women

WEEK 4 POSTPARTUM

Plan Your Sleep

This week, you can
• Maximize your baby’s sleep time
• Reset your body clock in order to get more sleep
• Learn tips and tricks for falling asleep

MR. SANDMAN, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BRING THIS BABY A DREAM!

I am going to begin this week with a harsh bit of truth. While the idea of a baby who magically sleeps through the night from the first day of life is lovely, it’s not terribly realistic. Newborns have tiny stomachs and digest each small meal in record time. They’re biologically programmed to eat around the clock. Many of them will wake up every two or three hours to eat for the first few months. This is normal and not something you should try to train them out of. They are growing fast and need the nutrition.

You may have read that the “average” baby will sleep through the night by six months of age. First of all, when it comes to babies, the average really doesn’t matter. Your specific baby may do things very differently. Second, many of the studies on infant sleep consider any six-hour stretch of time “sleeping through the night.” Let’s imagine you put your baby down for the night at 8:00 p.m. That would still only theoretically give you until 2:00 a.m. before he’s up again. Doesn’t really sound like “sleeping through the night,” does it?

You are entering a world in which sleep will be at a premium for at least a few months, possibly longer. You have to figure out a way to get the sleep you need during this time of change. There are no over-the-counter remedies, prescription drugs, healing tapes, or visits to shamans that can replace the benefits of sleep. If you do a little investigating you’ll find there are several possible side effects from lack of sleep. Guess what the number-one is? Depression!

The good news is that the typical newborn sleeps sixteen hours a day, so you can technically get in your eight hours somewhere. While “sleep when the baby sleeps” is much-dished-out advice that’s good in theory, sometimes it is hard to put into practice . . . especially if your baby sleeps in forty-five-minute increments around the clock. Still, for the first couple of months, it can’t hurt to try anyway. Lie down when the baby is sleeping, draw the shades, and close your eyes. Even if you don’t fall asleep every time, you’ll benefit from the rest. Here are some other tips for maximizing your sleep time:
 
Keep things quiet at night. When your baby wakes up, don’t turn on the light or play with her. Change or feed her quietly in the dark, so she won’t get confused and think it’s daytime. A dimmer switch in her bedroom or a night light near her bassinette will help you be able to see what you’re doing without making the room too bright.
 
Take sleep where you can get it. When your partner gets home from work, maybe you could go lay down for an hour. Or perhaps he will take over the last hour or two of Baby’s nighttime care so you can get a jump on bedtime. Yes, there are things we all like to do in the evening—read, watch TV, surf the Internet. But adequate sleep must take priority over any of these activities. Chronic sleep deprivation not only puts you at risk for health problems and depression, it can make you a danger to yourself or your baby. You need your wits about you to drive her to her doctor’s appointments, give her a bath, or cook yourself dinner!
 
If the situation gets desperate, call in the troops. Have friends come over during the day and hold the baby so you can take a nice long nap. Sleep is not a luxury. It is a necessity!

It’s not just the number of hours you sleep but the quality. You need to go deep and experience different sleep cycles to be fully refreshed. The only new mom in the position of easily achieving this goal is the one with a full-time night nurse. The realistic goal this week is to create a new sleep cycle that helps you get the quality and quantity of sleep you need while taking into account your new lifestyle. Keep at it, and over time you, Dad, and Baby will all adjust. Without effort, however, a disjointed, disrupted night of fitful sleep will become the norm, with consequences you truly want to avoid.

Consider co-sleeping. Many moms find that sleeping near or with their babies helps them get the sleep they need. Instead of Mom and Baby waking fully every time Baby is hungry, Mom becomes tuned into Baby’s subtler hunger cues and can feed her without having to get out of the bed or turn on the light. Often Baby never fully wakes up and goes back to sleep much more quickly and easily.

As your baby grows, you’ll want to incorporate flexible routines into your evening so that he begins to associate those routines with sleep. Some quiet playtime after dinner followed by a bath, a feeding, and a snuggle in the rocking chair while you read aloud are all nice bedtime routines that can grow with him. Eventually, he’ll start sleeping longer and more predictable stretches.
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