As a new parent, it seems like one of your biggest challenges is getting your newborn to sleep. But y
After we reversed our day/night confusion, our baby slept incredibly well when we held him. However, the instant that we put him down, he woke up screaming. Like many new parents, I was terrified about SIDS. So I tried to do everything by the book. With that being said, I needed to sleep too. And I quickly realized that I wouldn’t make it through the fourth trimester unless we made some changes.
After tons of research and a bit of trial and error, we found out what worked best for us to help our entire family to get some sleep. By breaking seven common rules, we stayed well-rested and happy throughout our newborn days!
Keep reading to learn about what sleep rules we broke in order to survive the newborn days.
*As a quick reminder, this is for informational purposes only. Please consult with your health care professionals before making any decisions regarding the care of your newborn.
Cuddling During Nap Time
As soon as Baby J came home from the hospital, people had tons of tips and advice for us. Friends and family constantly told us not to hold him while he napped. After all, we didn’t want to spoil him or create bad habits.
It didn’t take me long to learn that this was going to be the first sleep rule that we would break.
First, Baby J needed to be held and soothed. This is part of the newborn phase and they need lots of time cuddling with mom and dad. Every time we put him down, he instantly woke up and cried until we picked him up. If we stuck with this rule, poor Baby J would have been exhausted!
Second, the newborn phase is so incredibly fast. And I wanted to spend time cuddling and holding my precious little baby while I could. Every time I would force myself to put my baby in his bassinet, I would get so sad knowing that I was letting our cuddle time slip away.
I became a much happier mom when I threw this rule out the window and cuddled as much as I wanted. Better yet, Baby J finally started to get some great naps and good sleep.
We love swaddling at our house and I think it is such a valuable tool for new parents to learn. After all, that darn Moro reflex makes it so hard to sleep when babies keep getting startled awake.
Although being swaddled in one blanket was helpful, being swaddled in two was life-changing. Baby J instantly started to sleep better once he was warmer and more bundled.
If you decide to double swaddle, first make sure that both of the swaddle blankets are light weight. You certainly don’t want your baby to be too warm. (Feel the back of her neck and/or chest. If either place is sweating, she is too warm and you should take off some layers.)
In order to make this the most helpful for you and your baby, first swaddle a blanket in one direction (for example, left side and then right). Then swaddle the second blanket in the opposite direction (right side and then left).
As an extra safety precaution, make sure that both blankets are swaddled nice and tight. You don’t want your baby to flip either blanket up over her face. I also like to swaddle the second blanket a little lower on my baby’s body to ensure that it won’t slide up and cover his face.
As I mentioned before, Baby J would not sleep unless we were holding and cuddling him. He usually preferred to lay with his chest against ours and loved the pressure of our tummies side-by-side.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that he was actually able to sleep on his own when we allowed him to nap on his belly. But you will certainly hear that you should always put your baby on his back to sleep. This is one of the cardinal rules of baby sleep.
Before we let Baby J nap on his stomach, I did a ton of research. And I wasn’t able to find any conclusive studies that stomach sleeping resulted in increased SIDS deaths. The studies I read had way too many factors to verify that this was the true risk factor. Second, I had tons of conversations with my doctor, who supported my decision.
If you decide to let your baby nap on her stomach, make sure to unswaddle her. Otherwise, it will be hard for her to move or readjust and will increase the risk of suffocation. Additionally, you should make sure that she is sleeping on a firm surface with no blankets or choking hazards.
Also, I recommend that you keep an eye on your baby while she naps face down. I couldn’t find studies to 100% confirm that stomach sleeping increases SIDS-related deaths. But I was always too nervous to test it out and let Baby J sleep on his stomach at night. Tummy naps were okay because I could watch him and instantly know if he slept too hard and stopped breathing.
Sleep in the Swing
For about 4 or 5 weeks, Baby J literally refused to sleep unless we held him. This meant that we had to break some pretty big sleep rules in order to get some rest. But that’s okay!
Although all of the sleep literature will tell you to have your baby sleep in a crib or bassinet, this definitely was not an option for Baby J. He probably slept a total of 8 hours in his bassinet in the entire 3 months that he used it.
But he would sleep in his swing. This was great for us because it meant that he wasn’t sleeping with us!
For many babies, the motion of a swing and the slight incline makes it much easier to sleep. Especially if they have any acid reflux, which is very common in newborns.
If you decide to break this sleep rule and let your baby sleep in the swing, make sure that it reclines enough. The main danger of sleeping in the swing is your baby’s head falling forward and blocking her airway. Newborns aren’t strong enough to move their head back up, increasing the risk of suffocation.
We used this amazing swing that reclined super far back and rocked from side to side. Because it reclined so much, we never had to worry about Baby J falling forward and suffocating himself. We stuck it right next to our bed and finally got some sleep without Baby J!
This is a really big sleep no-no that people always say to avoid. But seriously, how are you supposed to get any sleep when your baby won’t let you put him down? After several days with no sleep, we dove into our research on bed sharing.
If you consider this, first off know that you are not alone. I found some studies that said up to 74 percent of people have slept with their baby. Also, know that some pediatricians actually claim that bed sharing is safer for your baby and decreases the risks of SIDS-related deaths as long as you follow the proper precautions.
But if you decide to bed share, make sure to research safe bed sharing first. Bed sharing can be very safe or very dangerous depending on whether or not you follow the important do’s and don’ts. Do your research before deciding if this is right for your family.
A few quick tips on bed sharing:
*If you are a smoker, bed sharing is not safe for your baby because it increases the risk of SIDS even if you never smoke in your bed.
*Never swaddle your baby while bed sharing. She needs to be able to move easily.
*Move blankets/pillows away from your baby and adopt the protective “curl position.”
*Never EVER bed share if you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medications.
*If you’re lucky enough, you can also use this as an excuse to buy a king size bed! We never felt cramped and I had plenty of space to cuddle and protect Baby J on either side of me because of our big bed.
Make sure that you research before bed sharing, but know that it is an option. Once we started bed sharing, my quality of sleep increased dramatically and I finally got some much-needed rest.
Switching to overnight side nursing was another change that helped me to feel much more rested. But beforehand, I felt so nervous about it.
First, I’m an incredibly awkward person and the first few times we tried nursing in bed, it didn’t go particularly well. We had a hard time latching, we weren’t lined up quite right, and Baby J spit up all over the bed.
Second, I was so nervous about falling asleep with Baby J mashed up against my side and I was terrified that my boob would suffocate him!
But again, research showed that this could be done very safely and Baby J would naturally roll onto his back or tuck his face under my breast while sleeping.
Instead of waking up every few hours to nurse, we just rolled over, latched, and both fell back to sleep. Better yet, during growth spurts when Baby J wanted to nurse all night long, it didn’t impact my sleep too much and I woke up a happy mom instead of a mombie (mom-zombie).
Move to the Nursery
Many sources suggest for your baby to sleep in your room until at least six months. Once Baby J got here, I definitely thought we’d follow this rule. I liked knowing that he slept right next to me and I could easily check up on him at any time.
Although we spent most nights bed sharing, I eventually wanted him to sleep independently. Every night, we did our bedtime routine. Read a book, sing a song, and attempt to sleep alone in the bassinet or swing. After waking up several times, we would finally switch to bed sharing.
One night just before he turned 4 months old, there was a lot of noise outside our bedroom window. Because of that, we started his bedtime routine in his room. He slept all by himself for 4 hours before waking up to nurse! Clearly, he was ready to move into his own room!
I learned that he slept much better in his own bedroom, and we slept better too since we weren’t always worrying about him.
Now he’s five months old and he sleeps most of the night by himself, waking up once or twice to nurse. Occasionally, he’ll cuddle with us after his early morning nursing session, but otherwise, he’s figured things out on his own!
Breaking a few newborn sleep rules made a huge difference for us and allowed us all to finally get some sleep. Did you break any sleep rules at your house?
Don’t forget to leave a comment! I’m curious to learn if you were by the book or not with your sleep habits!