”How do I get sleep with a newborn?
Sleepless nights are a common issue with newborns and when they start sleeping through the night can vary widely. The first rule has to be that the parents should fully expect this and have a plan established before the baby is born. Decide who will get up with the baby – take turns, alternate nights, but work out a schedule that you both agree on. This may be based on work schedules, whether the child is breast feeding, etc. Just understand that even with a plan, both of you will have to make sacrifices. Having a plan just makes sure that those sacrifices are evenly distributed. When one parent ends up taking all the responsibility, it builds resentment, which is not good for your relationship or family dynamic.
So, let’s say it’s your turn now. When a baby wakes up crying in the middle of the night, make sure he/she has a clean diaper. If not, change it. If the child is crying, you may try feeding them. It can also be helpful to check and make sure the baby is not in pain. Maybe there is something in their pajamas that is poking them. Maybe they’ve been bitten by a mosquito. Check them for any obvious sources of pain or discomfort. The fact is, however, that most infants will cry and you will have no idea why. There are a lot of ideas out there about how to comfort a crying infant, and you can always ask your pediatrician for ideas as well.
For me personally, my son was calmed if I held him face down along my forearm – with my hand
supporting his crotch and his head against the inside of my elbow (?football hold? is what we called it). More recently, my wife and I took our grandson to Disneyland and he woke up in the hotel in the middle of the night screaming. We tried to console him for several minutes, and I’m sure his screams woke guests in adjacent rooms. Finally, because we knew he liked baths so much, we ran him a bath which finally calmed him down. We still have no idea what prompted the screaming, but think it may have been a bad dream. Sometimes, you just won’t know.
So how do you get sleep – the answer is that YOU DON?T!
Just kidding, but you will not get as much as you’re used to. This really gets back to question #1 – split the caregiving. One person shouldn’t be making all the sleep sacrifice. This is important, because an exhausted parent won’t be able to adequately care for an infant during the day either. In fact, exhaustion could lead to some dangerous scenarios – falling asleep while driving, for example. Another way to combat this, if you have the luxury, is to use extended family like grandparents or aunts/uncles to take some caregiving time and give mom and dad a day (or night) of uninterrupted REST!