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Monday, January 14, 2013

Newborn Care: Surviving Night Wakefulness

Having a new baby in the house is rough, especially if you've never had a little one before. The sudden addition of new chores combined with the subtraction of your much-needed sleep can knock even the simplest routines completely off course.

Newborns sleep 90% of the time, and for many moms it can seem like they spend all 10% of their waking hours in the middle of the night - exactly when you want to be asleep. Taking care of your infant in a half-awakened state at 3 am means that at 3 pm you are going to be dead on your feet. But that doesn't necessarily mean you can rest! As a new mom, you're going to have to do even more laundry than before, feed another mouth, change diapers, find time for your own self-care and still do your usual housework (dishes, bills, sweeping). We live in a world of "doing-it-all", and free time is scarce because of all the things we are pressed to cram into our already busy lives. Adding a little one into this mix can be hard and confusing until you re-learn your routine.

Unfortunately, because no one informed your baby that he or she would be stepping into a fast-paced world where people try to sleep on a schedule, you're going to have to adapt until they figure out which hours are for sleeping and which ones are for getting momma's attention.

Here are some tips to help you through the night:

First of all, make sure that everything you will need in the middle of the night is close by to your child's crib - diapers, wipes, baby cream, pacifier, extra blanket, extra change of clothing, burp rag, etc, etc. The last thing you want to be doing at two in the morning is walking around the house in your undies looking for the booger sucker.

Next, make sure that you have a small light near the area you will be taking care of the baby. Don't make it so bright that you will wake your little one up, but make sure that it is bright enough to see everything that you need to see. If you have to get three inches away from your child's booty to see that there is poop on it, you need to get a brighter night-light (and you're also probably about to get an unpleasant-sort of shower).

Establish a routine with your baby so that they know this is the point of the day that you will be putting him or her into the crib for (hopefully) a few hours. Read or sing softly to your baby, play a specific song, give them a bath or a baby-massage. This can be before or after their "final" feeding since some babies fall asleep after eating and some only seem to become more awake!

If your baby falls asleep during the course of your night-time routine, excellent! You're already on your way to getting a few minutes of extra sleep tonight. If he or she hasn't fallen asleep, it isn't the end of the world, you'll just have to wait a bit to catch your own zz's. If your baby is awake, take him or her to a quiet area of your house, preferably an area with a couch and a tv.

Like all mothers, you will have laundry to do. Try to make sure that there is always a load of laundry ready to fold in your dryer (it won't be hard to do). Prop your baby up in the corner of the couch and fold your laundry. Feel free to watch the t.v. at a normal volume. I cannot stress this enough: at a normal volume. If you keep your house so quiet that a pin could drop, that is what will wake your baby. If your house has normal sounds running through it almost all the time though, your baby will waken much less often when there is a normal amount of noise. This will also help your baby to establish the difference between night and day since there is an absence of sound at night, as opposed to the sounds he or she will hear during waking hours. The familiar sound of the tv (or radio if you prefer) should soon put your baby to sleep.

Okay, so your baby is asleep. Now what? Now you wait a little. If you move the baby as soon as he or she has fallen asleep, they are going to wake right up again. Babies need to fall into deep sleep before you try moving them or you risk plunging them into wakefulness again. Wait about five minutes. If your baby is making faces in his or her sleep, you need to wait a while longer. A baby that is deeply asleep will still react when you pick them up, but they won't react as strongly. Usually you can lightly touch a baby that is deeply asleep on the forehead and they won't squint or move away from your touch.

When you go to move the baby, try to think of it as more you moving to the baby. Get your chest as close to the baby's chest as possible and hold them firmly against you. The less you jar the baby, the better chance you have of no fussing after you get them in the crib. When you get to the crib, lean down towards it as far as you can, keeping your chest or stomach touching to the baby's chest for as long as possible. After laying the baby inside the crib, lightly place your hand against the flat of their stomach for a few seconds. This lets the baby know that you are still there if they have started to partially awaken.

This is the hard part of the game. If your baby wakes up, you have to start over. If not, run to bed! Baby probably won't stay asleep nearly as long as you need them to.

Now, this part isn't fun, but it is usually necessary. Keep a chore handy that you can do in the middle of the night. Put another load of washing in the dryer before you hop in bed, pile out your bills in front of the computer. Get out a scrapbook page with all the pieces and lay it out on a work-table. When your precious bundle next wakes up, don't spend the entire time trying to toss him or her back in bed as quickly as possible. Most of the time you just end up doing the crying dance - baby cries, you pick them up, baby falls asleep, you cry for joy, baby cries again as soon as you get in bed, you cry from tiredness. Repeat.

It is much better to go through your entire night-time routine again than it is to handle your baby's needs while half-awake. Waking yourself up completely may let you see that your baby is crying because something is actually wrong, like a fever, or a bug in her jammies. This is also convenient because it enables you to get something useful done during time that would otherwise be spent going back and forth to bed, praying for ten minutes of sleep before your bundle of joy starts screaming again. Just don't do anything silly like drink a cup of coffee or you will be awake for the rest of the night.

Yes, you are going to be tired the next day, but you were going to be tired anyways. If you really feel like you can't make it through the day, just take a nap. After all, the laundry's already done.

4 comments:

  1. Great suggestions - I would also add to enjoy that middle of the night time with your little one. Looking back, I can honestly say that I treasure that time spent with my now 14 year old when we were the only 2 awake.

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    1. Good advice! I feel the same way now about my 2 year old, but it's hard to remember that when one is in the middle of it!

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