Is it just us, or is the first question new moms get after a few weeks at home with their brand new baby, “How is he/she sleeping?”
It’s like this universally known thing one MUST ask a new momma. Heck, even as mommas ourselves, we have asked this question to our own new momma friends! (insert palm to face!)
Everyone knows that one of the toughest parts about bringing home a new baby is the sudden unimaginable sleep deprivation that hits you like a ton of bricks. In those early moments, we’re often still running on adrenalin, the profound new feelings of love (AKA Oxytocin) and trying to figure out this whole feeding baby, while still remembering to feed ourselves thing. Then a few weeks (or for some os us months) roll by and it hits.....pure, unadulterated exhaustion. Like fall asleep in the shower, standing up kind of exhaustion.
So, while we don’t have the magic wand and know that this is just part of the initiation into motherhood, be it your 1st or your 10th babe, it’s bound to hit at some point in the game. We have a few tips that have helped us to lessen the blow and extend those sleeping hours during the night, so that we were slightly less mombie-ish during the day.
SWADDLE THAT BABY
Swaddle, swaddle, swaddle. Newborns have an innate startle reflex that causes them to feel as though they are falling (we’ve all had that dream that startles us awake), which in turn wakes them up from their blissful slumber. Remember, they were folded up tightly in this little home of a womb just a weeks before, where they hit a stretchy wall each time they startled. Swaddles act as this tight, womb-like hug that helps hold back that startle reflex, thus keeping baby in their happy little dream land a little bit longer!
USE A SOUND MACHINE
Do you see a trend here? We are attempting to mimic the womb. Inside your womb, baby hears sounds all day in a very muted and fuzzy hum (think about when you are under water in a pool…it’s a blissful quiet but you can hear the hum of people talking above). A sound machine not only mimics this ongoing hum, it blocks out loud and sudden noises that occur in daily life which can disrupt baby’s sleep. They’re also very soothing to sleep with as an adult, so if baby is in your bedroom – you might just find yourself sleeping a little deeper too!
CREATE A BEDTIME/NAP TIME ROUTINE
We know, this sounds kind of weird to do with a tiny baby, but trust us, it works. Humans are creatures of habit and routine. We thrive off predictability and schedule. If you can create a consistent schedule with consistent cues, baby is more likely to know that it is bedtime.
For example, maybe before bed you give baby a massage, offer a feeding, put on their sleep gown, turn on the white noise machine, sing a song, and tell them goodnight. The more consistently you do this, the more baby will associate all of these cues with bedtime and he/she will learn that sleep immediately follows this routine.
BE STRATEGIC ABOUT MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT DIAPER CHANGES
Waiting to change baby’s diaper until after a middle of the night feed risks baby waking up too much after the feeding is finished. Instead, change baby’s diaper right upon waking, re-swaddle, and then feed. Having jammies that zip from bottom up make this even easier, leaving babies chest and arms covered while just exposing their little legs and diapering region for quick, easy clean up. (This was the inspo for our Joey baby Gown, you can check it out here: https://mkandcoorganics.com/collections/the-joey )
Of course, if your new baby has a habit of pooping directly after a feed (which they do in those early days), then it makes more sense to feed first, diaper and then maybe even top off with some rocking or another short feed. Eventually, as baby’s gut matures a bit, they do stop pooping directly after a night feed.
UNDERSTAND THAT SLEEP BEGETS SLEEP
We know, this is the strangest one to grasp. An overtired baby will wake more frequently and be harder to put to sleep. Isn’t that so backwards? But it’s the truth! The more baby sleeps, the MORE they will sleep! Keeping a baby awake longer in hopes that you will tire them out and they’ll sleep longer can actually end up backfiring. Studies show that an overtired baby sleeps shorter, not longer, as bizarre as that is to wrap our sleepy adult heads around.
So, if baby is having trouble going and staying asleep, it's possible that they are actually over-tired. Try to follow the wake time schedule that is appropriate for your baby’s age. Here is an awesome resource for learning about baby’s wake windows and another one of our favorite accounts, talking about why overtired matters:
Babies make all sorts of noises in their sleep, just like adults, we move, turn, wiggle, snore, you get the idea. Believe it or not, your baby does too. Sometimes this comes in the form of a coo, cry out, wiggle and babble all while still being asleep. If you rush to them too quickly to pick them up, you may actually be inadvertently waking them up.
We recommend waiting anywhere between 2-10 minutes before attending to baby if they start making noises in the middle of the night. Its highly possible they may actually drift back into a quiet slumber. Of course, always pay attention to your own baby’s noises and cries, as you know best when they are needing you.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO SEEK ADVICE THAT TRULY RESONATES WITH YOU
This is a biggie for us and we think for all mommas. With sleep being one of the biggest talked about topics, there are now so many resources readily available. Generally we don’t go seeking them until we have to or until we are at our wits end. You know, those 3am moments where you find yourself franticly reading all the blogs, searching all the IG accounts, looking up books and courses, etc. because you just can’t take one more sleepless night. We’ve been there, we get it!
The thing about motherhood is that there truly is no “one size fits all” and while it can be easier to just take the same advise that worked for your bestie, the truth is you may have a whole different approach to motherhood that your friend circle. We want you to feel empowered in that and know that there is a plethora of options out there for you.
Here are a couple sleep experts that we enjoy and that resonated with us. If they don’t feel warm and fuzzy to you, we encourage you to keep searching for one that feels like a fit. Listen to your intuition momma, it can be our greatest guide in motherhood if we make room for it.
MOST IMPORTANT RULE OF ALL
This too shall pass. Baies are ever changing, growing, developing and so are their habits. This includes sleep. So PLEASE don’t kick yourself if you think you’ve created ‘bad habits’ with your baby and sleep.
We believe that every momma should feel empowered to do what you need to do and what feels right to get through each night. Every mother and every baby is different, and what works for one won’t work for the other. Follow your heart to create a happy balance for both you and your baby. If sleep training is what helps create a happy mom (and therefore a happy baby), then do that! If sleeping with a baby on the boob all night helps you get the rest you need, we urge you to do that! There is no right way to mom, there’s only the way that fits best for you and baby in this moment.
You WILL sleep again one day, we promise! Until then, drink ALL the (probably cold) coffee momma and know that we are here living the same kind of crazy you are and wouldn’t want it any other way!