Wednesday, September 9, 2020

How We Got Sleep With a Newborn

The hottest comments and questions after having our baby were all about sleep... 'How many hours of sleep are you getting?', 'Is he sleeping the night?', 'Make sure you sleep while the baby sleeps!' and my personal favorite... 'you look so tired'. 
As first time parents, we had no idea what to expect. Our goal was to keep this child alive during the newborn stage which was all just a blissful blur! The first few weeks are a mix of sleepless nights, diaper changes, frequent feedings and oh the sweet cuddles. On top of that, you're trying to heal, cope with your emotions, and make sure your baby is fed. If you're breastfeeding that's a whole different challenge in itself. After so many comments from everyone on sleep, I knew that I was going to do everything I could to make sure I slept as much as I possibly could during this phase. I need sleep to function. If you're like me, I hope you find a thing of two in this post to help make those sleepless nights a little easier. 
As the first few days went on, we noticed a pattern in his behaviors- he was always ready to eat as soon as he woke up, he was only awake for so long before showing signs of being tired, etc. We started tracking his every move on a Baby Tracker app (there are so many different apps, I just found this one easy to use). We found we were kind of already on a schedule without knowing it so we just kept it up and if he would throw us for a curve or we had people over, we did our best to keep to that schedule. I feel like this helped us the most as first time parents and took the guess work out of trying to figure out if he was crying because he was tired or hungry as well as maintain some sort of sanity in the midst of being sleep deprived.

Every baby is different, but from the start, he was a pretty good sleeper and has been such an easy baby… I think. We had nothing to compare him to, but I do feel like tracking HIS schedule helped us jump on board with it and stay one step ahead of his next move. For instance, he would be awake for 1-1.5 hours and start showing sleepy cues- yawning, rubbing his eyes, whining, so straight to bed he went because we knew he was tired and he would almost always fall asleep right away. I will say though, he was not a colicky/fussy baby and would really only cry until we fixed what he was crying about whether that was being hungry, wet, etc. I have several friends that had colicky babies even a couple that were around the same age as Luke and every bit of my heart went out to them. Luke had his periods of being gassy, fussy, upset stomach and all that where he was not easy to console, but for the most part he was happy if he was fed, changed and got his sleep in.


I spent those nighttime feeds doing a ton of research, talked to mom friends, and already had an idea of the kind of lifestyle we wanted with a baby- basically making sure we all got as much sleep as we could possibly get, maintain some sort of routine, and try to avoid any bad habits that would be harder to break later on. He is six months now, and there were several things we did in the newborn stages that helped lay down the foundation for good sleep that I didn’t really realize at the time:

WE NEVER ROCKED HIM TO SLEEP IN OUR ARMS

We never rocked him or let anyone that held him rock him, especially to sleep. Yes, he slept in the SNOO, but we didn’t turn on the rocking feature until he was around 3 weeks old because one, he didn’t like it until then, and two, I was so paranoid I would create a nightmare when it was time to move him to the crib. We initially only turned it on when we put him down and then turned it off after he fell asleep. Once he started becoming more alert and responding to the rocking feature, the SNOO was our best friend. It has a slight sway throughout the night and then rocks him to sleep when he wakes up crying/fussing. There was no soothing him when he was hungry though and it will only rock him for so long allowing you to intervene/meet his needs if he doesn't fall back asleep. We would wake up almost every morning (mostly when he stopped waking up so often) and look at the app at all the times he woke up and we didn’t even know because nanny SNOO did her thing allowing us to sleep through it. 


Side note, it is normal for most babies not to like the rocking feature at first, so if you’re looking to rent it instead of buy it, knowing this may help. We also stopped using it for naps around 4 weeks and only used it for nighttime sleep. Our pediatrician noticed a flat spot on his head at his 1 month appointment so she gave us some tips we followed for naps instead. Also, he started to hate it around 4 months which was around the period of sleep regression and needing to transition out of the swaddle because he started rolling, so we just kind of just went to the crib cold turkey, out of the swaddle and sleep trained all in the same few days. We tried weaning in the SNOO and trying arms out to transition out of the swaddle but he just wasn’t having it. I’ll go over all that in another post. BTW you can get SNOO swaddles HERE and HERE even if you don't have the SNOO.


CONSISTENCY IN HOW YOU PUT BABY DOWN TO SLEEP IS KEY

I learned that how you “train” your baby to fall asleep is how you’re always going to have to put your baby to sleep. In fact, sleep regression is just that- a baby learning how to put themselves to sleep in between sleep cycles. Singing lullabies and rocking a baby to sleep is so sweet, but it’s not so sweet at 3am when you’re dying to get back into bed. We were super strict with putting him down when it was time to sleep for naps no matter who was holding him or what we were doing. We made sure he was still awake, swaddled him, gave him his pacifier and left the room. No singing, rocking, patting on the back. We just set him down and he'd almost always fall asleep. Also, since he ate when he woke up from naps, we didn’t feed him to sleep for naps. He would eat, play, sleep, repeat. I think that helped a lot because he would almost always fall asleep while eating meaning the bottle put him to sleep vs himself if that makes sense. 

PUT BABY DOWN DROWSY BUT AWAKE

This kind of ties in with the previous paragraph, but for naps, we didn’t have a routine aside from swaddling him, putting him down when he started showing signs of being tired and giving him his pacifier. For bedtime, we did bath time and then fed him in a dark room with the sound machine on cueing it was time for nighttime sleep. We carefully watched his wake window to make sure we didn't overtire him and that he would still be somewhat awake when we put him down. There is nothing harder than trying to put an overtired baby to sleep. This was bitter sweet because since we never snuggled/rocked him to sleep he quickly turned into a non-snuggly baby, or maybe he never was snuggly and I just noticed it more as time went on. He definitely still likes his space especially when he's ready to sleep and as soon as he's done with his bottle he tries to escape my arms until I put him in his crib.

 

BOTTLE FEED BEFORE BED

We started bottle feeding before bed and for the middle of the night feed which automatically gave us an extra hour or two of sleep in between feeds. It can also cause nipple confusion so if you try this consult with a lactation consultant, but we started this the first week and oh my goodness it was a game-changer because he ate within 20 minutes and we were sure he went to bed with a full stomach. As a newborn, he woke up every 1-3 hours to eat. He was a slow eater, would take his dear time, fall asleep while feeding, and it just became more of a task keeping him awake long enough to eat enough before the next feeding. I never knew if he fell asleep because he was full or because he was tired. I tried switching sides often, undressing him, changing his diaper in the middle of it, and everything I could think of but he always took a good 45 minutes to an hour to eat in between sleeping. That only gave me about an hour or two of sleep until the next feeding because the 2-3 hour window started when he started eating, not when he went back down. Bottle feeding took a load off of me because my husband was able to also feed, so he took the middle of the night feed which leads me to.... 

SHARE THE LOAD AT NIGHT

Sharing nights was probably the biggest factor in me getting sleep! Up until around 2/2.5 months, Luke would go to sleep around 9/10pm after his first bottle of the night. Then he turned a switch and started wanting to go to sleep around 6/7pm and has been like that since. While he woke up during the nights to eat, we stayed up until around 12am or 1am because I needed to pump as close to morning as possible and he also woke up to eat. Either of us would bottle feed him at midnight then the next time he woke up was around 3am. My husband started taking that "shift" as soon as we started using bottles at night giving me a good 6 hour chunk of sleep before it would be time for the next feed (usually 12am-6am). I needed to adjust to skipping that middle feed but I eventually did and it worked for us. I need sleep to function and my husband doesn't although he would sleep in giving him a good chunk of sleep as well. We were both able to get long stretches of sleep sharing the load and also both got to snuggle him during the sweetest stage. Oh how I miss those nights as I’m typing it out to be honest. The newborn phase goes by so, so fast! 



SLEEP, EAT, PLAY, REPEAT!

We followed this method and I believe it was key to helping him sleep on his own as soon as he went down since he didn't have to rely on a bottle to que that it was time for sleep. The only time he would eat before he slept was when he was being fed at night. We tried to fill up his tired tank during wake windows and made sure he got all his ounces in during the day so he could go longer stretches at night.

CREATE A NIGHTTIME ROUTINE

I think a clear nighttime routine is great to help babies eventually differentiate nighttime vs daytime sleep. Of, course it may take some consistency to get those days and nights in sync but it's possible. I always kept it loud and bright (no blackout curtains) during the day when he was a newborn. I noticed he slept a lot lighter around 2/3 months so I did have to be more quiet (sound machines are your BFF), but I remember vacuuming in the room he was in at three weeks old and he didn’t even flinch. When we moved him to his room around 4 months, I did get blackout curtains that I keep closed for naps, but they aren't complete blackout and let some light in. We are very routine oriented at home when it comes to nighttime sleep so that he knows this is when we sleep the longest. 



I hope you found some of these helpful and know that every baby is different. I remember spending my nights researching every blog I could find trying to get all the help I can get so hopefully this helps one of you. I also found SO much helpful information on Taking Cara Babies IG page/highlights. She was godsend! 

Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below and don't forget to soak it all in despite the sleepless nights. If you're tired and struggling to get sleep no matter what you try, know that this is only a chapter of the bigger picture. Your baby loves you no matter how much sleep you're getting and it all flies by so fast. 

Be on the lookout for my sleep training post on Friday! XO!

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