Nursery decorated? Check!
Baby clothes washed and organized? Check!
Baby gear set up? Check!
Birthing class? Newborn Care class? Nursing class? Check, check, check!
Hospital tour? Check!
Pediatrician interviewed? Check!
Expectant moms prepare diligently for the arrival of their precious bundle of joy, typically going through the check list above and a lot more. I certainly did when I was pregnant with my first child. But there is one key thing that I somehow missed being educated on: baby sleep! I had no idea that you need to teach your baby how to go to sleep and how important it is to establish a healthy sleep foundation from the very beginning.
How to prepare for Newborn Sleep
The very first and most important component of this is to provide a safe sleep environment for your baby as this has been proven to reduce the incidence of SIDS.
This includes baby sleeping in his own bed on a firm mattress with no blankets, pillows, toys or bumpers. Baby should be placed on his back in a thin one-piece outfit to avoid overheating. Other components that have been found to significantly reduce the danger of SIDS is nursing, pacifiers offered at bedtime and naptime, up-to-date vaccinations and well visits and absolutely no exposure to a smoking environment.
Please look at this post on Goodnight Sleep Site for more information on safe sleep.
Birth until 8 weeks old
From birth until about 6 to 8 weeks, your baby’s sleep will be very disorganized and there will be no discernible patterns. Biological sleep rhythms have not been developed and unfortunately for many parents, day/night confusion is very common. There is not much that you can do at this point, except for whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep without worrying about creating bad habits. Your baby will most likely sleep in your room in a pack ‘n play and mommies should just focus on breastfeeding and recovering from childbirth. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too (check out this link about postpartum sleep support). Not an easy task when you’re tired and overwhelmed, but keep powering through knowing there’s a big sleep milestone just around the corner.
Bring on the smiles!
At around 6 to 8 weeks, you will feel like you have arrived! Not only will your baby start giving you the smiles you deserve, his night sleep will become more organized and you’ll get that blissful longer stretch at night as day/night confusion finally starts to resolves itself. You can help your baby by providing him with exposure to natural light and stimulating him with walks, music, and age-appropriate baby toys when he’s awake.
A 4-6 hour stretch at night will be utterly heavenly, so mommies, look forward to that! But please keep in mind that every baby is different, so don’t despair if your timing is not exactly as described here.
Purple Crying Period
Unfortunately, this is usually the time when babies give you a not-so-pleasant gift: the Purple Crying Period, also called the Witching Hour. This is an extremely frustrating period where babies’ evening fussiness begins to peak. It is important to remember that this is temporary and knowing that usually helps with our patience levels. If you would like more information on this, please go to www.purplecrying.org . Being informed and knowing what to expect is the key to navigating these challenging but totally natural milestones.
You are not Alone
Despite the ups and downs, sleep will eventually start coming together and you’ll have those adorable smiles to enjoy. If you need any more information or help during this period of your baby’s life, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Information on the next milestones will be posted here soon!