The One Thing I Wish I’d Known About Newborn Sleep

The truth is that they do sleep well but that wasn’t always the case. I got into this work because we struggled with my first son’s sleep when he was an infant.  

Those first few months were a beautiful, exhausting blur.  

I thought I had prepared in every way possible for the arrival of our first boy. I’d read books, gone to my prenatal classes, asked questions, and spent hours online. Feeding, sleeping, products to buy, what to do, what not to do – it was a lot to take in.  

Then he arrived and it was all of the love and all of the magic people tell you it is. And ALL of the exhaustion.  

I did what I thought I was supposed to do when it came to his sleep. When he fell asleep, I’d put him down in his bassinet and leave him until he woke up.  

At first, this worked out just fine.  

Then his sleep took a rapid turn for the worse.  

He started sleeping for shorter and shorter durations of time. Sometimes just 10 or 20 minutes. He began waking more frequently during the night. He was harder to put down to sleep. This was the baby who was sleeping for four to five-hour stretches from day one! (Yes, I know, I was really lucky.)

It took me learning from a sleep consultant to realize that he was overtired. The more overtired he became, the harder it was for him to sleep.  

I learned something that no book or course had taught me about newborn sleep.  

I had been waiting for my little guy to fall asleep whenever he became so tired that he couldn’t stay awake any longer. Whether that was one hour or four hours since he’d last woken up. Those long periods of being awake were causing his body to become overtired, and the hormones that were released in his system, as a result, were making it hard for the poor kid to sleep.  

Knowing this, what would I have done differently?

I would have kept an eye out for signs of drowsiness, rather than waiting until he was showing signs of being overtired or just falling asleep. 

Once he appeared to be drowsy, I would have begun to soothe him down to sleep by changing him, feeding him, and quietly singing to him in a dark, peaceful room. This would have allowed him to go to sleep when he was drowsy rather than when he was so exhausted, he just fell asleep.  

If you’re like me and you didn’t get sleep right in the beginning, it’s okay. I got his sleep on track and he caught up and was rested in no time. If you did the same, then you nailed it in the end. If sleep still isn’t on track for your little one(s), that’s okay too! It’s never too late. But if you’re reading this and you’re expecting or just had a baby (congratulations!), don’t make my mistakes. Get your sweet newborn down to sleep within that two-hour window as much as you can and you will hopefully have a healthy little sleeper.  

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Rachel Ross

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