As a mom, I found this stage excruciatingly difficult on many levels.
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 mom 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 “when will the sleep come? When do they start sleeping through the night? When, oh when, can I sleep train?!”
There are books that advocate sleep training babies at a very young age, but I prefer to wait until at least 4 months of age, due to bonding, health and nutrition factors that take precedence over a full night’s sleep at this point.
However, just because I don’t advocate formally night training a newborn, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to make this stage easier.
There are loads of things you can do to lengthen your newborn’s night stretch, get him into some sort of schedule, and have an easier time putting him down for naps and nights.
You can certainly lay some positive groundwork for the months ahead and help your baby ease into a schedule. This will make sleep training proceed more smoothly when the time comes to sleep train.
If I had to choose the number one thing you can do to help your newborn develop healthy sleep habits, 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 your newborn’s daytime sleep, you help ease his long stretch into the nighttime hours and slowly teach him that nighttime is for long sleeping, and daytime is for short sleeping (naps).
The way to do this is to make sure that your baby does not sleep for more than 2 hours straight anytime between the hours of 7 am- 9 pm. 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 as they are very devoted to their craft, but after 6 weeks of age, when babies respond a bit more to their environment, it begins to get easier.
If your baby takes a 3-hour nap midafternoon, you can reasonably assume that that is her long stretch. If you wake her after two hours, her body will begin to “store up,” so to speak, that 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, the hardest in my personal opinion, and limiting your newborn’s daytime sleep will go a very long way in lightening the load. Hang in there!