As the mother of five, I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade to get at least a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. (Plus, I’ve finally got a baby who sleeps well!)
1. Have realistic expectations
A few years ago, I discovered the works of Elizabeth Pantley. As an attachment parenting kind of gal, her writing resonates with me.
Babies aren’t manipulative demons out to ruin our evenings. They are helpless souls entrusted to us, dependent on us for their care.
When you bring a baby home from the hospital, your nights of solid sleep are over, at least for a while. Tiny babies need to eat frequently, so they’re going to require a lot of your time and energy.
Start while you’re pregnant, to try to minimize the other demands on your time while your baby is small. Cut back on commitments and try to prepare now for baby’s arrival.
Try stocking your freezer with meals or ordering extra household items you need. Planning ahead can save you time and stress.
2. Get your husband involved
Sit down and chat with your husband. Even though he’s not able to breast feed, there are many ways he can help out and reduce your stress level.
Ask him to change the baby’s diaper in the middle of the night before he brings the baby to you for a feeding. Encourage him to give the baby her evening bath, so that you can have a few moments to yourself. Baby wearing by fathers warms my heart and helps dads and babies bond.
These little things mean so much to me and let me know that my husband and I are on the same team. Brett has taken over many nights when I’ve been at my wits end.
3. Check out the resources
I’m not going to let my children cry it out, so these books are full of tips to help babies achieve a restful sleep.
I’m not sure why it took me until my 5th child to learn the value of swaddling. I don’t recall doing it at all with Abby, and only sporadically with the Kennedy Kaboodle.
This time around was different. On the advice of my friend Lisa, I splurged and bought Aden+Anais swaddlers. They are huge and so easy to wrap up a squirmy baby. My big kids like to swipe the blankets and wrap up their stuffed animals!
Swaddling seemed to help Maeve’s reflux. When she was fussy at nighttime, even laying her on the blanket, about to be swaddled, calmed her.
Some cons? You may miss some feeing cues like stretching or baby putting hands to his face.
5. Have a routine
Around here, we do a bath and put Maeve into her pajamas. If she’s amenable, we hang out with the big brothers and sister for storytime. Other times, she just wants to snuggle in my arms and fall asleep.
Even if I give her a bath during the day, like after a particularly messy lunch, it’s not uncommon that she takes a nap soon afterwards. Something about the water soothes my children and makes them sleepy.
6. Swinging and Swaying
Most babies love to be rocked, either in your arms or in a swing.
Borrow a swing from a friend first before you commit to a purchase. My girls adored their swings, but the boys detested them.
A good rocker or glider is a necessity for your nursery. My current glider has made it through 4 children and is still going strong.
7. Co-sleeping, bed sharing or rooming in
I never intended to have my children sleep with me. Instead, it’s happened as a natural progression and sometimes the only way I can catch any rest.
With Maeve, we have our pack n play set up right beside the bed. When she was tiny, I’d sit in bed and nurse her to sleep, then burp her and place her in the PNP. During the middle of the night feeds, it was easier to lie down bedside her and nurse, which ended with both of us falling asleep.
Nowadays, she prefers to sleep right beside me. This works for our family, but may not be the right choice for yours.
If you choose to have your baby sleep with you, please be sure you’re following these safety tips.
8. Is the baby uncomfortable?
If your baby is fussy and you can’t figure out what’s wrong, do a process of elimination.
Gas pains? How about some gas drops or change in position for burping.
Diaper check – Maeve gets downright mad if she’s in a poopy diaper too long these days.
Hungry? Nurse or give the baby a bottle. Some babies may want to comfort nurse or need a pacifier.
In my early days with Maeve, one of my dear friends recommended Dunstan Baby Language DVDs for me.
Oh, my word.
I wished I’d had this when Abby was tiny. This amazing DVD helps you decipher your baby’s cries. I was skeptical at first, but quickly learned the difference between a hungry cry and a ‘I need to burp’ cry.
9. Make some noise
I don’t sing worth 2 cents, but my children don’t seem to mind. They’ve all enjoyed hearing me sing them to sleep. If you can’t come up with any good lullabies, try Pandora or Spotify.
Another option is a white noise machine. The womb is a noisy place. Your quiet house may seem a little disconcerting to a little baby.
10. Make a change
Some babies are comfortable no matter how you lie them down, while others are very picky. Even when Maeve was tiny, she preferred to be held upright, high on my shoulder, to help her belly.
Her other favorite position? The football hold, perfected by her daddy. All my children have loved this, but only when Brett holds them this way.
What’s YOUR favorite tip? Have I missed something that works for you? Be sure and share your ideas in the comment box.
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