I know, I know all people do when you’re expecting your first baby is tell you how little sleep you’re about to get. I’m not sure all of these warnings do much good. In fact, I think they can get pretty, um, tiring.
So this is not meant to be a foreboding about your pending exhaustion but rather some important intel on newborns that may save you some strife:
Brand new babies tend to be nocturnal– they are more wakeful at night and sleep more during the day.
The best way to handle this often has more to with your habits than the baby’s.
I’ve heard people and experts tell new parents to work towards getting the baby on a diurnal (sleeping at night, awake during the day) schedule right away. And while it certainly can’t hurt to try make daytime more active and nighttime more quiet, these maneuvers may not show results until the baby is developmentally ready to make the switch.
A brand new baby actually may be more sleepy during the day because he’s actually used to sleeping in a bouncy, loud environment. He’s been in a warm, black sea with a soundtrack akin to a loading garbage truck with a techno back beat.
If you’re pregnant and reading this, have you ever noticed how the baby starts moving like crazy when you’re still or lying down? When you’re moving around all day at work and talking on the phone or listening to music the baby inside you is being lulled to sleep. When that baby comes into the world, a shuffling, noisy daytime can actually be more lulling to the baby than the still of the night.
At around two weeks or more, babies will start to be more wakeful during the day and sleep for longer (3-4 hour) chunks at night.
At this point you can definitely try things like: allow more light and noise during the day, less swaddling (so the baby is more likely to wake himself up) and wake the baby for feedings if he goes over 3 hours. At night you can keep things super chill, with minimal talking, light and activity around feedings.
You can do this stuff in the first two or three weeks, sure. It might help. But for your sanity please realize that your baby is not waking up all through the night because you’ve failed to set up good sleep habits. The developmental switch to sleep at night has just not been flicked on in the baby’s brain.
So try to sleep during the day as much as possible. If guests come over to visit, invite people you’re most comfortable with in the mornings, hand over the baby (who will likely sleep the whole time anyway) and go to sleep assured that you will be woken up by this reliable person should be baby cry or need to be fed.
Figure out ways to build in some daytime sleep so that your body looks forward to it and you can actually nap when you get the chance. You know how Spaniards take siestas? If you– as an adult– are used to getting a good 2-3 hours nap at say 11 or 2 everyday, it’ll be that much easier. So see what relief you can get to make this happen. If you’re up very frequently at night, you will likely be able to sleep during the day.
If you have a partner/husband see if he or she can take the baby for the super early AM shift– say 6-9am, because new moms can usually go deep into sleep at that point. And the baby may be just shifting into his first round of long daytime sleep.
In general, you’ll need to meet your newborn halfway with this stuff which means blowing off our grown-up ideas about sleep and diving into this dozy, nappy, nocturnal world for a spell. That little dude will get there, soon enough.
Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a certified childbirth educator who teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. She is also the co-author of From The Hips: A Comprehensive, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Becoming a Parent.
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