Why Teaching Your Newborn to Sleep Is Important
Babe, do you even sleep?
When you first bring home your little bundle of love, your life has forever changed. You feel like you could spend forever just staring at the perfect face that you created; it's a magical feeling. But, as with all fairy tales, the magic will soon end.
Sure, you're love will grow everyday, but so will your exhaustion.
I'd like to start by saying that I am in no way a baby guru, perfect parent, or a trained professional. There are many different parenting styles and each have their own benefits and setbacks, but if you love sleep as much as I do, this article may be for you.
To sleep or not to sleep...
First and foremost, new parents must decide which sleeping method they prefer. Always remember that YOU must sleep in order to be the best parent you can be. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of your baby.
Personally, I chose to have my daughter sleep in my room in a bassinet that was separate from my bed. My husband and I are very heavy sleepers and I tend to be aggressive over my bed space. This kept her safe and close by for late night/early morning nursings.
Other parents chose to keep their newborn in the nursery. This is a viable option that allows the light sleepers to get more rest. Some parents are nervous about the distance, but, in my experience, when your baby cries you will wake up.
A third option is co-sleeping. Now many professionals advise against this method and I was far too terrified to even nap with my baby. But, if you are going to sleep with your baby in your bed, you must be careful and responsible. This means no big blankets or comforters, no extra pillows, etc. Studies do show that baby who co-sleep are twice as likely to die of SIDS and this method has other drawbacks that we will come back to.
Just to clear things up from the get-go, I am in no way suggesting that you should leave your baby to cry and be hungry the entire night.
Many people confuse the practice of "crying it out" with leaving a baby alone in a room for extended periods of time. In actuality, letting a baby "cry it out" involves checking on them every 5 to 10 minutes to calm them and reassure them that you will come back. This can help form a secure attachment with a parent in the months and years to come! I would never let my baby get to the hyperventilation stage of crying because that can increase their stress hormones and have a lasting, negative impact on their development. It may sound strange, but you can definitely differentiate between your child's cries; it's almost like learning a second language.
Furthermore, before a baby weighs 11 pounds, they need to eat during the night; there's no way around it. I was blessed (some would say) with a 9 and a half pounder who was always hungry, so we hit the 11 pounds mark after about 2 months or so.
Before your baby hits that wonderful weight, you have to be firm and strong about sleeping. It is very hard to let your baby cry when they just want you to love and hold them, but guess what? You can't negotiate with tiny terrorist! When baby wakes up, calmly pick them up and begin feeding. In the mean time, you can quietly sing, hum, or coo at them, but try not to make it into a fun game. Nighttime is for sleeping and not for playing with mommy and/or daddy.
Once little booboo is full, give them a quick kiss and a snuggle and put them back to bed! This is very important. Babies are constantly learning and developing habits. Many parents make decisions that seem beneficial for the time being, but cause unfortunate and long-term problems.
This is one of the problems of co-sleeping. Most parents who co-sleep will end up with a child crawling into their bed for years to come. And while snuggling up with your little angel may seem wonderful, you will one day have to break this habit. Every habit that you allow a baby to develop will follow them into childhood and possibly even adulthood. And while it's impossible to be a perfect parent, good sleeping habits are beneficial to you and your child.
You Can Do It!
This all is so much easier said than done. But, if you pay attention to the parents that you see wasting away on facebook begging for advice on how to make their 4 year old sleep, they often had poor sleep training practices from the child's first night home.
People like to say that you can't help the way a kid sleeps and every child is different! But, the points I have discussed in this article are tried and true! I actually observed a family that I babysat for to learn these things. They had three children who all sleep extremely well. (My own toddler sleeps 8 to 10 hours a night!)
After observing and testing my own sleep training, I took a Human Growth and Development course that verified my personal beliefs with studies and evidence.
So, be strong and confident! A few months of hard work will pay off in the long run.