What was I just talking about?! That’s what I have been saying on repeat these last few months. It’s incredible how much we are affected by sleep deprivation — relationships, projects, patience, ability to retain information, or form a cohesive thought. Personally, I have found that my creativity is gone, my OCD is at an all-time high while my libido is at an all-time low (to my husband’s dismay). I find myself searching my brain trying to remember what it was like with Micah at this stage and only remembering the good. But I know that he didn’t sleep well either, it’s just our bodies natural defense to block out the bad and focus on the good. Luckily for me, I wrote everything down. Once I re-read about it, all the memories come flooding back, and I have that “ah-ha” moment that Noah is not abnormal; he’s just little.
The first 6 months
Babies develop so many new skills in the first 6 months and grow so fast it makes sense that their sleep sucks. New skills include mobility, sleep cycles, eyesight, and comprehension of routine. The average baby will pretty much sleep the entire first month, waking only for a few hours a day to eat and stare at things. After that, their wake time extends, unfortunately for the parent, all day and all night. This is when parents really start to feel the sleeplessness from not getting more than 2 hours of straight sleep. Over the next few months, babies will wake from startling themselves awake (startle reflex typically goes away at 4-5 months), hunger, and finally sleep cycles. The average sleep cycle lasts 45-60 mins ending in light sleep. Once the baby gets to light sleep, if they wake up, they don’t have the skills yet to put themselves back to sleep. Enter sleep training.
Sleep training in the first 6 months
It is possible to teach your baby early on how to sleep. I have read and heard the stories of parents who have had that success. I personally do not fully commit to sleep training in the first 6 months for a few reasons. My number 1 reason for waiting until 6 months is because of their lack of mobility. I picture being stuck, only able to kick my arms and legs, crying, and no one coming to help me. When I think about how that must feel, I can’t bring myself to leaving my baby in his crib crying. With Micah, at about 5 months, he started side sleeping, which helped, and then by 6 months, he could adjust and settle himself back to sleep. That was a game-changer and really propelled his sleep training to what it is today.
Surviving the first 6 months
I am not going to sugar coat it; it will be rough. It is rough for us, for our other children, for our spouses, and even for the family pets! I am sure that this is not the first post you have read about sleep, and I am also sure that the other posts have told you this is a phase that will pass. As difficult as it is to get through it, just remember that there is an end, and you will sleep someday. In the meantime, there are a few tools that I can recommend to survive the first 6 months.
Sleep training! I didn’t say that I don’t sleep train at all; I just don’t go full force. What you can do initially is establish good habits and good boundaries. The most important habit to not format this age is nursing/feeding to sleep. Feed babies when they wake up, then play and then sleep. Breaking the habit of nursing or bottle-feeding to sleep is very difficult. The second most important is to limit the use of sleep crutches like the swing or baby carrier. Commit yourself to making sure that the baby gets at least one nap in their crib or bassinet.
TV subscription! You will spend hours of your life day and night on lockdown. I like reading, but without sleep, I lose the ability to comprehend or stay awake while reading. For that reason, I like watching TV. My top options are Netflix, Hulu, and Disney +.
Owlet! We all go into it saying we won’t co-sleep, but at 5 am after you’ve been woken up all night, I promise you will suck it up and put that baby next to you and get those few precious hours of sleep. The owlet really helps put your mind at ease.
Swaddle. I am obsessed with the new Nested Bean Zen One sleep sack. It is everything you will need for the first 6 months! You can swaddle arms in like the traditional swaddle or use the arm caps for babies who want their hands by their faces. It is AMAZING! Worth every penny.
Water bottle. You will be floored how thirsty you are while breastfeeding. It feels like you haven’t had anything to drink in days in just a few hours!
Breast milk supplements. You probably won’t need any supplements in the beginning while your baby is still regulating your milk. If you do, I love this Milk Dust for my supplement. It helps with sugar cravings, helps keep you full longer, and has all the ingredients needed to amp up breast milk supply. You can mix it in a shake or just add some water and mix it in your shaker.
Take this opportunity to rest, catch up on TV shows, house projects, and spend quality time with your new baby. It is rough, and it is normal to not feel like yourself. You’re doing a great job, and no matter what, don’t forget to give yourself credit for what you are doing.
Disclaimer: The statements above do not account for babies born with any sort of abnormalities or suffer from colic.