A no-nonsense guide to getting your infant (and you!) some quality zzzzs
by Maria Benetos
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An ongoing series in partnership with Dirty Lemon in which we look at all things sleep, rem, slumber, trance, bedtime, dozing, zzzzzzs, snoozing, shut eye, rest and of course, the sandman.
There are so many guides, experts, tips, tricks and strategies out there to get your new baby to sleep through the night. Hell, there was even a best-selling book, Go the F**k to Sleep, which billed itself as a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world. Some were taken aback by the book’s profanity and brutal honestly and didn’t see the humor in it but fact is, it was such a success because it was so truthful. We really, really want our kid to go the f**k to sleep. I challenge you to find any mom, no matter what their parenting style who does not crave, no clamor, for a few more hours of quality zzzzs. It was the one thing that nearly sent me off the edge as a new parent. I so badly wanted to cherish every moment of the first few weeks with my daughter but there was often this pervasive feeling of fatigue that completely overtook my body and mind. Good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I have often said I want to write a book called “How to Raise your First Like Your Second.” With the second child, you’re so much more relaxed and confident in your abilities that miraculously, that cute little bundle of kinetic energy somehow becomes the “easy baby.” The thing is, it’s not the baby at all… it’s you! With number two, you’ve got this sh*t down and no tiny human is going to keep you from functioning at 100%. So forget sleep experts (who may or may not have children themselves) – this is advice from the real pros: moms.
Teach Day and Night
Your baby doesn’t know its supposed to sleep when it’s dark and be adorable when it’s light. You have to teach them that. The fact is newborns spend an average of 16 of 24 hours asleep – so instruct them to do it in the ‘right’ hours. How? Like many of the things here, repetition. Keep them stimulated and immerse them in your world when the sun is up and once it’s dark, calm them and keep visual and sound stimulation to a minimum. By the time they’re about 10 weeks old they can really start understanding this concept.
Napping is Good
Yes, I just told you to keep them active during the day but that does not mean skipping naps. I used to hate when my mom would tell me “sleep begets sleep,” but like many things in life, mama knows best. Babies that are over-tired will make your life a living hell when you try to put them down for the night. So spare them the tears and yourself the guilt and exhaustion – have them on a regular nap schedule, which differs for all infants but after a week or two of trial and error you’ll start seeing sleep patterns emerge.
Set a Routine… Now Stick To It
This was another piece of advice I loathed when my first-born Kaia was an infant. “I am setting the damned routine but she’s still not rewarding me for all my hard work!” Here’s that word again: repetition. Don’t lose hope. Don’t let him or her break you. You’ve got this! Do it again and again and again, stay patient (not my strong suit either) and suddenly one day it just happens – your routine results in a happy, sleeping baby.
Never Look Them in the Eye
I know, this one sounds ominous, as if you’ll turn to stone or something – but no, it’s nothing quite so serious. As mentioned earlier, babies are very easily stimulated. You may not think your face is the coolest thing since sliced bread but your newborn sure as hell does. Look, it’s not easy not to gaze into those cute little eyes but the more interaction you have just before they go to sleep, the more motivation they have to stay up. So focus on their adorable, chunky little arms or legs instead.
Wait, No Really, Wait
Babies cry, and that’s OK. Trust me, once you have the second kid it likely won’t phase you at all, but with the first you run into the room at the first sound they make. Remember what we said about them being easily stimulated – yup, not good. So let them fuss a little and chances are, they will calm themselves down before you know it.
And if all the wonderful advice fails you for some reason, just remember that one day you will miss these days. Yes, you will indeed miss them! Shocking, right?
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