and otherwise treat it as if it’s the middle of the night (even if it’s only 9 PM).
The second key to helping your baby sleep for longer stretches at night is to make sure that your baby is not awake too long between naps.
At your baby’s age, I recommend a wake window that’s anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. The wake window starts when you get her out of her bassinet and it ends when you start trying to get her to fall asleep her next nap. Maintaining an age-appropriate wake window is going to prevent her cortisol levels from spiking, which happens when babies are overtired.
Overtired babies are much harder to get to sleep! And if she does finally fall asleep, the nap is likely to be short and she will wake up crabby. The short nap will make her even more overtired and her body will produce more cortisol. Which, will make the next nap or bedtime (whichever comes first) challenging. It can be a cycle that’s hard to break. And can lead to a crabby, hard-to-care for baby.
By implementing these two tips, she should be sleeping much better, which means you will be sleeping much better and as a result, you will both feel your best. I promise, it will make the newborn stage A LOT more enjoyable for all involved! And remember: even though the nights are long, this period of time will pass and she will eventually, either on her own, or with help from you, begin to sleep through the night.
Kelly Murray is a certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant who resides in Chicago with her husband, two preschoolers, and fur baby. A lover of coffee, wine, old-school hip-hop and of course sleep! She specializes in helping sleep-deprived families worldwide obtain the restful sleep they so desperately need. Her approach is gentle, non-judgmental and customized to fit the child’s temperament and mom and dad’s parenting style. To learn more or book a free 15-Minute Sleep Evaluation, visitwww.kellymurraysleep.com.
Editorial Director of MamasUncut. Currently back on the East Coast. Most days spent chasing after two young kids and our very patient rescue mutt. Learning that parenting never really gets easier it just gets … different. Love running and water views. Also all the coffee.
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