- Written by Lynn U. Nichols Lynn U. Nichols
Helping you and your baby get some sleep
Before your baby was born you may have thought that the stories you heard about babies and sleep were exaggerated. You quickly learn that sleep with infants is on and off and hunger dominates, waking them every few hours. There are ways to get through it, and set yourself up for good sleep later on.
It won’t last forever
Keep in mind that newborns are not biologically equipped to sleep for more than a few hours at a stretch until six weeks of life. The good news is that at 12 to 14 weeks your baby’s hormones shift, helping to end colic and set internal light and temperature clocks (our Circadian rhythm) that help regulate sleep. At this point, babies are more able to sleep longer stretches—even through the night—but not all do. Sleep patterns are very baby specific.
In the meantime, try to relax as much as you can about broken sleep. It’s not pleasant, but it won’t last forever.
Believe it or not, you are getting restorative sleep
During the night, we pass through 90-minute cycles of sleep each ending in a period of REM or rapid eye movement sleep that gets longer with each cycle. REM, or dream sleep, is when we consolidate memories and gain mental restoration. If you are getting two-hour stretches in, most likely you are getting some REM sleep. Also, we get our deepest, physically restorative sleep during the first hours of sleep each night.
Naps are important. If you are sleep-deprived you may find yourself dreaming within 10 minutes of laying down for a nap. That’s your brain and body’s way of trying to catch up on REM sleep.
Adopt healthy habits to improve sleep
Ask for and accept help every chance you get. As a couple, approach sleeping as a team. Take shifts and take turns getting up for the night feedings. On weekends, ask family or friends to take the baby while you nap.
While exercise may be way down on your ‘to do’ list, if you can fit some exercise in, you’ll likely sleep better at night. The same goes for eating a healthy diet.
Tips for helping baby sleep
Pacifiers can be sleep aids, but avoid them the first month if you are breastfeeding as they may cause nipple confusion. From birth to three months, use whatever you can to soothe your baby.
Music, proper lighting and white noise are all known to help babies sleep. Keeping lights dim helps support your baby’s internal circadian rhythm and promote sleep. For daytime naps, let some light in so your baby knows the difference between night and day. Lastly, white noise often works especially for newborns as the rhythmic shushing noise mimics the sound of the womb.
Finally, establish a bedtime routine early on. At three months, babies begin to recognize that a warm bath followed by a diaper change followed by soft music and lights or mom or dad singing, reading or rubbing means sleepy time.