Life with a newborn is exhausting whether you’re a sleep consultant or not, but there are a few things I’ve done knowing what I know to make this season a little less tiring. Some of these things might take you by surprise!
You don’t want to miss:
3 things I’ve done to help everyone get more sleep
How these newborn days are different from the previous ones from my first two kids
My thoughts on bedsharing and nursing to sleep
PLUS, why I’m not stressing about not having a strict schedule or plan!
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It’s taken me having 3 babies to have the confidence to do what I’m doing mostly without guilt or fear. (I mean I’m still a hormonal postpartum mom… there’s some guilt and fear, unfortunately.) It takes time (and sometimes a few babies) to know what’s “right for your family” and that’s ok! And that’s ok if it changes. What “worked” for each of my babies and for me during their babyhood has changed with each one.
What’s changed with each babyhood
👆 With Copeland, my oldest, I didn’t know what I was doing and just did what felt right in the moment. That’s not a bad thing! But, for me, it led to inconsistency and more struggle overall.
✌️ With Ford, my second, I knew a lot more and did plenty that “felt right in the moment”, but I had an overall plan and goal for what I wanted our sleep to look like. So, because of that, there was more consistency along with plenty of flexibility.
🤟 Now, with Fletcher, my third, I feel I’ve blended the last two experiences pretty well. I’ve found the middle ground, so to speak.
>> With Copeland I bed-shared out of desperation for 10 months.
>> With Ford, he was in his own room on night 2 and we never bed-shared.
>> With Fletcher, I chose to bed-share in the early days and we gradually moved him to his room and will still bed-share in the mornings before I’m ready to get up.
3 things I’ve done with my newborn’s sleep
1. Bed-shared safely
This is definitely not something meant for everyone to do. It is not prescriptive! It is something I wanted and my family and I fit the requirements to safely do so.
Being a breastfeeding mom with 2 older boys, I found I got more and better rest having my newborn right next to me. I enjoy the snuggles and I appreciate the rest.
In the early days, we were bed-sharing from bedtime to morning get-up. In those early days, newborns have later bedtimes anyway, so it worked well having him just go to bed with me. (He was a noisy sleeper, even next to me, so for a few weeks he and I slept in the twin bed in his room so we wouldn’t disturb Dad. (He’s an electrician and I fully support him getting a good night’s sleep!!)) We soon transitioned to sleeping all night in my bed.
Then, around 2 months, Fletcher would start the night in his Moses basket right next to my side of the bed. This was great to allow snuggles and reconnection with Kyle and also be able to sleep in a position other than my side. When Fletcher would wake up to eat, I would bring him into bed with me to nurse and he’d finish out the night there, nursing whenever he wanted.
Around 12 weeks old, when Fletcher got out of the swaddle and was getting too big for the Moses basket (and I was worried he’d roll out of it), he’d start the night in his room and I’d bring him to bed with me when he woke for the first feeding. He’d finish the night out with me in my bed.
Just within the last few weeks (he's currently 16 weeks old), I have been feeding him in his room and putting him back in his crib for at least the first night-feeding. (He’s currently having 2 feedings a night 99% of the time. Or, at least, that second feeding is happening earlier than I want to get up for the day, so I bring him to bed with me and we both sleep a little longer.) Depending on how I’m feeling is really the determining factor on whether I bring him to bed with me or feed him in his room and put him back in his crib. He’s fine with either choice, thankfully!
2. Flexible with where naps happen
I think it’s important to give my newborns the chance to sleep independently, (except with Copeland… I did not do that 😅) but it doesn’t have to be for every single sleep. I genuinely love the newborn stage and the best, best, best part is holding them and snuggling their sleepy little selves. I don’t want my baby in a crib most of the time. I want to be holding them most of the time! (Hence the bed-sharing, too!) So, there are a few different places my newborn would sleep including:
In his crib or bassinet
In a baby wrap or carrier
In a stroller or car seat
In my arms (or someone else’s, if I was willing to share)
The newborn days are some of the quickest ones to pass by and it’s ok to spend as much of them as possible holding your baby! It’s good for them and it’s good for us, too!!
I think we can get too caught up in worrying about “how will this affect their sleep in the future” that we miss the joy of being with them now! That doesn’t mean we should just completely forgo thinking about what we do now to help them in the future, but
what if snuggling them now is what they need to sleep well in the future?!
Now, if the only way they ever fall asleep is by being held or nursing or _______, then yes, it’ll likely make it harder for them to change to falling asleep independently. But, that leads me to the next thing I’ve done…
3. Letting him fall asleep in different ways (yes, even nursing!)
As mentioned, if for your baby’s entire existence they’ve only ever fallen asleep in one way (like nursing, bouncy, in a carrier, etc.), then when you’re ready for them to start falling asleep on their own, it’ll likely be a lot harder for them to learn. (That’s not to say they can’t learn or won’t learn, it just might be harder for them.)
So, to help ease that possibility of greater struggle, I’ve helped Fletcher fall asleep in a variety of ways including:
In a carrier
Patting his bottom while he’s in his crib
Rubbing his head
Since he’s not dependent on one particular way of falling asleep, including falling asleep without needing help, it’ll be easier for me to slowly get rid of the ways I’ve helped and, when he and I are ready, he can get himself to sleep without me the majority of the time.
Why I’m not stressing about Fletcher’s sleep or “following a plan”
First of all, how things are going is working for us, so there’s no need to change what we’re doing! (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.) Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with following a sleep plan (I mean, that is what I do!), but you don’t always have to follow a strict plan through the newborn days to get a great sleeper. Some families thrive with a more rigid, structured schedule or plan from day one and there’s nothing wrong with that. (If that’s you, do it!) But, one thing I’ve learned about myself through 3 postpartums is having a strict plan or schedule to follow increases my anxiety! So, instead, I have a loose plan, goals I’d like to accomplish, and let everything else fall into place (or spiral, depending on the day...)
This is what works for me and my family and, yes, the newborn days are still hard and tiring (especially with older kids, too), but I enjoy them all much more taking this approach.
I have even more details about how to help your newborn sleep well in this blog post as well as in my newborn guide. In the guide I follow the AAP’s recommendation of not bed-sharing and instead encourage room-sharing. But, know that when done safely, you can still bed-share and have a great sleeper, too!