Recovering from birth, adjusting to the idea of being a mother (wait – no one takes this baby home at the end of the day?!) and trying to learn the overwhelming new ropes of being a mama was a lot.
And on top of that, I was tired. Soul-sucking, mind-numbing tired. I was tired, and I was tired of being tired and I was tired of being tired of being tired.
The thought that consumed me during these challenging weeks was singular:
“When will the sleep come? When do they start sleeping through the night? When, oh when, will I feel rested again?”
I couldn’t wait to implement some kind of sleep learning program, anything to regain some sanity and help my babies sleep. But alas, the newborn stage is not for sleep training (yes, there are books that will tell you that you can sleep train a newborn, but the bonding, health and nutritional needs of this stage take precedence over a full night’s sleep at this stage).
Here’s the good news: just because I don’t advocate formally sleep training a newborn, doesn’t mean you’re stuck, doomed to exhaustion and overwhelm for the first few months.
There are loads of things you can do to lengthen your newborn’s night stretch, get him onto a daytime schedule, and have an easier time putting him down for naps and nights. In short, you can start laying the groundwork and create independent sleep habits that will reduce or eliminate the need for formal sleep training as your baby grows. This is what my Newborn Course teaches you to do!
There’s no question that this is the best time to lay down positive groundwork for the months ahead and help your baby ease into a schedule. And if I could only advise you on one specific way to get this process started, it would be this:
Limit Daytime Sleep
At around 6 weeks of age, newborns can start sleeping a “long stretch”, which can be anywhere from 4-6 hours in length. While sleeping 6 hours uninterrupted may sound like a dream come true, there’s a catch. This long stretch can occur at any time within each 24 day.
By limiting the amount of time you let your newborn sleep during the day, you help ease his long stretch into the nighttime hours and slowly teach him that nighttime is for long stretches of sleep, and daytime is for short stretches of sleep (naps).
The way to do this is to make sure that your baby doesn’t sleep for more than 2 hours straight anytime between the hours of 7 am-9pm. If your baby does sleep for 2 hours straight, gently wake him. You can wake a newborn by tickling his feet, opening his diaper, or wiping his forehead with a cool, wet washcloth. Sometimes it can be tough to wake a sleeping newborn – they are very devoted to their craft – but after about 6 weeks, when babies begin to respond a bit more to their environment, it gets easier.
If your baby takes a 3-hour nap mid-afternoon, you can reasonably assume that was her long stretch. If you wake her after two hours, her body will begin to “store up” lost sleep during the day and consolidate it at night, resulting in a longer stretch of sleep at night.
The newborn stage is a hard, mama. In my opinion, the hardest of them all. Limiting your newborn’s daytime sleep will go a very long way in lightening the load. Hang in there and check out my Newborn Course to transform this stage from one full of challenge to a calm, enjoyable and empowering experience.