The First Month After Birth – Sleep

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Hahahahaha… what sleep?

Any parent will agree that sleep is a precious commodity, and sleep with a newborn is a downright luxury.

Something that people without babies don’t seem to realise is that just because your baby slept for x-hours certainly doesn’t mean that you did yourself. If baby sleeps for 2 hours in one chunk, depending on the time of day/night and what else you needed to do during that time, you might have slept anywhere from 0 to 1.5 hours. And when you say you had 5 hours sleep last night, that rarely means in one chunk. My own mum likes to say that she slept for x-hours out of 24, and people seem to understand that a bit better.

The first night in the hospital was one of short, light naps. Between the soreness of surgery, check-ins by medical staff, worrying about our new baby, feeding said new baby, going to the toilet… there was very little time left for sleep. We both got in a few hours over the course of the night, but it was certainly broken and not of high quality. The second night in hospital was no better – I ended up being so exhausted, and our bub was so unsettled, that we enlisted the help of a midwife. I needed sleep, and bub seemed to need more sustenance than I was providing, so the midwife fed him some formula and got my husband to take him out of the room for a while so I could at least nap in peace. I was worried about them being out of the room, but at the same time I was so tired that I all but passed out when they left.

We were told that newborns need to feed every 3-4 hours, so those first few days we tried to make sure we were waking him if he happened to be asleep at that time point. The problem was, he wouldn’t feed when he was asleep, so if I couldn’t wake him I would just be putting him back down. Eventually I transitioned to letting him sleep when he wanted, for as long as he wanted, and feeding him when he woke up on his own accord. Doing it that way eased some of my stress, and because he was putting on a lot of weight I knew he was being fed enough.

The first week at home was very tense – we were both listening closely to every sound and movement, constantly checking him to make sure he was ok. Our bubba sleeps in a bassinet that is on casters, so we can wheel him between rooms easily (Thanks to Bec for the hand-me-down!). It means that we can keep him in whichever room we’re in at the time, and that really helped with the initial paranoia of whether he was ok or not. We would rush to him at every sound, just to check!

We spent a few nights out in the lounge – we would initially go to bed, then move out to the lounge to feed so I could sit on the comfortable couch, then try to go back to bed when he was done. Problem is, in that first week his sleep times would vary and getting him settled enough to sleep properly could take some time. A usual amount of sleep was between 1.5-2.5 hours, but there was no real regularity or pattern. So we would end up just sleeping on the couches in between feeds, rather than go through the hassle and mental stress of moving rooms each time, especially when feeding was occurring every couple of hours.

After that first week we decided to stay in the bedroom, with me feeding bubba while sitting up in bed. It just kept my sanity a bit more in check, not having to leave the room every time he woke (especially because sometimes he would squirm and appear he was waking so I would take him out of the room, only to find he didn’t actually wake up properly and I had left the comfort of bed and bedroom for no reason).

It wasn’t until about a week after coming home when I was obviously in desperate need of sleep that I started to sleep through his quieter and more regular sounds. Since then I have thankfully sort of trained myself to wake only to certain sounds (those occasional little throw-ups after feeding, which he seems to do up to half an hour later even after burping; stiring a lot; big wet farts that probably require attention; crying). I almost always get to him before he starts crying because he squirms and fusses a lot before that stage.

Now the bassinet stays beside my side of the bed at night – I just feed him while sitting up in bed, and husband can usually sleep through it (though he has been very good about waking up to help out by changing a nappy, giving him cuddles to settle him, or just to keep me company).

Settling him to sleep has been a varied process as well. We’ve been lucky enough that he doesn’t cry for long (at most it seems to be about 10 minutes at a time), and like his parents he likes his sleep. What works for us the best seems to be walking around patting his nappy. Sitting down when he is in that mood is a big no-no! He will wake and cry as soon as we do. He also didn’t like being swaddled after the first week or so, and would kick his way out of it. Even now he kicks his blankets off the moment they are pulled up, so we have moved to a sleeping bag. It is summer here though, so I’m not particularly concerned about him getting too cold.

After The First Month…

I still stay in the bedroom to feed at night. Once my husband went back to work at the 4-week mark, I don’t wake him for help during the night unless I really need it, and he has learned to either sleep through our feeding noises, or roll over and go back to sleep.

From about 4 weeks old bubba started to sleep in bigger chunks during the night. It started out as a 4-hour chunk followed by the usual 1-2.5hours, and now at 8 weeks he sleeps for about 5-7 hours at a time during the night. Of course this isn’t every night – sometimes we are right back to the beginning of short naps all day and all night. Thankfully, though, it’s becoming more regular for him to sleep longer at night.

His wakeful times vary greatly still; he can be awake anywhere from half an hour to 4 hours in a go, and it doesn’t seem dependent on how long he’s slept before or how active he was.

We do not follow any sort of sleep training or sleep plan. I simply let him sleep when he wants to sleep, and be awake when he wants to wake. I am lucky enough to be able to not return to work just yet, so I have the freedom of doing it this way. I’m hoping by the time I return to work (hopefully not until next year) he will have settled into some sort of reliable routine!

I think when we have a second baby (at some point in the future) we will skip the staying-in-the-loungeroom part and be in the bedroom from the beginning. I realise now there was no need to forgo that comfort!

 

How was the first month of sleep with your newborn?

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