About seven weeks ago, my husband and I welcomed our second daughter, little Nessa Joy, into the world! So yes, we are currently in the thick of it all. As a professional sleep consultant, I have been getting SO MANY questions about how well my newborn is sleeping or assumptions that she popped out sleeping 12 hours a night and on a perfect and predictable schedule.
Let me just clear the air, she's not, and I am about to blow away any misconceptions about newborn sleep with one simple sentence:
There are no shortcuts in the newborn stage.
I am sorry if that disheartens you, but the newborn life really is SURVIVAL. It's waking at any and all hours of the night, feeding when she needs to, countless diaper changes, explosions, and yes, it's lots and lots of coffee (can I get an Amen?!). Now, of course, there are many things we can slowly start working on, and if possible, habits we can avoid. But for the most part, we just do what we can to help our baby get the most sleep possible, and the food that he or she needs.
If you're like me, this might feel like a relief. As a mom, we are already bombarded with so many expectations and pressures to always be doing the right thing. And unfortunately, that puts a lot of expectations pressure and on our wee little babies, too! We think, if we're "doing all the right things," surely my baby SHOULD be sleeping 12 hours, or surely my baby SHOULDN'T have to nurse in the middle of the night...
By putting pressure and expectations on yourself, you are also putting pressure and expectations on your baby. That's a lot to ask for a little baby who has only been in this world for just a few weeks, and honestly, a little unfair.
So, if you're still reading this, let's all just take one DEEP sigh of relief. We're going to get through this, and in the meantime, we will do our best while giving ourselves and our babies all the grace in the world to figure this whole thing out together. And while we're at it, let's go ahead and remove the word "should" from our vocabulary.
"I should be... "
"My baby should be... "
Every mom is different, and every baby is different. All that word does is spread pressure and expectations where there already is plenty. Lord knows we don't need any more pressure in the parenting world!
With that being said and deeply understood, I thought I would share what I am currently focusing on with my little newborn.
Here it is... and don't worry, it's a lot less than what you would expect from a sleep consultant...
Caring for her needs.
Okay, not too overwhelming right? Let me unpack…
I always want to be sure she is getting all of what she needs, as it is so important and vital at this age. I am a believer in full feedings, spaced at consistent intervals. With that being said, I am ALWAYS sensitive to growths spurts and letting her eat when she needs to.
We first started at a feeding every two hours, waking her during the day if I needed to. Then, when I saw this was very attainable for her, I slowly started stretching her by 15 minutes every day. Now we are finally at every 3 hours during the day like clockwork. When I'm consistent with this, I really am feeding her "on demand" because she's ready for a feeding every three hours.
What I'm not doing is trying to stretch her for another hour when she's screaming for food at the 2-hour mark. There are some days where she wants to eat every two hours, and I go ahead and let her know she may be going through a growths spurt. When she's ready, I work back up to the 3-hour stretches. Full feedings at spaced intervals help a lot with her nighttime stretches and helps her body find some sort of rhythm. This also avoids "snacking," and ensures she's getting the good fatty milk that helps her stay fuller longer. And let me say, I didn't do this with my first, and it's made a WORLD of a difference. But remember, this can be a process work up to and is NOT perfect every day. Newborns = lots of change, and I roll with it.
Caring for her needs
I don't mean the very obvious needs of changing her diaper, keeping her fed, etc. (while, yes of course to those things), I really mean staying sensitive to what she might emotionally or physically need on a day to day basis.
Somedays, all she wants to do is be held. So, I throw my wrap on, and I keep her close for the day. I don't worry about creating any "bad habits" at this age since I know we will sleep train when she is ready and her patterns are more developed (12 lbs or 4 months). Somedays, she's dealing with gas or reflux, so that will take a lot of my attention and focus to help her get comfortable however I can. Newborns are constantly changing, and it's so important to stay in tune with that and provide them what they need.
Eliminating the "rules" really frees me to do that, and also removes (again) any pressure I put on myself or on her. Right now, she's snuggled in my wrap sleeping on my chest and doesn't want to be anywhere else. Instead of acting in frustration, I am choosing to embrace it, knowing these days are fleeting and she won't need me like this forever (cue ugly cry).
My hope for us as moms is that we can start enjoying motherhood more, regardless of what stage we're in. Enjoying motherhood doesn't come with easier babies that magically sleep 12 hours a night. Instead, it comes with a choice. Choosing to enjoy this stage with all of its glorious unpredictability and lack of sleep. We can't force our babies to be or act a certain way, but we CAN give ourselves grace to be on this journey, and be okay with where our babies are at, perfect sleepers or not. Allow yourself to let go of control, and just be the constant in your baby's ever-changing world.
Originally posted on The Cradle Coach.