• abbeylovemurray

The Newborn Mother and Baby

I had been a labor nurse for quite a few years before I had my first son. I wasn’t scared to hold a newborn or to change a diaper. I was totally and completely overwhelmed by taking care of MY child. I was fine with other people’s babies, but now having to do it for my own child, 24/7, the responsibility of it all was extremely overwhelming. You could say I was pretty blindsided by it. I felt like a newborn in the new world of motherhood. Not to mention the fact that I ended up having a seizure five weeks postpartum, lost my driver’s license due to not knowing the cause, dealing with postpartum depression while being stuck at home, and later finding out it was all due to preeclampsia. Whew! It’s exhausting to think about, on top of now also having a newborn at home to care for round-the-clock.


So, what have I learned now, as a mother of 4, L&D nurse, and sleep consultant about newborn life?


As a new mother, whether it’s the first time or the fifth, you need to let your body rest; you need time to process and recover from your pregnancy and birth. And the beauty of the newborn phase is that you can do just that. I’m not here to sugarcoat it and tell you that it will be easy. Sleep for a newborn is sporadic and totally disorganized. This means there will be lots of naps, lots of snuggles, and lots of not knowing what day it is or the last time you showered.


What can you do to prioritize sleep? I have a list for you!


Make it SAFE.

Make it DARK.

SWADDLE.

Use white noise.

Watch your child for sleepy cues.

Figure out what soothing methods work best for your baby.

Start with routines.

Practice independent sleep occasionally.

Take a deep breath and don’t worry about a schedule.


Let’s go into more detail.


Make it SAFE.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends following their ABCs of Safe Sleep. Your baby should always be laid down ALONE on their BACK in their CRIB (or bassinet). Babies need their own sleep space. A swaddled baby on a fitted sheet is all you need! No crib bumpers. No blankets. No pillows. No stuffed animals. Babies should not yet sleep on their stomachs. Always lay your baby on their back, as this reduces the risk of SIDS. Once your baby shows signs of rolling, help them practice during the day so it doesn’t affect their sleep too much. Once they can roll both ways independently, it is okay to leave them in the sleep position they assume, but you should always lay them on their back. Also, anything marketed as a crib or bassinet is safe for your child to sleep in if used appropriately. Items marketed as loungers or sleepers ARE NOT safe for sleep. Interesting, right? Also, know that it is also okay to hold and snuggle your baby for naps, as long as you aren’t falling asleep, and can monitor your baby.


Make it DARK.

We all sleep best when it's dark. While most newborns will fall asleep anywhere those first few weeks, we want to make sure it’s quality sleep. It should be so dark that you cannot see your hand in front of your face. This becomes especially important once you start putting them down to sleep in their designated sleep space.


SWADDLE.

With my oldest son, I didn't swaddle. I thought he just wanted his arms free. But when I had my triplets, I made it a priority and it made all the difference - everybody loved it! Swaddling makes sense. Your baby was tightly cocooned inside of your belly for many months.


Use white noise.

White noise is something you can control completely, so I always recommend using it. It can help block out any external noise that might wake your baby from their sweet slumber. Pro-tip: turn it up a notch or two in the middle of a night-waking to see if your baby will go back to sleep on their own. You want to make sure that the sound machine isn't too close to the baby's head and not too loud ( 50 decibels or less is recommended).


Watch your child for sleepy cues.

Newborns can’t be expected to be awake for much more than an hour, give or take 10 minutes. If your child has recently fed and had a bit of awake time, they’re probably ready for a nap fairly soon. Are they starting to stare off? Are their eyebrows turning red? Yawning? Fussing? It’s time to lay them down! Preventing overtiredness and watching for these sleepy cues will ensure that your baby is rested and not overtired. Sleep begets sleep.


Figure out what soothing methods work best for your baby.

The 5 S's developed by Dr. Harvey Karp are a good start. During the newborn phase, we have to soothe our baby because they are incapable of self soothing at this point. Shushing and a rhythmic bounce or pat have always worked for me. Also, confidence is key. Know that you are capable and were made to be your baby's mama. If you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, put the baby down or let someone else try for a while. Don't forget to breathe.


Start with routines.

Did you know you can start with a bedtime and nap time routine as soon as that little baby makes its appearance earthside?! Start with something like this: bath, lotion, diaper on, pajamas on, feed, swaddle, books, snuggles, songs, prayers, lights off, white noise on, lay in a bassinet. Here is a good visual for you. A good routine will ensure that your baby learns that after all these steps are completed, what comes next?? Sleep!


Practice independent sleep occasionally.

I’m a fan of putting your baby in their crib for some naps. The first nap of the day is probably the easiest to practice independent sleep. Lay them down and see what happens. If they fuss, pick them up, soothe them, and try again. The more you’re able to practice, the better they’ll get.


Take a deep breath and don’t worry about a schedule.

Sleep is so disorganized the first 12-16 weeks of your baby’s life. This is normal, so try not to let it stress you out. You really only need to focus on keeping the baby fed, clean, and rested, being safe about sleep, and recovering from your delivery.


Take a deep breath, mama. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can set up a Prenatal & Newborn Consultation with me here. I’d love to help you.


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