How to Deal With Newborn Sleep Patterns
I have yet another special guest blogger on the blog today sharing her tips to dealing with newborn sleep patterns. I hope you all enjoy!
One of the most challenging things about becoming a new mommy is this whole idea of sleep. Before you even have your little one you are showered with one liners like “Enjoy your sleep while you can.” “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” And my personal favorite, “Prepare to not sleep for the next 18 years.” Now while I am sure these bits of advice come from well meaning individuals, it can still make the whole idea of getting sleep with a newborn seem very daunting. So how does sleeping with a newborn work? Well, I’m no expert, but I am a mom just like you, so here is my personal experience as a new mom learning to sleep with a newborn.
The first few weeks
One of the very first things to figure out before bringing your new little one home is where you plan on your baby sleeping. Some people have a crib or bassinet next to their bed while others choose to co-sleep. I had originally planned on my son sleeping in a bassinet next to my bed but he ended up co-sleeping with my husband and I for the first month. This worked well for those first few weeks because whenever he woke up hungry, I was right there and could nurse him without getting out of bed which made it easier for both of us to fall back asleep.
The best advice I have for surviving those first few days is to just relax and get to know your baby. Every baby and every mommy is different and that is a beautiful thing! Be flexible and don’t feel like you have to get things done when your baby naps during the day. You are still recovering from labor and delivery so get some shut eye whenever you can and don’t feel guilty about it. Also, it’s ok if you can’t sleep when your baby naps. I know for the first couple of weeks I was on this high from becoming a new mommy and couldn’t really nap much during the day. I remember just staring at my son while he slept thinking, “That is my son! I had him! He is so perfect!” I’m convinced there is a mommy instinct that kicks in when you have a baby that helps you stay awake and function even when running on very little sleep.
Now, before I start taking a closer look at babies sleep patterns, I’ve included this little chart below to help you have a ballpark estimate of how many total hours of sleep your baby should be getting a day based on their age. Again keep in mind it is just a guideline and not a fact so please don’t feel pressured to track your baby’s sleep each day.
Probably somewhere between 1-6 months old you will transition your baby into their crib in their own room. I started putting my son in his own room when he turned 1 month old because I felt like I was waking him up whenever I moved around in bed. It turned out to be the right choice for us because Jaden was able to get better sleep and I didn’t have to feel like I couldn’t move in bed. One thing that helps with transitioning to the crib is to start out with your baby taking naps in the crib, which allows your baby to get used to that environment. Keep in mind that newborns don’t have the ability to self-soothe, so letting them cry it out is not really a good option at this point. Another great way to encourage your baby to have good sleeping habits is to have a bedtime routine. Baths, singing a song, turning on a sound machine, bedtime feedings while being rocked, are all things you can use to help your baby recognize when it’s time to go to sleep.
Somewhere around 6 months you will probably introduce baby food to your baby. Over the next six months your baby’s eating habits will change a lot as he or she will go from primarily relying on breast milk or formula to being allowed to eat solid foods and drink cow’s milk. All of these changes in your baby’s diet can affect how they sleep. Some babies may start to sleep better while others may stay the same or even get a little worse for short periods. Just know that it’s okay if your baby doesn’t do things on the same schedule as another baby. Each baby has different needs and grows at a different rate, so there is never a one size fits all when it comes to your baby’s sleep patterns.
As your baby gets older they learn how to self-soothe and also how to play in their crib. When my son got old enough to be interested in playing in his crib, he started to wake up about an hour before his usual time in the morning and so we bought him a little baby Einstein aquarium light up toy that strapped to his crib. It has two buttons he can push that play music and light up. This helped so that when he woke up he had something safe he could play with, which helped me catch a few extra Zzzs in the mornings. Once my son turned one we kept a small teddy bear in his crib for when he woke up in the morning and I often come in to see him hugging it or wrestling with it. Just keep in mind to wait until your child is one before allowing any pillow like toys, blankets, quilts, or crib bumpers in your child’s crib because according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these things can increase risk of sudden infant death (SIDS) and suffocation or strangulation.
Reasons for changes in sleep patterns
Overall, I consider my son to be a pretty good sleeper. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our struggles. He would go through these phases where he would sleep really well and I was beginning to think “Okay, we are finally getting this whole sleeping through the night thing down.” And then all of the sudden he would be crying at 1am. I found that usually these changes lasted about a week sometimes more and then he would go back to sleeping through. I remember so many nights of wondering what happened to my good sleeper and beginning to worry I would never get that back. As I would sit in my chair feeding and rocking him back to sleep I would be on my phone desperately looking up reasons why my son was suddenly up through the night. What I found was that there can be a lot of different reasons and sometimes you won’t be able to figure out why, but eventually your child will sleep through again. Some of the common reasons for these changes are:
- -Growth spurt
- -Sleep regression
- -Change in diet
Teething can start as early as 3 months old. Usually, you will know when they start teething by all the drool and the sudden need to chew on everything. Jaden started with the drooling around 3 months old but he didn’t end up getting his first tooth till 7 months old. Below is a chart that I found very useful to understand the time frames my son would be getting each tooth. Often times I found that when he started having sleep troubles it was about time for a new tooth.
Babies do a lot of growing in a short amount of time so it’s no wonder this can be the cause of sleep changes. With Jaden, he would suddenly wake up once or twice at night because he was really hungry. It would always surprise me because at first I would think something was wrong and then when I would offer him food he would start gulping it down and then I would realize he must be having a growth spurt.
This is something I had never heard of before having my son. But apparently, doctors are saying that this is a pretty normal occurrence and there are actually charts that tell you at what ages you can expect a sleep regression. Many doctors believe a sleep regression is due to growing and brain development. Jaden has not followed their charts to a T, but usually if I notice a change in his sleeping patterns, if I look at a sleep regression chart, I will find a sleep regression is common at his age.
Changes in diet
This is more likely to happen each time you introduce a food for the first time or a new food. I felt like Jaden actually slept better once I introduced baby food, but that was also due to him having failure to thrive (you can read more about that here: https://yogapantsmomma.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/jadens-story-failure-to-thrive/ )Try to pay attention to any changes or reactions your baby might have after introducing new foods, that way you can tell if something doesn’t really agree well with your baby.
My son got a nasty little fever and cold when he was just 4 months old. Unfortunately, I got the cold too so it was a rough week for us. Thankfully, if this is the reason your baby is having trouble sleeping you can usually count on it only lasting a short time.
Maybe you have read through this whole article and can’t seem to figure out what is causing your baby to be up through the night. That is completely okay and even normal! Don’t beat yourself up thinking maybe you are doing something wrong as a mom because everyone else’s baby is sleeping through the night. Every baby is so different and unique, so don’t get worried if your baby’s sleep patterns are too! There were so many times I would feel like a failure because maybe the reason my son wasn’t sleeping through the night was because I didn’t know how to sleep train him or maybe I was rushing in there too soon and should have let him cry it out. But you know what? No matter how many articles I read and tips I try, if it doesn’t work, it’s not my fault and it’s not his fault. One of the best things you can do is really get to know your baby and trust that when they are getting up that there is a reason whether we can figure it out or not. Just know that no matter what happens, this too shall pass. Someday your baby will sleep through the night and then all of this will be a hazy, zombie-like blur. Don’t forget, even when you feel dead dog tired and don’t think you can face tomorrow as your rocking your baby for the 5th time in one night, time is short. The days are long but the years go by so fast. The days of rocking them to sleep will soon pass. So tonight, hug your baby just a little bit tighter, knowing that all of this will pass. And maybe, just maybe, someday, you will wish you could go back and rock that baby to sleep just one more time. So cherish every tired minute!