Newborn babies sleep a lot. They sleep for 17 hours per day. So how can any mother complain about lack of sleep?!? That’s not all, everyone around is also “teaching you” the golden rule: “sleep when your baby sleeps.” If you don’t sleep when your baby sleeps, then don’t complain about lack of sleep. It’s your own fault.
Ok, that was quite enough of being silly. As much as everything above is true (theoretically), from SO MANY MUMS I know, only very very few told me, that first few weeks with a new baby were great as she slept all the time. For me personally, I don’t remember my babies sleeping – EVER. Well, maybe occasionally, for very short periods of time. E.g. my daughter was able to sleep for 8 hours straight when she was 5 months old. Then she was waking up every 40 mins from 7 months onwards…
My son had a special “distance” alarm implanted in his brain. He always woke up as soon as the distance between me and him exceeded 2m (or 200cm). Many babies have this kind of alarm. That was great for sleeping at night as he was waking up only for the feeds and went straight back to sleep, happily, calmly, in his own cot. But it wasn’t so great in case we wanted to watch some movie in a sitting room in the evening as he was waking up every few minutes with a big scream.
Pregnant mums are usually very excited about baby’s room decoration. They buy the nicest moses basket or cot with a beautiful pink or blue bed lining. Most of them end up sleeping with the baby in the same bed by the end of baby’s first month. If you’re asking what sleeping arrangements are best for your baby, here are your options:
- Baby sleeping in her own bed
- Mum & baby co-sleeping
The first decision factor affecting sleeping arrangements is feeding. Breastfeeding & co-sleeping is the best combination of all. That doesn’t mean that you cannot co-sleep if you’re not breastfeeding or that your breastfed baby cannot sleep in her own bed. It all depends on your own decision, your baby’s personality and other circumstances.
Baby sleeping in her own bed
First rule for baby sleeping safely while sleeping in own bed is: do not put your baby on a stomach to sleep.
Second rule is: remove EVERYTHING from the cot/moses basket before putting your baby down to sleep. That means NO teddy bears, blankets, pillows… There should only be your baby, swaddled or lightly covered by the blanket – if this is the case, baby should be lying in the bottom section of the cot to prevent slipping under blanket during the night.
Your baby should sleep in the same room with you for at least first few months after being born. That way, you’re there for her all the time and it’s not too far for you when you have to wake up several times per night and attend to your baby.
When you co-sleep with your baby (I say “when” because I believe that ALL parents sometimes co-sleep with their baby, even if the baby sleeps usually in her own bed), you should be aware of your baby while sleeping. That means you’re not extremely overtired or under any kind of sedatives/drugs/alcohol etc. Make sure to read safe co-sleeping tips before you bring your baby to your bed.
Breastfeeding mothers are usually more subconsciously aware of their baby and therefore breastfeeding is considered to hugely contribute to co-sleeping safety. If your baby is not breastfed, get co-sleeper cot that can be attached to your bed rather than sleeping with your baby on the same bed, as this would be safer option for your baby.
Another safety rule for co-sleeping is: do not use big heavy duvet when your baby is in your bed as your baby might slip under the duvet easily, depriving from oxygen. Light blanket is much better, and even then, your baby should be sleeping on the top of the blanket rather than covered under it.
What sleeping arrangement is the best?
I can’t tell you and I’m not going to tell you what’s the best for your baby and you. You’re the mum, you know the best. I can only tell you the main advantages of both types:
- You’re not getting up at night to your baby. That means, that you should be able to rest more at night. You need to try and see for yourself if it’s working for you.
- Your baby feels your closeness, that is very soothing and beneficial so she might be able to sleep calmly and for longer spans (this does not apply to all babies, of course).
Own bed sleeping:
- You can relax more in your bed as you don’t need to “watch out” for your baby all the time. This is once again, very individual. Some parents feel more comfortable when the baby is sleeping next to them, as they know she’s alright. For some others it might be stressful to co-sleep with the baby. The quality of sleep while co-sleeping is reduced significantly and that exceeds the benefits of not having to get up and pick baby up from her cot every hour or two at night.
Is it possible to “teach” baby to sleep?
The usual guides for teaching your baby to sleep are telling you to establish bedtime routine, make sure your baby is not overtired when being put to bed. They’re also telling you not to do any exciting activities with your baby right before bedtime and to put your baby down to bed/moses basket while she’s still awake and is happy enough. This way the baby knows where she is, should be able to fall asleep on her own and sleep calmer.
To be honest, not much of these guidelines worked for any of my babies. My personal advice is:
- If your baby can fall fast asleep while feeding – great! Wait for few minutes after your baby falls asleep and put her down in the very same position as they’ve fallen asleep in. E.g. you’ve fed your baby from your left breast, so your baby is lying on her right side. Put her down gently to her right side, use soft baby blanket to support her back.
- If your baby has fallen asleep while feeding, lying in your bed, perfect! Just sneak out slowly if you need to. Or just go to sleep too.
- Try swaddling your baby using blanket – it might prevent her from waking up by startling herself with her own arms.
- If your baby falls asleep in the carrier, try to put her down, making sure she stays warm after putting down (baby will miss your warmth)
- Keep explaining to your baby that everything is alright by repeating the same phrase in a calm voice or by singing the same song/lullaby over and over again when your baby feels happy and comfortable. Sometimes it’s enough to keep saying Pssst! Or make up some other “calming noise.”
- Remember, that tired baby will fall asleep. “Listen” to your baby and watch for signs of tiredness. If the baby is not tired, trying to put her down to sleep is waste of energy & time.
- Some babies don’t mind exciting activities before bedtime, my daughter used to jump on the bed as a part of her bedtime routine (with daddy), 5 minutes later she was fast asleep and slept calmly straight through the night.
- Some babies can get overstimulated and overtired, that’s not good for them. You know your baby best, you’ll find your way to put her to sleep.
Read also the second part of series: Baby & sleeping: Breastfeeding, Cry it out & Baby’s own room and third part all about bedtime rituals and teaching your baby the difference between night & day.