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December 17, 2012 4:54 PM   Subscribe

What was the best advice about sleeping routines you received when you brought your newborn home?

If you were bringing home your child again, how would you best establish a sleeping routine? Possibly relevant details: she is breastfed, sleeping in a bassinet in our room and has just one older sister. I have my mother in law, who is helpful and not pushy in any way, staying with us for the first month. My husband is back to work.

We have a three year old, and a three day old. In the haze of very little sleep, I feel like all experience I had with our first happened to someone else. That said, I know how to do all the basics, so it certainly is easier. Any other miscellaneous advice accepted with gratitude.
posted by Nickel Pickle to Human Relations (30 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I was working and my wife was not when we brought home our newborn. After I got into a minor accident because of sleep deprivation, we divided up the night.

All wakeups before 2:30am were my responsibility (she was breastfeeding and pumping, so there were bottles). All wakeups after 2:30 were her responsibility. This guaranteed us both solid blocks of sleep.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Something I picked up from AskMe and that seemed to work: the more they sleep, the more they sleep. Don't try and enforce sleep routines this young, just let them sleep as much as possible, and get naps while they are sleeping (if possible...).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:58 PM on December 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

For what it's worth:

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Don't wash the dishes, watch TV, or surf the internet. When the baby sleeps, you sleep. You need it!

2. What got me through the tough early days with my first child was a neighbor whose baby was a couple of months older than mine, who said, "Trust me. Everything gets better at the beginning of the fourth month." That promise got me through some difficult days, and he was right. I guess that saying that the first three months with a new baby are the "fourth trimester" are true.

All the best to you. Congratulations!
posted by 4ster at 4:58 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Agree. Sleep begats sleep. And mom sleeps when baby does. If grandma is there to help with the toddler, everything else can wait.
posted by pearlybob at 5:00 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wish someone had told me to just let it roll the first few weeks. I was so uptight, and it really didn't matter much in the long run.

Also, I wish I'd believed/remembered how magical a good tight swaddle can be.
posted by Andrhia at 5:00 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Don't wash the dishes, watch TV, or surf the internet. When the baby sleeps, you sleep. You need it!

This, this, and more this. Interestingly, you'll get a lot of time with just yourself and whatever happens to be on TV at 2am, but if you end up sleeping when your baby sleeps, particularly in those opening days, you get an awful lot of sleep.

I stayed home for the first few weeks after each of our children were born, but then again, I had a decent boss that allowed for that sort of thing. I did what I could to sleep when my wife and child slept, but sometimes I was called up to do the laundry or cook a meal. Good on your mother-in-law for filling in.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:04 PM on December 17, 2012

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Don't wash the dishes, watch TV, or surf the internet. When the baby sleeps, you sleep. You need it!

Speaking from the perspective of the mother of a 10-week old, easier said than done. If you can manage this, then good for you.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by sleeping routines... For the baby? You can't really get into much of a routine with a newborn, that first month or two, you're basically just responding to their needs.
posted by amro at 5:11 PM on December 17, 2012

It's okay if your three-year-old watches a movie while you doze on the couch during one of the baby's sleeptimes. It's really okay.

(mother of two kids spaced three years apart)
posted by cooker girl at 5:11 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our baby was in a reverse sleep cycle when he came home. Daytime was sleepy time, nighttime was PLAYTIME! It took about a month for the proper sleep cycle to take hold and that was a really really hard month.

We asked our doctor what we could do and basically were told at that age (between 0 and 4 months), just roll with whatever the baby wants to do.

Good luck, its tough. I know all I seemed to hear during that time was "oh our baby slept through the night straight away" or "we never had any problems with our babies sleeping" which always seemed liked the wrong thing to say to a desperate sleep deprived parent.
posted by Admira at 5:17 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

The first few weeks, we took to the bed for like 12 hours at night (my baby was also in a bassinet in my room). To get like 6 or 8 hours of sleep. But I wouldn't even pretend to get out of bed until like 11.

I found that strategy more helpful than "sleep when the baby sleeps". For one thing, I can't rack out at will. For another, it helped teach her the difference between day and night.
posted by kestrel251 at 5:17 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

P.s. congratulations!!!
posted by kestrel251 at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2012

Andrhia mentioned the swaddle above.....this this this!!! A properly done swaddle can make a huge difference. Find a friend who can wrap that baby up and teach you how.
posted by pearlybob at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wish I'd done something else with all the time I spent reading/fretting/learning about sleep. Read a novel guilt-free or something. Honestly.

posted by purpleclover at 5:21 PM on December 17, 2012

Oh! And let the baby nap every 90 minutes. That was good advice.
posted by purpleclover at 5:22 PM on December 17, 2012

3 kids in 3 years here. They are all different. Wouldn't try to enforce any sort of routine until at least 3 months. (Now that they're teens, I enforce a different routine. At noon on weekends, if there is stuff to be done -- there is always stuff to be done -- I wake them.) When they were young, the motto was, "You wake 'em, you take 'em."

Sleep begets sleep.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:25 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't worry too hard until they're at least 3 months. Until then just get them to sleep wherever and whenever you can. You can fix most anything you do before 3 months.

After that, start thinking hard about where and how you want them to learn to sleep.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:35 PM on December 17, 2012

What I found: each child is unique. Advice based on someone's experience with their own kids is to be taken for what it is: an anecdote, not a general truth applicable to all children including my own. Also: the parent that spends the most time with the child is, unless extremely sleep deprived, the one person that knows that child best. Trust that expert - and, if it is you, trust yourself.
posted by aroberge at 5:35 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and we loved The Happiest Baby On The Block DVD for newborn soothing techniques.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:36 PM on December 17, 2012

I'd avoid trying to get him to sleep separately from me when he clearly didn't want to, stopped my husband going back to work earlier than we planned, have a giant stack of Swaddleme velcro blankets, establish more of routine for both naps and bedtime earlier. Hours and hours of our time together was spent doing the wrong thing, in the wrong order, because other people said it was the right thing to do. I should have listened to myself more. I should have asserted myself better.

The one thing I did right was choose to co-sleep. As a result, the only real sleep deprivation I got was from the baby not napping/needing extra rest while recovering from labour. The nights weren't as bad as they could have been.
posted by saturnine at 5:41 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wee lass is 4.5 months, her first 3 months we had a pretty good routine of up for two, down for one, that's what our nurse suggested and it worked very well for us. We also read The Happiest Baby on the Block and used the Swaddlers, they were MAGIC.

I would suggest swaddling, napping a bit, and letting your MIL clean and help with your toddler.

Congratulations on your tiny human!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 5:50 PM on December 17, 2012

My doctor told us that if our baby was breastfeeding well, we should start him on bottles of pumped milk early - we started at 2 weeks. Pumping and letting my partner feed him for part of the night (like an earlier commenter suggested) was a major lifesaver in the beginning.

We also used the method of staying in bed until 8 hours of sleep had been accumulated, even if it took 12 hours.

Swaddling, definitely.
posted by medusa at 5:51 PM on December 17, 2012

I agree with above to just roll with it for the first few months. After you feel confident and in your routine, think about what kind of family you are and your friends' styles. Will you want to go out for adult time, leaving baby with a sitter? If so, establish sleep routines to have baby asleep at a regular time every night without fail.
Are you the family and friend group where kids are always involved and welcome? Baby who can stay up happily and sleep wherever they feel tired may be better.
We are family number two, but I believe we are seriously in the minority and many of our friends are much happier with nights out leaveing baby with sitter, so if you are unsure I'd err on the side of routines. On the plus side, taking my son along meant he learned early to deal with other people and also some social graces as he had more exposure to it. Our friends also enjoyed socializing eith kids herding about, but it would have failed in the adult only type of crowd, and you need to plan so you keep your network, they are important. Finally, my boy was (is) also a kid who could stay up late and be happy, not every kid can . If they need routine, you must provide what helps them be happy in the regular day.

Congrats and enjoy!
posted by chapps at 6:03 PM on December 17, 2012

With my second, I couldn't nap. My older child had dropped all of his naps and couldn't be left unsupervised while I slept with the baby. So I didn't nap. But she slept well at night, so most days were okay.

What I used the nap time of my daughter for was to get out of the house. She would nurse and nap in the sling for two hours while we were at the playground, tooled around downtown, got lunch, and headed home. We'd leave at 11 am and not head home until between 1 and 2.

I know that you have your mil to help for a bit, but it was really important for my son to get that time with me each day.

And when my husband came home, he'd be on older-sibling duty while the baby and I would settle in for the evening.
posted by zizzle at 6:06 PM on December 17, 2012

I would add, my daughter became so used to nursing in the sling, that she'd get incredibly impatient st the sight of it. Best thing I dd was o get her to sleep and nurse in one.
posted by zizzle at 6:08 PM on December 17, 2012


I've only got the one so take that for what it's worth. If I could do it again, I'd take my own sleep more seriously right at the start. Some of that was surely just excited new-momness. It'll be harder with another little one to take care of

We supplemented right at the start and I'm glad that my husband could take feeds. That was a lifesaver. We also split nights when things were rough. And he'd usually take all night Friday and Saturday (or most) as he didnt work on weekends. That gave me some much needed catchup.

My mom was most valuable taking the morning bottle feed. I'd wake, nurse then bring baby to my mom who would make another bottle as necessary and I'd go back to bed for an hour then shower. So wonderful. The rest of the day felt great if I could do that.

Round about eight weeks, I started keeping track of her schedule. I seem to recall it went something like: wake, change diaper, "play" for maybe 20-30 min, feed then nap. Sometimes a little feed right on waking. My problem was that I felt like I was just feeding around the clock, both breast and bottle and she'd snack and snooze. It was driving me bananas. By being just a touch more structured, I stretched out the time between feeds so that she'd eat a bit more at once and take a good nap. I think this built up over the following 12 weeks or so until we got a pretty good and predictable rhythm. YMMV.

Best of luck -- no matter what, as soon as you start to get a pattern, things will change. Just keep your own stamina and needs at the forefront and likely everything will work out.
posted by amanda at 7:18 PM on December 17, 2012

Never let them be awake for more than 2 hours. Start gearing up for a nap after about 80-90 minutes awake. Do whatever you can to facilitate sleep (for everyone) right at the start.
posted by gaspode at 7:51 PM on December 17, 2012

Congratulations! I only have one as well (almost 7 months). In prenatal classes and in the info that you get from the hospital, it all says "feed on demand, don't watch the clock etc. Newborns sleep up to 16-18 hours a day" or something like that. But they don't tell you when you should stop doing that and getting them on a routine! I wasn't helping her nap properly so a couple of months in she'd get overtired and wouldn't breastfeed and cry. So I wish I had known that babies can only stay awake for 1 to 1.5 hours at a time (maybe even less). I also wish I had known about putting down the baby while drowsy, not completely asleep. That's supposed to help them self-soothe when they have their brief awakenings between sleep cycles at night (don't know how much I buy it, so as with everything, YMMV!). I'd recommend that in a few weeks you read No-Cry Sleep Solution and No Cry Nap Solution by Elizabeth Pantley; there's some good info in there about establishing healthy nap habits for babies under 4 months old. And watch out for the sleep regression at 4.5 months! See: http://www.askmoxie.org/2009/03/a-reminder-about-sleep-regressions.html
posted by foxjacket at 5:06 AM on December 18, 2012

For my babies, a "regular" schedule had more to do with how long they were AWAKE between naps, rather than how long the nap/sleep session itself was. Tiny, tiny ones, no more than 2 hours of waking time in one sitting. Gradually increase waking time as baby matures.

And swaddling!
posted by wwartorff at 11:13 AM on December 18, 2012

I read some interesting perspective about baby's sleep habits contrasting the American and French framework in Bringing Up Bebé.

I've never had a baby so I can't speak for anything, but you might find the book useful (or at least entertaining)
posted by p1nkdaisy at 1:34 AM on December 19, 2012

One thing we did with all three of our kids is to supplement breast feeding with a big bottle of formula or even two at bedtime. None of them were put off the breast and all slept through the night for the most part from two months onward. It also helped give me as dad a role, which I liked. You could do the same with expressed milk if you are against formula, but it has the advantage of infinite supply on those evenings when the baby is inexplicably ravenous.
posted by ptolemy chennus at 4:13 PM on December 19, 2012

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