Sleep tips for new moms

After the first six weeks, you probably got into the swing of things with your new baby. But a lot of new moms struggle with getting their babies to sleep, whether it’s during the day or night. This means mom is usually pretty tired, too. I was just e-mailing with a fellow freelancer about her new baby and thought I would share the tips I found myself writing her.

My number one tip for new moms: work on getting baby to nap on a regular schedule. And take naps to recover yourself for now, but eventually you’ll have to break that cycle. Once I realized I didn’t WANT to take naps almost every day, I found I wasn’t needing them as much (they are addicting, so your body adjusts). My kids’ nap time becomes the most productive part of the day when I am not sleeping, especially if I want to get writing done. Some people function better without a schedule, but not me. I need predictability!

With my kids, we followed On Becoming Baby Wise, so I recommend this reading to all new (and not so new) moms. I wasn’t as strict as the book called for but I used it as a guideline. My kids were sleeping through the night by 6 months and were on a fleixble but firm napping schedule (not perfect, mind you, but it was predictible).

I decided when and how long the naps were going to be (with some guidance from the baby of course). Say, 9-ish and 1-ish, for no less than an hour. I’d put them in the crib and leave them for an hour (or later if they are sleeping, obviously, but I would wake them if they went past 3 hours when they were still on two naps a day). For only a couple days, they’d cry, but soon they realize it’s pointless–if you are consistent. If they don’t want to sleep, they play (but that rarely happens once they figure out the routine and they need the nap because they’ve been trained to).

Without a schedule, moms are often reacting to the first signs of being tired, which means it is probably too late, the baby’s overtired so she’s going to put up a fight. And she’s training you to come when she cries. You want to pre-empt the signs and put her down when she seems awake. Then only pick her up if she’s not crying. Sometimes that means just waiting until she’s taking a deep breath or a 5-second break in crying as she’s winding up for more. Hover outside her door until she seems to calm down and quickly step in. She’ll figure it out soon enough. Then you can pick up a happy baby. So much better! Make sense? No, it probably doesn’t, but it works!

It can be difficult to have a schedule when baby wakes up at different times each morning. So, set a morning wake time (and regular bed time). If she’s never up earlier than 6:30, wake her up on days that she sleeps later than that. Then you can set the nap times. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done, especially when you need that sleep ,too. In the long run though, life is so much easier. If your baby tends to wake up before 6:30, yikes! Anything before 6:30 is unacceptable for me. I just can’t function! But I’ve been there. What you can try is to start with a time that you know she can do but that will stretch her some days. Say 5:30 if she wakes up between 5 and 5:30 most mornings, and just don’t pick her up before 5:30. Then slowly increase the time by 10 or 15 minute increments after a few days or weeks, depending on how its going and how badly you want the sleep!

And work on not picking her up when she’s crying during naps etc. She’ll learn to play in her crib and wait for you.

It is hard, yes. There were times I questioned if this was the right thing to do. There were nights, thankfully only a handful, that they would cry for 30 or 40 minutes at night time. But now I know it’s worth it. My kids nap at the same time, without any fuss, and sleep through the night. Sleep is not an issue. I’m better rested and so are they, and I get me time in the afternoon, which makes all the difference in my ability to parent.  

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