I’ve got a curious little fella. I mean, really curious. From the time he wakes from his two-hour nightly sleep spurts to the time nighttime comes again, he usually refuses to fall asleep. He yawns, his eyes become glazed over and his eyelids start to shut. Sometimes, this means sleep, but other times, he refuses to let sleep claim him. As soon as I think he will finally fall asleep, he forces his eyes open wide again and then, it’s almost impossible to get him to sleep. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to see his eyes open, staring at my face, his hands grasping the strands of hair that are within arms reach. I love to see the faces he makes, love to see his lips curl into a smile. The problem is, when he stays awake for too long, he gets overstimulated, which in turn causes him to become overtired and an overtired newborn (well, my overtired newborn) is even harder to get to sleep!
In the days following our return from the hospital, my son would fall asleep consistently at the breast. It was so simple: I would nurse, he would fall asleep, I would put him to bed, then put myself to bed. However, this no longer works systematically. So I’ve been reading and have tried different things to get my little one to sleep.
- Distinguishing night and day: Now I know that newborns don’t know the difference between day and night. As far as I understand, this comprehension can’t come in until a baby is about six weeks of age. However, I’ve implemented some things to help my son make the distinction more easily. First, his day naps happen in his moses basket wherever my boyfriend or I are. This means he sleeps in a bright place with usual household noises going on around him. We do not whisper when we talk or tiptoe around, we go about our business. This seems to reassure our little one as he knows that we are nearby. When night comes, we move him to his crib. His room is kept dark with only a nightlight bright enough to allow me to see him when he wakes during the night for a feeding or diaper change (or pyjama change when his father or I had trouble putting on his diaper properly…). This *knock on wood* seems to be working so far.
- Swaddling: My mother-in-law swears by this method, but it hasn’t worked for me. My son HATES, I mean REALLY HATES being swaddled. He always screams out in anger and frustration when he loses the use of his arms because they are pinned down against him by a blanket. I would say that the only time during which he actually agreed to be swaddled, was in the 24 hours following his exit from the womb.
- Burping him: Oddly enough, this seems to be one of his preferred methods of falling asleep these days. When we finish a feed, I put him over my shoulder and switch between lightly tapping and rubbing his back. Generally, within about five to ten minutes he has not only burped but has fallen asleep against me. Now, perhaps it is because he is in contact with his mother, perhaps it is because he is being held in an upright position, perhaps it is because it helps his stomach settle, I don’t know what the reason is, but I am very happy that this method works – most of the time!
- Singing/Rocking: Pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t…
- Holding him: This usually helps a lot. Sometimes, my son seems to only want to be held. He needs this contact with his mother (and sometimes his father). The only problem is that when he is sleeping in my arms, I can’t allow myself to fall asleep and usually when he is seeking contact, even if he does fall asleep in my arms, he will almost assuredly always wake up as soon as I put him in his moses or crib.
- Secret weapon: the pacifier: There are times during which nothing seems to work. Sometimes, my little one only needs to suck. I am becoming better at recognizing these moments – though I am by no means ever 100% right – and will offer him a pacifier to help him get to sleep. I usually try out this method when I am zombie tired and need to sleep, even for 30 minutes. However, I refuse to give him a pacifier to fall asleep in his crib at night and I usually use this tool as a last resort.
- Ultimate secret weapon: co-sleeping: When I learned I was pregnant I swore I would never co-sleep with my child. The idea has always scared me to death. There are waaay too many thing that could go wrong for my liking. However, it has happened to me. Though unintentional, my co-sleeping experience has opened my eyes to the fact that it can be a good idea. Though I would definitely not do it every night, I think that it is something I may do again in the future when my son will be going through another growth spurt. The way I see it, it is less dangerous to co-sleep when I haven’t slept in over 24 hours than to risk falling asleep nursing my son on the couch or in the rocking chair that is in his room. Of course, though I know that this method is not recommended, I follow all safety guidelines that have been set for parents who choose to do this. I sleep in the spare bedroom on the firm mattress bed with my son between myself and the wall. I sleep in my pyjamas so that I don’t have to use a blanket; our mutual body heat keeps us warm. Of course, I would NEVER even think of doing this if I had consumed even one glass of wine in the evening.