Motherhood Question: When Will I/My Baby Sleep?

Sleep for mom, sleep for new baby. Many questions arise from this most hideous of topics. So many in fact, that you can buy TONS of books on the subject(s). I admit to ignoring all published literature and going completely by advice from friends and my own instincts.

That said, here’s this posts’ disclaimer: I am not a baby sleeping/mom sleeping expert. I only know what worked for me and Caden. There are large and abundant exceptions to pretty much everything I am now going to write down. Please don’t take anything I do differently as criticism of the way YOU do things, or anything else that might cause hurt feelings. I am sure that even if you have a 2 year old who never sleeps, that doesn’t make you a worse mom than me, or a bad mom at all! I want you to know that, because people get all into making other people feel bad for doing things differently. I just know what happened to me, and what worked for us.

ONWARD!

Everyone says when I have a baby I can kiss sleep goodbye, is this awful advice true?

Yes, but only temporarily. I despise when well meaning people say to the poor first time mom, “Oh, you’re almost due! Sleep now while you can because you won’t after the baby comes!” Oh yeah, good encouragement for the exhausted pregnant woman. Dorks. That phrase makes me want to punch those people in the throat because of COURSE you sleep again, or people would be too tired to ever again get themselves in a “family way” and have more children and the human population would die out. Dur.

Let’s tackle this in three topics. First.

When will I (the mom) sleep again?!
It depends on how much sleep you consider “sleep”. For me, pre-pregnancy it was about 9 hours a night. I didn’t sleep 9 hours a night until Caden was about 5 months old. However! There is hope! At first, you don’t get to sleep very often. Caden nursed every 1.5 hours for 45 minutes. This means that I slept slightly less than two hours at a time for the first few weeks. BUT! I slept around the clock. You will be very tired. This is a rite of passage, unfortunately, but it’s usually a short one, I promise!

The best thing a new mom can do for herself is ASK FOR HELP. You absolutely MUST MUST MUST sleep when your newborn sleeps, if you can, for as long as you are able. If people offer to cook, say yes PLEASE. When they offer to clean, give them a list and GO TO BED. Don’t stay up and watch them clean. Don’t check facebook, don’t watch movies. Don’t get proud, or martyr-ish. ASK FOR HELP. Then, go to friggin’ sleep. I’ve watched mom’s suffer exhaustion and heal poorly as a result of doing too much too soon because they feel like they need to. You don’t need to. You need to sleep. If you don’t have help, presumably you have a man who got you into this situation, so tell him it’s time to pony up and help you out. Then kiss them on the cheek and go to sleep.

When will my baby sleep through the night?
This is another one where it depends on what you mean by “sleep through the night.” For us, 5 straight hours was like, party time. Well, panic that something is wrong with the baby, rush in and check only to find baby still conked out, THEN party. We achieved sleeping through the night at about 2 months. Here’s how we did it.

First, you have to feed them A LOT during the day. This meant LOTS of breastfeeding, and for us (mostly out of ignorance) supplementing with formula, which I don’t recommend. If I’d had better bf’ing help, I’d have had more milk to give, and wouldn’t have had to supplement. Check La Leche League (a bf’ing organization, I know, weird) or a local midwife or other mom for advice on bf’ing, cuz it’s a whole post of it’s own, and my dad gets creeped out when I talk about nipples.

There is a good chance that if your baby is over 8 lbs, and not sleeping at least a few hours at a stretch by 2 months, then they are probably kinda hungry still when they fall asleep. FEED FEED FEED. Food = full tummy = longer snoozes. Plus, if you only have an 8 lb 2 month old, I think we have bigger problems. I started giving Caden cereal at 4 months, mixed with my milk, cuz he was HUNGRY. Again, more milk would have helped. Breastfeeding classes are awesome, moms take them if you can and ask every dorky question you can think of.

Also, and this is a tricky suggestion, so read up on it first. Caden slept like, an hour at a time on his back. First time we tried laying him down on his stomach (which many dr’s suggest you don’t do blah blah blah) he slept 4 hours straight. Guess what way we laid him down from then on? Yes. His stomach. I am not a moron.

Second, you have to be willing to listen to your baby cry if you want them to learn to sleep.

This is a hard one. It’s REALLY hard. Aaron and I had a strategy: We knew Caden had a full tummy, a clean diaper, and it was night time (we started at like, 8pm). We set up a RIGID night time routine. Bath, jammies, feeding, then we’d lay him down in his crib, pop in a pacifier and turn on a fan, for white noise, and also a night light (he sleeps better to this day with a night light). He’d cry, and not want to sleep, and be REALLY mad. We knew his basic needs were met, he just didn’t want to sleep. We’d wait 2 or 3 minutes, and go in, pick him up, hold him til he stopped crying. We did not make eye contact, we did not talk to him, we didn’t turn on any lights. Just holding, and maybe some murbling soothy noises. When he stopped crying, we’d lay him back down, and repeat the process til he fell asleep.

It was 2 weeks of HARD HARD work, but, as we stuck to that rigid routine, and let him know that mom and dad would always come when he cried, he grew comfie with the idea of falling asleep on his own. He knew the routine and could relax. I don’t personally advocate letting them “cry it out” mostly because it’s torture to the parents to hear babies screech for a long time like that, and mostly because I feel our modified cry it out system let’s the baby know that we will always be there when he needs us. But to make it work, you have to be willing to walk away for at least a short time period. As the week progressed, we lengthened the time we’d let him cry (max about 10 minutes) and eventually we didn’t have to go in and pick him up anymore, he’d just fuss a bit then fall asleep.

Best exhausting 2 weeks ever, and it was totally worth it. Sure he’d wake up in the middle of the night, and we’d apply the same strategy til he slept solid. To this day he goes to sleep on his own when we lay him down at night. Lots of people don’t do a routine. Our son needs it. We sacrifice going out to dinner at a normal hour, hanging out at friends houses etc to stick to a night time routine. Oh sure we flex and bend occassionally, but Caden HAS to have his night time routine, or he doesn’t sleep. I’m willing to go with it, since now he sleeps 13 hours at a stretch at a dependable time. Currently at 15 months old, he goes to bed at 7pm EVERY night, and sleeps til 7am, minimum, sometimes later. This means Aaron and I get some decent time to ourselves in the evening, and Caden can feel secure knowing When Things Happen.

And if baby is sleeping in, momma can sleep in. w00t.

Lastly, How to Deal with Sleep Deprivation:
It’s a fact of parenthood at times, I’m sorry to say. I remember literally clawing my neck when bf’ing Caden, so exhausted and drugged up (I had a c-section) I couldn’t keep my eyes open. It’s hard, it sucks, and it’s tiring. Most babies grow out of it, and you move beyond never sleeping. It’s temporary! Get a good system in place so your baby knows when to sleep, and stick to your guns. YOU are the Parents. YOU get to decide what happens in your house. Even though they usually think so, your baby is not the boss of you. Yes you must submit to their will and needs especially when they are very young, and yes you have to make some sacrifices like leaving your house after 6pm, sometimes.

Ultimately, it’s sort of your choice what level of sleep deprivation you decide to continue life with (past a certain point). (This might be a good time to refer to my disclaimer at the beginning of this post). If you don’t want to hear your baby cry EVER and you want to go in every time they wake up even when they are 8 or 9 months old, then you’re going to be awake a lot. That might just be the way you run life. If your baby has colic or doesn’t want to sleep or wants to play with their poop at 3am, that doesn’t make you a bad mom. You’re a good mom. You can do this! You just might need some good under eye concealer. Eating really well (lots of good veggies and protein) and taking a good whole food vitamin and some extra vitamin D will help your energy. Ask other moms how they do things, then go with your gut instincts.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the way you choose to do things. You’re a great mom, you will be a great mom. Ask around to other moms who you respect and whose kids aren’t hellions, research, and Trust your gut!

Now you know my opinion and strategies. And knowing is half the battle. (G.I. Joe!)

Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Feel free as always to message me and ask for any details or info you feel was left out. I’m here to help, if I can!

Brownies now.

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About Jennifer James

I'm a full time mom who works full time. I'm a painter, a dreamer, and a believer that the most feminist thing you can do is adore your femininity. I say what I think, when it's appropriate for sharing. I write when I feel like I have something to say. I love always.

4 thoughts on “Motherhood Question: When Will I/My Baby Sleep?

  1. You are so clever. And thank the good Lord that you are figuring all this out ahead of time so I don’t have to waste time learning it myself.
    Loves!

  2. Jennifer,

    This is really helpful and you’re a great writer. I’ve tried to have Bethlehem on a feeding schedule of every two hours, so would I need to change that? What do you do about naps? Beth sleeps a good amount still during the day. Thanks for writing this out! So good!

    Becky

  3. Becky- No, the feeding schedule of every two hours is great. That’s plenty of daytime food for her to stay satisfied at night.

    Some babies wake up because they’re wet at night. Try putting her in a diaper one size larger than she wears during the day.

    Facebook message me what her regular schedule is, like when she naps and how long, and I’ll let you know what I would do. Sounds like she has her days and nights confused (sleeps more during the day, so she’s not tired at night.)

    Facebook me and I’ll do all I can to help you get set up to sleep!

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