The first thing I want to say is that it’s going to be okay. I know a lot of people are super discouraging about how tired you’re going to be and how many millions of times baby will wake in the night. I’m not going to try to whitewash–you WILL be tired; but you’ll be okay. You’ll wake up after a rough night and your baby will smile at you and… you’ll be okay, after all. And you’ll get a nap. And you’ll muddle your way through with coffee or tea and lots of water. I’m a 9-10 hours a night kind of girl, and I’ve been getting very interrupted sleep for the past 10 plus months. And I can’t drink coffee. But I’m still functioning (almost) normally. You can do this. ❤
The second thing I want to say is that I am not a sleep expert. I’m just a mom who likes to read. And share what I’ve learned so far. But don’t take my word for it: research for yourself as well, and definitely don’t think that just because something was safe for us it’ll be safe for you. Everyone is different. Life in uncertain.
The third thing I want to say is that BABIES ARE NOT BROKEN. They are meant to wake up multiple times during the night for the first long while. They need the calories at night. They need the reassurance that they are not alone. They need help getting back to sleep between sleep cycles. They need to wake frequently to prevent getting into a really deep sleep– for a newborn, sleeping too long artificially (by a parent sleep training them) can be dangerous. They are still so new at breathing that if they go too deeply into sleep for too long, their brain may not keep signaling them to breathe. Sleep doesn’t really get consistent for most children till after age 2-3, maybe later. Don’t freak out! Just accept it. There are usually plenty of good nights mixed in there. You will be okay, remember?
There, got those out of the way. Now… here’s what I’ve learned and what worked for us.
There’s a lot of controversy about Bed Sharing. Many organizations will tell you not to do it at any cost. The problem? BABIES DON’T READ THOSE PAPERS. They don’t believe in sleeping alone on their backs on a hard cold crib. And why should they?? Sleeping alone is scary even for adults! No one likes a really hard bed. And no one likes being cold. ESPECIALLY not newborns, who have experienced nothing but warmth, mom, and being snug. So many parents, in an effort to reconcile both of these things, end up falling asleep while holding their babies… out of sheer exhaustion. They’re not in bed–they’re on couches or chairs.
This is FAR more dangerous than bed sharing safely. Even the AAP now says that breastfeeding mothers who tend to fall asleep while nursing should bed share. (Nursing, by the way, produces a hormone in both mother and baby that makes them sleepy. This is how it’s naturally intended to work. Keeping baby in another room is the artificial way.)
Here’s an article that talks about all that.
The beauty of bed sharing is that in most cases, it makes it so that you get WAY more sleep than people who don’t. No getting out of bed and walking to baby! Baby wakes less! You wake less! It’s amazing! (There is some getting kicked involved…. but otherwise it’s brilliant) Haha, sorry for all the exclamation points. 😛
So how do we safely bed share?
This is what it looks like for us…Noah is sort of cradled in my arm, and he tends to roll onto his back automatically.
My knees are bent up, both for comfort and to protect against my husband accidentally rolling on him. (this is far less of a concern in real life than in imagination, by the way, in most cases. I found my husband was hyper aware of him at first and has continued to be careful in his sleep.) Noah’s legs are all folded up these days, or failing around on my legs or belly. You’ll find you pretty much can’t roll on them when you’re like this. Not only that, but breastfeeding mothers are very aware of their babies, even in their sleep, and pretty much won’t roll on them. (I’ve found this to be true… I sleep deeply when he’s with me, but just the slightest hint of trouble breathing from him or other problems and I snap awake.)
So what can you do now?
First step… don’t bother with a crib!
A pack and play and/or rock and play are good for situations where no one is available to hold baby during naps, but MOST naps, particularly the first 3 months, should be on your chest or while being worn. It’s best for everyone. Your breathing stimulates theirs, for one thing. Your heart keeps theirs steady. Your breasts regulate their temperature up or down. Your presence is comforting. You’re their HOME, their safe place, their mother. It may sometimes seem like they will never nap alone… but it’s not true. All too soon… they will, and you will miss those sweet, sweet days of them sleeping so contentedly in your arms. So prepare yourself now for months of sitting and lying around with a baby sleeping on your chest. No guilt. Don’t stress about all the things you could/should be doing. This is a real Thing that no one but you and your spouse/SO can do regularly for them. It’s very, very important.
Second step… think about how you will keep your arms warm at night. You’ll want the blanket to stay low to prevent it from being a suffocation hazard. Also think about getting a lighter blanket if yours is heavy.
Third step… mentally prepare. Re read this if you need to. Learn about infant sleep patterns. Be aware that sleep habits changes many, many, many times over the first months and years, between teething, gas, development and so on. It’s actually likely that your newborn will sleep really well after the first couple weeks–but it will change, usually around 4 months. Our motto is “don’t get used to anything”. If it’s a hard pattern–don’t stress; it won’t last. If it’s a good pattern — enjoy it; it won’t last. Share all this with your spouse, whether by sending him articles or by sharing little tidbits as you learn. It’s important that they understand what to expect as well. It’s much less distressing if you are aware that it’ll keep changing.
And that’s about it before baby is born. 🙂