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The first six months of a baby's life can be incredibly overwhelming, especially in the sleep department. Some have babies with reflux or colic, while others have amazing little sleepers but don't know it because another mom told them that their baby slept through the night at 2 months old.

Here are some of my top tips for mamas in those early stages.

1. Realize that you know your baby best.

While it may be tempting to listen to what others suggest about how to put the baby to sleep or how long they should be sleeping, try to trust your own instincts. The more you stress about 'not doing the right thing' because you are reading articles about baby sleep or listening to other moms on a Facebook group, the more you are taking the joy out of the time that you do have with your baby.

Co-sleeping expert, James McKenna says:

"Do what works for your family and trust yourself to know your baby better than any external authority. You are spending the most time with your baby, and every baby is different. Infants, children, and their parents intersect in all kinds of diverse ways. Indeed, there is no template for any relationship we develop. When it comes to sleeping arrangements, many families develop and exhibit very fluid notions of where their baby 'should' sleep. Parents with less rigid ideas about how and where their babies should sleep are generally much happier and far less likely to be disappointed when their children cannot perform the way they are 'supposed to' — i.e. sleep through the night."

2. Don’t worry about “do’s” and “don’ts”.

It is really important to not get caught up in too many 'sleep do's and don'ts' for the first few months. For the first three months especially, you really only need to be feeding, changing and putting them back down to sleep. For those with fussy or reflux babies, you know that sleep is a challenge so do whatever you have to do!

3. Remember there are no negative ways to go to sleep—breastfeeding to sleep, using a pacifier, co-sleeping, etc.

As a sleep coach, I tell clients to let their babies go to sleep how they want to, whether that's being rocked or pushed around in a stroller.

The term 'negative sleep association' frustrates me because even adults have associations with going to sleep—using white noise, reading a book, or having a specific set of sheets that we prefer, for example. There is nothing negative about needing something to help us relax into sleep.

When rocking them to sleep is no longer something you want to do because it is taking an hour, then change it (if it is taking that long then it likely is not working for them either). Although it might be met with some resistance, if you are gentle about the transition and give your little one time to adjust, the resistance will be minimal.

If your child loves sleeping on you during the day and it is no longer working for you because you have things that you would like to do, try letting them fall asleep on you and work on the transfer. Wait until they are in a deep sleep and try putting them in the bassinet feet first and slowly lay them down. This will remove the feeling of falling that can sometimes wake them up.

4. Know it’s okay if they wake up frequently through the night.

Newborns have two sleep states, active sleep (which is similar to adults' REM sleep) and quiet sleep (similar to our non-REM sleep). Studies have found that active sleep plays a necessary role in preventing SIDS. Fortunately, babies spend more time in active sleep from 2 to 6 am so during this time, they are much more likely to wake if they are hungry, cold, wet or startled by not breathing.

Their sleep cycles are actually shorter than ours (lasting only 50-60 minutes) and therefore they can experience a partial arousal every hour or so. There is a biological reason for the waking, it is for survival – in order for children to grow, they need to eat and therefore need to wake to eat.

If a child is too cold or too hot, they need to wake to let mom know. If a child isn't breathing, they need to wake. Anything that forces a child to sleep too deep too soon is dangerous. Active sleep also has other benefits, it is thought to be smart sleep because the brain isn't resting, it increases the blood flow to the brain and is thought to be responsible for more rapid brain growth.

5. Keep your baby close when you can.

This is true both at night and during the day. There really is such a push to have your baby in their own sleep space. It is important to note that a Harvard study found that room sharing for the first six months can play a role in lessening the risk of SIDS. There is absolutely no need to rush baby into their own crib in their own room.

If they are still waking several times at night and you are exhausted, try co-sleeping (I always have to say that I am not allowed to promote bedsharing so by co-sleeping, I mean room sharing). You will get the extra sleep you need and your baby will get the closeness they love.

Keeping baby close during the day is also important. If they want to nap on you… go for it. You cannot spoil a baby by snuggling them so look at the amount of time you are holding them. Oftentimes it is easy to get caught up in the daily tasks and the total amount of time you spent holding them is very little. But, remember, mama needs a break, too—call on your village so they can take the baby while you take some time for yourself.

In order for a child to become independent, they must first be securely attached. Babies need physical proximity, sensing the person they are attached to through smell, sight and sound. They also need a parent to respond sensitively and consistently when they signal.

6. Avoid overstimulation.

It is so easy to forget that babies are little and everything is new to them. Going on a walk is stimulating all of baby's senses—new noises, smells, things to see. We oftentimes forget all of this and slip into the role of 'director of amusement' needing to stimulate babies with toys all day.

Our daily activities impact sleep so try to wind the entire family down before bed. A trip to the grocery store right before a nap might make for one very overstimulated baby so give them a longer wind down if you want them to nap.

7. Take stock of their sleep environment.

New babies are sensitive to different factors. If it is too hot, they will not want to sleep. If it smells like cleaning products or any other strong scent, their sleep might be interrupted. If you are turning on a night light to change a diaper, baby may not want to go back to sleep.

If your child is highly sensitive and their pj's are itchy or have tags or the detergent you are using is bothering their skin, then this could impact their sleep, too. If your house is noisy around bedtime, consider a white noise machine. Or take a look at the temperature and air to get of sense of what may affect baby.

8. Try a motion nap.

Use a carrier or go on a car ride (the car seat is not a safe place for a child to sleep for a long time so remember to transfer them when you get out of the car), or get in the stroller. Many babies love motion naps so if you're having trouble with sleep, try it out.

Consider your lifestyle. Do you like to get out of the house? Do you enjoy hikes and walks as a family? If so, get baby used to sleeping in the stroller or in the carrier. Don't worry that they will never sleep in their crib.

Most babies that I work with before the age of 6 months need at least one motion nap a day and it's rare to see a baby at this age taking all of their naps in the crib. Switch up your naps, too—maybe you snuggle a nap, use the carrier for another, and get out in the stroller for another nap.

9. Celebrate the small successes.

Try not to focus so much on the bigger picture when it comes time to your newborn. Maybe you got them to sleep in the swing for 20 minutes so you could take a shower (congrats!). Perhaps they took a pacifier and looked comfortable for a few minutes (amazing!). Take time to acknowledge and celebrate the small wins when you're in the midst of sleep struggles.

10. Take care of yourself.

Please do things for you and ask for help. It is so important to take a walk or go get a coffee or spend a girls night out. Ask your parents, your partner or a close friend to help, even if it is only for an hour so you can shower and blow-dry your hair. Your baby may cry because you aren't there but if your child is in the arms of someone who loves them, and you need an hour to yourself, they are absolutely fine to cry and be supported. It is imperative that you are in a good headspace when you are with a newborn baby.

Remember that you are doing a wonderful job, mama. You are the absolute best person to be caring for your baby. The first six months are SO hard but hang in there. Don't be afraid to ask for help and make sure that you take time for you at the end of the day.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
Learn + Play

Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

News

Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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