4/15/14

They Lied. Breastfeeding Really Does Hurt.


The first few months of my son Joshua's life were a bit of a blur. And, if I'm honest, a bit of a nightmare.

He had bad reflux, was colicky most of the time and was very sensitive to everything. I had extreme anxiety and postpartum depression. And to top it off, breastfeeding was excruciatingly painful. I liked to compare it to being stabbed by a hundred needles every time he ate. Do I sound like I'm joking? I really wish I was.

Not only did I have to learn to breastfeed (because as much as it is "natural", it isn't always easy to do), but I had to work with a baby who cried on and off during feeds and went, well, berserk most of the time during feeds regardless of what I tried to do. Feeding in a calm environment, feeding when he wasn't too hungry, feeding when he was somewhat sleepy, feeding with a shield (and the list goes on)--nothing seemed to help.

I saw a few different lactation consultants after he was born that said everything looked fine (with me, with baby's latch), but the pain was still there--really there!! To be fair, my latch wasn't always perfect. My son was so fussy that when he finally stopped crying and started to eat, at times I didn't have the energy and, well, courage, to unlatch a bad latch and try again. That would mean several more minutes of crying (possibly from both of us!) before I was able to get another latch--another latch that might also need some adjusting.

It was totally exhausting those first few months (yes, for over three months!), emotionally and physically. I had anxiety and even fear before feeds because it was so painful and so stressful. I felt like giving up all the time. It might have been better for me emotionally if I had given up but I was a bit too determined to do so. Plus, not only did I really want to breastfeeding {eventually pain free} but I was worried that the guilt I would experience over quitting would outweigh the benefit I would get from no longer having to deal with the stress of breastfeeding.

When my second child, Jacob, was born, I had just as much pain the first time I breastfed him as I did with my son Joshua. The hour following that first feed I think I may have had a bit of an anxiety attack. All I could think was "Not again. I cannot possibly do this again!" Something magical happened after that first hour though. I felt a sudden calm come over me and I suddenly had a bucket full of courage. I felt ready to head breastfeeding on. I knew it would hurt, but I had an impression it wouldn't be as bad as before. It ended up not being as bad as it was before, but it did hurt pretty dang bad for a few weeks. But I'll take a few weeks over three months any day.

Now here I am today, 7 weeks into breastfeeding Stella. And guess what. It started off hurting just as bad this time as it did with my last two, possibly more (I know, I was hoping for a miracle too!). I even had to do my labor breathing to make it through breastfeeding the first while--it was that or break out into tears! But I found myself calmer from the start with all this pain. After going through it twice and knowing it gets better,  I just gritted my teeth and figured "let's get this hard part over and done with".

Now that you've heard me blabber, let me get to my point. Breastfeeding can really, really hurt! Yes, some people don't experience pain, but most I talk to do. There's this myth out there that breastfeeding doesn't hurt. ERRRRR. Wrong! As a new mom starting to breastfeed, it's misleading to  believe that you will have this happily ever after moment breastfeeding your brand new baby only to find out that it is far from enjoyable. It can leave a mom feeling insecure (something I still deal with in regards to breastfeeding a newborn) and discouraged. I'm not sure where this "no pain" idea came from. Maybe some people were trying not to scare potential breastfeeders away, maybe they forgot they ever experienced pain, or maybe they were some of the few that had perfect feeding babies and bullet proof nipples from the first feed. I don't know. But whatever the case, having unrealistic expectations can make breastfeeding start off full of BAD surprises and leave a mother feeling very discouraged.

So, will breastfeeding hurt? Most likely, yes. Will it absolutely kill? Maybe, maybe not. Will the pain get better? Thankfully, the answer is YES--most people feel little if no pain after a few weeks.

As I mentioned with my son Joshua, breastfeeding pain can be due to several issues, a bad latch being one of them. I always recommend talking to a lactation consultant if you are having any issues. I also recommend a good book on breastfeeding (I really liked this one), the brest friend nursing pillow and lanolin or, my favorite, newsman's ointment (a prescription you get filled at a compounding pharmacy). While I certainly think it's a good idea to try for several weeks before giving up (because it gets SO much easier--I even ended up liking it!), you have to weight out your situation to see what is best for you and your baby.

What has your breastfeeding experience been like in regards to pain? I didn't really get into the causes and solutions of breastfeeding pain, but feel free to share any in the comments below.

3/4/14

How do I keep my child's diaper from leaking? (and prevent myself from going crazy at the same time!)


There's nothing more annoying than washing your child's sheet and blanket (and whatever else fell victim to pee) for the fourth time--in like four days! It can drive almost any parent to the brink of insanity, especially if you have to go somewhere to wash said sheet or if you are away from home. If you've experienced this, I feel your pain. I've dwelt with it with both my boys, and yes, it has almost made me go gray prematurely!

Luckily, there are several things you can do to prevent this leakage during the day and at night, although they aren't 100% fool proof. But maybe they'll be foolproof enough to keep you from pulling out all your hair :)

  • Take a few extra seconds to make sure the diaper is put on well. Keep the diaper nice and snug around the waste (without causing constriction for your little one), high up in the front, and make sure the leg openings are fanned out correctly. If you have a boy, make sure the pee stream will be going down not up--you know what I mean ;)
  • Avoid drinking liquids close to bedtime. This one sounds pretty obvious, but it's amazing how often it's the culprit. Don't worry about a couple sips of water before bed, but try to keep much more than that further away from bedtime. If your child still has a milk feed before bed, consider offering part or all of it a bit earlier, or if they are old enough, drop the feed before bed. If your child is addicted to going to sleep with a sippy or bottle of water, only put a small amount in the bottle/sippy or try a substitute for this attachment (yes, you'll have a few rough days in there as you transition to something else).
  • Try adjusting the diaper size. Much of the time, a bigger diaper (especially at night) will help avoid leaks, but if you go up too big, you'll end up with an even worse problem.
  • Try a different brand of diaper. While there are some better diaper brands out there than others, much of what makes a brand good depends upon the child's body shape. So try a different brand and see the new fit is just what your child needs to prevent leaks.
  • Try a night time/overnight diaper. These are more expensive :( but they fix the problem for many children. Less frustration and less washing is likely worth the extra price. The huggies brand is generally the brand that parents have the most success with.
  • Try a diaper insert/diaper double/diaper soaker. These are a pad placed in the diaper that increase the absorptive power of the diaper. I've used cloth diaper inserts (the gdiaper ones I had on hand) as well as disposable inserts. Inserts can be tricky to find in stores, so you may have to buy them online. Some people will also use two diapers on top of each other instead of a diaper insert, but I like to first start with the smaller sized insert.
  • Try a diaper soaker cover. I haven't tried these before. I've gotten {this close} to trying it but have ended up being able to get other stuff to work instead. The extra cost of these and extra laundry don't make them my favorite option, but if they work, I'm sure it would be worth it! For those of you who buy most things (outside of food) off of amazon, you can find some there, but I'm thinking that a cloth diaper site like diaperswappers.com would give you a better  selection.
  • Wake your child up before you go to bed and take them to the bathroom. I call this the dream pee. I don't love waking a child up at night while they are sleeping, but it's better than the alternative. Take note that this worked well for one of my kids but not for the other (who is always delirious upon waking). You'll have to try it to see if it works for your child.
  • Try tight fitting clothes at bed. Sometimes the issue isn't that your child pees too much but that your child simply sleeps in a way that there are gaps in his diaper. Having tight clothing can help keep the diaper nice and snug to the body so you are less likely to have these naughty little gaps. Try a 2 piece outfit with elastic around the waste compared to a loose fitting one piece.

If you have tried all the above and you are still having frequent leaks, I'm oh so sorry! Make sure to carry lots of extra clothes (for baby and you!) and diapers with you. In addition to a waterproof mattress cover (which I'm hoping everyone with this problem is already using), you can use a waterproof pad so you don't have to change the whole sheet each morning, or you can try putting multiple waterproof sheets on top of each other so at least you don't have to put on a new sheet each day, you just have to take the top layer off.

If you have any extra tips, please let everyone know!

2/22/14

Baby Stella is here!


I was about to post this one week to go! pic that my husband snapped...



but then the next day I got a big surprise!

We are all so excited and blessed to have little Stella safely here. The boys adore her. My 6 year old can't stop saying "she's so cute!"



She's of course spending most of her time sleeping and eating right now. Her favorite thing to do is snuggle on mom's chest. Breastfeeding, which is always a bit of struggle for me at first, is starting to go well. Working on eating as well as resting in our spare time is the main thing we're both doing right now. More updates later :)


2/17/14

Is Swaddling Dangerous?


If you've read many newborn posts of mine, you know that I've a huge advocate of swaddling. I recommend it for pretty much every newborn. And I plan on swaddling my baby girl who is due any day now.

Why? Because it's an awesome soothing tool and sleep tool (it's part of the 5 S's for a reason!). Swaddling helps most young babies fall asleep quicker and sleep longer. It doesn't take more than that to convince most people that swaddling is pretty awesome! To add to this, a baby that sleeps better may make some practices like tummy sleeping less common because parents are less desperate for sleep. And that means less of a SIDS risk. Another win for swaddling.

Despite the benefits of swaddling, recently it has been getting a bad rap. Some childcare centers have even banned it (and I bet you can image how many more tired and grumpy babies there are now--not to mention worn out childcare workers!). Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't recommend swaddling in childcare centers. Am I starting to worry those of you who swaddle out there?! Honestly, I don't think there is much to worry about when you swaddle correctly, but let's look at some of the concerns and swaddle tips out there so you can make an educated decision about swaddling--and so you have something {else!} to talk about with your pediatrician (because his/her advice trumps mine of course :)

  • Swaddling can restrict the hips and contribute to hip dysplasia. You can read more about this here. An easy fix to this is to make sure the hips can move while swaddled. The easiest way to do this is to buy a swaddle blanket that is tight around the upper body but allows free movement below the waste. Some great ones are  the halo swaddle, summer infant swaddleme and the miracle blanket (a bit trickier to swaddle with but great for babies that break easily out of swaddles). It's also a good idea to allow your baby a little elbow movement while swaddled.
  • Swaddled babies can get out of their swaddle leading to loose blankets in their bed. The easy fix to this is to use a specially made swaddle blanket like the ones I mentioned above. 
  • Swaddling can reduce baby's time at practicing gross motor skills. From the research I've looked over, if baby is swaddled when sleeping (when he's not exactly practicing gross motor skills), you don't usually have any sort of delay. But, if you do end up with a delay due to swaddling, baby generally catches up in no time. If you have this concern, discuss it with your pediatrician.
  • Babies that are swaddled too tight may have a hard time breathing. Knowing how tight to swaddle takes some trial and error. You want baby to be nice and snug, but not tight and constricted. Baby should be able to fit her hand on her chest while swaddled (although it may be swaddled by her side). If you find yourself swaddling extremely tight to prevent your child from getting out of the swaddle, try something like the miracle blanket that helps baby stay swaddled without wrapping too tight.
  • Babies can get overheated while swaddled. If this is a concern, swaddle with a thin, breathable swaddle blanket and feel free to put your baby in there with just a diaper. They don't care if they don't have clothes on, I promise!
  • Stomach sleeping can be extra dangerous when swaddled, whether baby is placed to sleep on his stomach or rolls over to his stomach. If baby is being put to sleep on his stomach swaddled, well, there's an easy fix to that so I'm not going to go into that anymore. Now, rolling over from back to tummy while swaddled is a definite concern out there. There are a few things you can do if this is an issue/worry for you.
    • If you use some sort of sleeping bed like the fisher-price rock 'n play sleeper during the newborn swaddle period, rolling over won't happen. There are other beds out there but this seems to be the most popular one and the only one I've tried. One added benefit of this bed is that your little one will most likely fall asleep better and stay asleep longer using it. No joke. It's pretty amazing.
    • Some sort of movement monitor like the snuza or angelcare can give you peace of mind whether baby is on her back or stomach sleeping. I know some people think these monitors are overkill, but they are much more practical than staying awake 24/7 watching your baby, which is pretty much what some people try to do :)
    • You can try the slumber sheet and swaddle. It helps keep baby on her back without a sleep positioner (which is no longer recommended). I have yet to see this swaddle in action, but it sounds promising, although quite pricey. Keep in mind that you need a specially made sheet and swaddle for this to work. Make sure to get the right sheet size.
    • Some people suggest keeping baby's hands by her face while swaddled so she can self soothe and navigate her position better if she rolls to her tummy. While this has potential to be helpful, in my experience, it generally leads to a whole lot less sleep for baby (usually baby bugs herself with her hands, rather than soothes herself).
    • Lastly, once baby starts to roll, you can simply stop swaddling. This usually gives you at least a few months of swaddling, although some experts suggest discontinuing swaddling by 2-2.5 months to be extra safe.


So what are your thoughts about swaddling at home and at daycare? Do you think you'll still swaddle your child now and in the future?

11/21/13

0-3 Month Newborn Sleep Guide


As much as the idea of snuggling up with a newborn all day long for days (err, months) on end sounds kind of nice at first, when you get in the thick of it (i.e. you haven't brushed your teeth since yesterday, your stomach has been making sounds that would scare a bear away and the last time you showered was, well, you can't even remember when) you start to think that while this was nice for a few days or even weeks, now it's lost a bit of it's charm. 

We all have things to do and we all have our own personal insanity beeper that starts to go off when we've done nothing outside of care for a newborn for so long. Add in an extreme lack of sleep to the picture and you've got a worn out parent who could really use a break. My insanity beeper goes off pretty early on, but some people can go on for quite a while before they feel like they're about to loose their mind. 

My goal is to help you not get to that permanent-shoulder-injury-from-holding-a-sleeping-child and can't-walk-without-running-into-the-wall you-are-so-tired state. Ideally, you'll also avoid any extreme crying at a later date from sleep training. I know many of you will snub my advice here. I get that some people don't like to enforce any sort of structure into a newborn because they either don't feel like it, or they don't agree with it. I'm not offended. You don't want to do something as much as I DO want to do something during this time! And I know some of you will take some of my advice but not all of it and that is totally fine too. Something I've learned from working with thousands of parents over the years is that we are all different and our children are all different. You do what you feel comfortable with, and you make changes along the way if you need to. And don't forget, if you pass this newborn window and sleep isn't going so great for you, there is still plenty of hope. It is never to late to get a full nights rest, for you or your child :)

Most of the info I'm going over has already been covered in various posts (like this one) but I know many of you would appreciate a newborn specific approach to these gentle sleep training methods (see what I consider sleep training here). I can only go into so much detail here without making this post 20 pages long, but there are plenty of links throughout the post that'll give you more info on a subject if you need it. Be sure to check out the Newborn Survival Guide too if you haven't already.

How do I encourage my newborn to be a great sleeper?

A WORD ON HABITS
You've probably heard the phrase "you can't spoil a baby" about a million times by this point. I know I have. Just throw this phrase out the window. It isn't remotely helpful. I expect all of you to be holding and cuddling your baby plenty, but the idea that whatever you do right now doesn't matter isn't on par. You are creating habits all the time with your baby, yes, even a newborn, and those habits will make a difference in the future. That's why I'm working on helping you establish eating and sleeping habits that you can live with right now, and in the future.

AND A WORD ON CONSISTENCY (yours and baby's)
Children thrive on routine and consistency. They learn what to expect which helps them feel more secure in their environment. When you are inconsistent (this is especially important as your child gets out of the newborn stage) you get inconsistent results. So if you want sleep to go as smoothly as possible, be as consist as possible. Your child won't know how to react to a situation if you keep changing all the rules. There will be times that things will be off for various reasons (vacations etc), but try to make it more the rare occasion, rather than the norm.

Another reason it's so darn important to be consistent is that children are totally inconsistent. The only consistency with children is change! One day he goes to sleep easily, the next he doesn't. One week he sleeps through the night then suddenly he starts waking frequently. Inconsistent!  Keeping things consistent on your end, while changing with your child when needed (like increasing how long they are awake between naps as they get older), will help things go more smoothly for all of you.

BABY'S HEALTH, YOUR INTUITION AND TAKING THINGS TO THE EXTREME
Always monitor baby's health, follow your pediatrician's advice and have regular pediatric well visits. Baby should be growing well, eating well and having plenty of full diapers on whatever feed and sleeping method you choose.

If at any time something doesn't seem right to you then stop doing it. Although I'm suggesting some methods that have worked well for many families, I firmly believe there isn't a one-method-fits-all approach. Do what seems right to you and listen to your baby and your gut feeling at all times. 

Lastly, please, please try not to take things to the extreme (like only feeding if it's been at least 3 hours even if baby is hungry much sooner) and try not to get set on the averages and estimates I give below. Your baby is unique and will have her own averages and she'll also likely vary a bit from what I say below. She isn't a computer after all. Having some sort of guideline can be helpful, but it shouldn't run your life. Always try to follow your baby's lead too.

BABIES ARE UNIQUE
Some babies are born naturally good sleepers while other are not, regardless of what you do. If your baby isn't sleeping as good as your best friend's baby (although, research shows that quite a few people lie about how well their child is sleeping!), don't get frustrated. Truly look at what is going on to see if you could be contributing to things (it happens quite often but can be hard to admit) and troubleshoot. After that, all you can do is try to be happy with the unique baby you have, even if all characteristics are not so easy to live with. All children have tough and easy characteristics to work with, your baby's tough area may just be sleep.


SLEEP GUIDE AT A GLANCE
Because this post is really long and because things are listed in steps (sort of), here's a quick list you can reference. Some of you will have to take things one step at a time. Some of you will be able to tackle most or all of it at once. Just move as quickly or slowly as you need to without overwhelming yourself.
  1. FULL FEEDS
  2. HOW OFTEN TO FEED
  3. A WORD ON DAY/NIGHT CONFUSION
  4. E/W/S CYCLE
  5. MORNING WAKE TIME
  6. BEDTIME
  7. NAPS AND THE E/W/S CYCLE
  8. WAKETIME
  9. OVERSTIMULATION
  10. SLEEP LOCATION
  11. SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
  12. PRE-SLEEP ROUTINE
  13. SWADDLING
  14. TANKING UP
  15. PUTTING BABY TO SLEEP DROWSY, BUT AWAKE
  16. SLEEP PROPS
  17. DON'T RUSH IN
  18. YOU'VE PUT BABY DOWN AWAKE AND DROWSY, BUT SHE IS CRYING. WHAT NEXT?

FULL FEEDS
You're first goal will be to get full feeds in so baby will spread out her feeds both day and night and not snack constantly. This will give you a break during the day and help you both sleep longer at night. To do this, you'll need to keep baby awake during her feed so she'll have more than a snack and not wake up 20 minutes later starving and ready to eat again. This can be a pretty hefty task at first for such a sleepy head, but it'll get much easier as she gets older (find tips on keeping her awake here). Don't kill yourself over this, if you can't get her to eat more, let her snooze for a few minutes then try again. The eat/wake/sleep cycle (see below) makes giving full feeds much easier to do.

HOW OFTEN TO FEED
If you are breastfeeding, you will probably be feeding baby pretty darn often for at least the first few days while your milk comes in. If you are bottle-feeding, baby will probably be eating every 2.5-3 hours (from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next feed--you'll end up with a couple hours break between feeds). She may be eating a bit more often and that's ok. You want to feed her when she's hungry. Just keep encouraging those full feeds. She may need more frequent feeds at first, especially if she is a small baby or a premature baby (listen to your pediatrician's feeding advice here please!) And remember to keep in mind that babies cry for reason other than hunger. If it hasn't been very long since her last feed, before offering a feed, first check to see that something else isn't bothering her, like a burp.

A WORD ON DAY/NIGHT CONFUSION
Many newborns like to sleep all day and stay awake all night. This will switch on it's own eventually, but some of the suggestions below, like the e/w/s cycle, will help this switch sooner and also usually lead to longer night sleep sooner.

E/W/S CYCLE
I like to start off doing a eat/wake/sleep cycle approximately every 2.5-3 hours during the day (baby will just eat and sleep at night). This means you'll feed baby, have her awake for a bit, then she'll go down for a nap and repeat. Working on full feeds at first usually leads to baby falling naturally into this spaced pattern of eating. If baby ever hasn't woken up after 3 hours (from the beginning of their last feed), you will wake baby up to offer her a feed and start the e/w/s cycle over again. Waking baby up ensures she has enough food and is awake enough during the day (see PDF feeds for more on this).  For the first couple weeks you'll very likely have more of a eat/sleep cycle, but by week two or so you'll probably get some waketime in there. I like the eat/wake/sleep routine mainly because it give some structure to your day, encourages full feeds, helps with longer night sleep and helps baby go to sleep without a sleep prop--you can find out all the nitty and gritty out it on the e/w/s/ post

During the first couple weeks, it isn't uncommon for many parents to just work on helping baby take full feeds and get into a routine. In terms of naps, this means that they try to encourage long naps (you can often easily get a newborn to fall back asleep after a short nap), but don't necessarily work hard to put baby down to sleep for a nap awake (unless he goes down really easily). In terms of night sleep, this means that the main emphasis is on helping baby distinguish night from day (see below) but not falling asleep by himself at night (once again, unless he goes down easily). This approach is totally fine. Getting baby into a routine of long naps and long night sleep is very helpful in the future. Just remember that if you don't work on having baby go to sleep on his own somewhat soon, you'll likely have some habits to break.

Also keep in mind that the e/w/s/ cycle is there to help you and your baby out. If you've given it a good try and it is simply making life a nightmare, then do something else. This doesn't mean I'm suggesting you give up after 3 days. The thing about babies is that a lot of the habits that people get themselves and their babies into at first are done because they make life easier-- but they very often make life harder in the long run. I'm trying to make things easier in the long run and that sometimes means more work upfront, but there is a limit to how much work up front everyone can handle. If you've reached your limit, don't' worry. There are plenty of other things you can do to encourage your baby to sleep well. And you don't have to start off at the newborn stage--it can be done at any stage down the road too (you just may get more resistance from your baby).

With the e/w/s routine always remember that it is important to monitor when baby is hungry, not just how long it has been since the last feed. Babies go through growth spurts and cluster feedings and various other things. The 2.5-3 hour suggestion is just an estimate. You do what your baby needs! Don't get overly strict with following a perfect schedule--it won't happen easily with most babies (remember how they're not robots?)

MORNING WAKE TIME
Whether or not you are doing the e/w/s cycle, having a consistent morning wake time (baby gets up at around the same time each day, give or take 30 minutes) will help your day be more consistent and will help baby's sleep organize itself better. Also make sure to expose baby to light first thing in the morning and darkness at night to help set her body rhythms.

BEDTIME
Bedtime can be a bit tricky with a newborn. Some newborns get really alert in the evenings and fussy and will not fall asleep until late (remember that witching hour I mentioned in this post?). Getting them to bed for the night between 6-7 pm can help you avoid this fussy period entirely. Sometimes though, you simply have to deal with the fussy period and get them to sleep when they'll finally go to sleep--fighting it and getting discouraged over the late bedtime only makes things that much harder. There are also some babies that do better with some extra cluster feeds in the evening (which moves bedtime a bit later than the usual suggested 7 pm ish) or parents that have their babies go to sleep a bit later at this age for various reasons. I suggest trying to keep bedtime not too much later than 7, but at this age, an early bedtime usually won't make or break things unless it helps decrease evening fussiness or if baby is very tired in the evening. An early bedtime will be come much more important as baby gets closer to 3 months though. It can be the difference between a good night's rest and frequent night wakings.

NAPS AND THE E/W/S CYCLE
Ideally naps will happen after your baby has eaten and had some activity and last until the next routine eat time. This means that they'll last naps around 1.5-2.5 hours. It isn't uncommon to have baby take short naps, even after you attempt to extend them out.  If long naps are not happening, you can look at the short naps post for tips. If you still cannot get long naps going, and you want to have feeds that aren't closer together than baby is requiring, then consider changing the cycle around to what fits your situation. People often end up with eat/wake/sleep/wake/sleep/eat/ or something along those lines. The point is to try to have something that is somewhat consistent and doesn't have baby feeding to sleep. And try not to stress yourself out! 

The last nap of the is often a short one, if it happens at all. Some babies will get pretty fussy in the evenings and have a hard time being happy at all, nevermind sleeping. Some babies simply won't sleep well in the evenings for the first few months even if they aren't very fussy. As I suggested above, try out an early bedtime to see if this fixes the issue. If that doesn't work, don't worry. Stop trying to force the impossible and go along with it. Get some extra snuggles in during this time (a baby carrier can be very handy) and even consider going out during baby's sleep time since he won't sleep anyway.

WAKETIME
When you put your little one down to sleep, there are several things you can do to increase the chance that she'll go to sleep easily and stay asleep with no crying or further assistance from you, now and in the future. We'll start by going over one of the most important things, how long your child is awake between naps, also known as waketime.

A big thing to keep in mind if you are doing the EWS cycle or simply have a newborn, is that newborn's have very little waketime --they are hardly awake at all! It's important that you let them get the rest they need and keep them awake very little between eat feed. Watch closely for their tired cues and put them down right when they start displaying them (during their sleep window). On the EWS cycle you can even predict when they will get tired and start getting them ready for sleep before they start to show their tired signs, helping to prevent them from getting too overtired by the time they get to sleep. Keeping a baby awake longer in hopes to make them sleep longer rarely works, in fact, it usually results in overtiredness that makes falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult for them. You can find a chart with average times newborns are awake and other info to troubleshoot waketimes here. Keep in mind that a baby that has a too sleepy of feed may end up needing more waketime than usual for them to go down well for their nap.

OVERSTIMULATION
Newborns get overstimulated very easily. Looking at a blank wall is stimulating to them, imagine how some of them do having grandma's energetic face two inches from theirs for 30 minutes straight! You get the same effect as putting them to bed way past their sleep window--bad sleep! There will be lots of time to play with baby soon, but for now, if your baby seems extra sensitive, keep things pretty calm. With brand new babies I often change their diaper in the middle of the feed to help keep them awake during the feed. As they get a bit older and more awake, I often change the diaper at the beginning of a feed to prevent overstimulation after the feed (this is just for newborns, older babies can generally handle a diaper change without getting overstimulated).

SLEEP LOCATION
Most parents prefer to have their new little bundle sleep in the room with them for a while at night. I generally recommend having baby sleep in a basinnett/crib/co-sleeper next to you--it's simply more practical than co-sleeping for most parents in the long run, and you'll probably end up with less night wakings in the long run his way too. If you do decide to co-sleep, there are still plenty of things youc an do to encourage good sleep habits, they'll just be a bit more tricky to cary out. 

For naps, I recommend having baby sleep in his own private space away from the craziness of every day life. By 6 weeks, 3 months at the latest, I would try to move baby in to his own sleeping space for naps and, if you feel comfortable, night sleep. After this time, the move can be much harder to make (especially if you are co-sleeping).

SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Make sure your baby's sleep environment is safe and that she is dressed safely. Before you had a child you may have thought, well of course I'll follow all those AAP regulations and not have blankets in the crib and not have my baby sleep on his tummy etc, but once you're in the thick of it and horribly tired, you can feel tempted to try almost anything. There are some other alternative, like a swing (I recommend this one), that can be useful when you feel tempted to try something unsafe. If tummy sleeping is still happening, I at least recommend getting some sort of movement monitor for sense of mind. 

Most newborns aren't very sensitive to light and sound--they'll sleep through anything. As they get closer to 3 months, most are going to have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep if it is noisy or light. I always suggest having children sleep in a dark room--it simply results in better sleep at almost any age, especially mid nap and in the early morning hours. I also suggest the use of a white noise machine. It helps most newborns sleep better by imitating their loud womb and by blocking out outside noise.

PRE-SLEEP ROUTINE
Before baby goes down for naps and at night, it's a good idea to do something I call a pre-sleep routine. This consists of ritual of things you do every time (same order, same things) before baby goes to sleep. They can include singing a song, reading a book, saying some comforting words ("its time to sleep now"), etc. Usually the nap routine is a shorter version of the bedtime routine. It's a good idea to start this pretty early on--even within a couple weeks of birth. Babies start to fall into habits pretty quickly and a pre-sleep routine helps to signal to their body that it is time to relax and go to sleep. You can find more ideas of what to do at this pre-sleep routine link. The 4 S Routine is a common pre-sleep routine that people do.

SWADDLING
During the pre-sleep routine it's usually a good idea to swaddle your baby. Swaddling helps most babies fall asleep better and sleep more soundly. It gives them a bit of the crammed, womb-like feeling and security they are used to. I prefer to use blankets made just for swaddling (like the miracle blanket, but you can also use any old blanket. Just make sure to give baby freedom of movement at the hips. I also attempt to burp baby again after I swaddle--you can often get another burp out.

TANKING UP
Tanking your baby up before bed can help her sleep a longer stretch at night. This can be done by cluster feeding (generally for babies under a couple months) and by doing the dreamfeed. Cluster feeding involves feeding baby a bit more often before she goes to sleep at night. So instead of every, say 3 hours, you might feed every 2 hours for the last couple feeds. Just make sure you aren't force feeding and overfilling baby. That can just lead to stomach upset and lots of messy spit up.

I find that cluster feeding isn't always helpful. So if it isn't working for you, don't worry about doing it (unless baby is cluster feeding on her own, of course).

With a dreamfeed, you will feed baby a few hours after you put her to bed for the night, right before you go to bed. So say she goes to bed at 7 pm, you'd get her up while she's pretty much still asleep and give her a feed (which is why it's called a dreamfeed, she's still kind of dreaming) so that you can get a longer stretch of sleep yourself and not go to sleep only to awaken to a hungry baby 30 minutes later. You can read up more on clusterfeeds and dream feeds on the links above.

 If you are only going to do one of the above methods, choose the dream feed. A cluster feed without a longer stretch right before bed can lead baby to eat less right before bedtime which often means less of a stretch than if she'd gone say, 3-4 hours right before bedtime. A baby that has eaten just 2 hours before isn't going to take as big a feed as one who hasn't eaten for 3-4 hours. The same holds true for the dreamfeed. You want at least 3 hours before offering it unless you are in the process of dropping it.

PUTTING BABY TO SLEEP DROWSY, BUT AWAKE
It's time to work on putting baby to sleep drowsy, but awake. You were probably all wondering when I was going to get to this part. You knew it was coming, didn't you?! It couldn't be just as easy as the stuff I mentioned above. 

Believe it or not, but doing what I suggested above will nicely extend night sleep out (so you all get a consolidated chunck of sleep!) for most babies without doing anything else. And many babies will even go to sleep at bedtime without much of an issue. But naps are a different story. There are the occasional babies that will got sleep easily, but most will fight sleep sleep and/or get upset when you try to put them down to sleep. I'm going to go over a couple things that will help you do this successfully and with as little drama as possible. But keep in mind that changes don't happen over night. This is a process that will take some practice and time, for everyone involved.

SLEEP PROPS
We can't really go on much further without talking about sleep props. Sleep props are the eventual cause of most sleep issues. A sleep prop is something your baby associates with falling asleep, like the bottle or breast or being rocked. These are don't seem like such a big deal when you've got a brand new baby, but if she wakes up the second you ever put her down or stop nursing it can be pretty frustrating, especially if it's the middle of the night and you are utterly exhausted, or she's several months old and you are even more exhausted. So while many people prefer to keep up sleep props for some time, like until they become an issue or until they feel they can't keep it up anymore, I recommend trying to avoid them as much as possible to prevent sleep issues.

Take note that I say as much as possible. This is very important to keep in mind. Sometimes you'll use sleep props, even if it isn't in your future plans. You can't exactly go through having a newborn without ever holding them while they sleep. That is just too precious to miss out on, and sometimes, like if you are out and about or your baby just will not sleep, it is necessary.  Sometimes, you simply don't  have the physical or emotional energy to help baby sleep without sleep props, and that's OK too. There are many things worse than a baby with sleep association issues--like a baby who has zero sleep or a mom who's going half insane caring for herself and family. You do what you need to do in your unique situation. You can always break a sleep prop addiction at a later date.

You've probably heard of someone who held their baby to sleep or nursed their baby to sleep for months without any problem--no hourly night wakings at 9 months of age and no holding baby for his entire nap, every. single. time. The tricky thing is, you don't know what sleep prop will or will not cause an issue in the future. Most props will end up resulting in an issue, if not by 3/4 months, then almost always by 9 months. But there is always that baby out there who can have every sleep prop done in the world and they will still sleep like an angel. I wish I could tell you if that was your baby (and I wish I could give you or myself that baby!), but I can't. So that's why I suggest trying to prevent sleep issues form using sleep props, rather than fixing them down the road (which is quite possible, just not particularly fun or easy to do!)


DON'T RUSH IN
When baby starts to make sounds or even cries, follow the old crossing the street saying: stop, look (if you have a video monitor), and listen. It'll take some time, but you'll get better at determining what your baby is "saying". Is he in pain? Is he just making a sound in the middle of his sleep? Is he settling himself to sleep? Even before you've figured out what baby is trying to tell you, it is almost always a good idea to wait a few moments before going in to baby. If he is hungry, it'll be much eaiser to feed him and get a full feedig if he's wide awake, and if doesn't need something, he may fall asleep if you give him a minute. Much of the time parents rush to the aid of their children they are just going through a sleep transition--but before you know it, it turns into a habitual waking reinforced by the parents.

YOU'VE PUT BABY DOWN AWAKE AND DROWSY, BUT SHE IS CRYING. WHAT NEXT?
Now comes the especially tricky part. Lots of people will tell you what to do or be a bit obscure about what to do. Since there's no way I'll ever be able to work with each of you individually to see what would best for you, I'm going to give you some of my favorite options to choose from to see what works best for you--everyone has their own personal preferences and comfort levels. Some people feel comfortable starting these methods from day one, other people like to wake several weeks or even months before working on this.

For naps, you will limit your time helping baby fall asleep. After baby has been trying to go to sleep for 20 minutes, you will help her fall asleep so she doesn't get too tired. If you and baby feel up to it, you can attempt up to an hour for a nap, but most likely this will be a little tough for the two of you, especially if she's under 6-8 weeks. Once again, these guidelines are just for healthy babies that are growing well, and once a mother/baby pair are breastfeeding well.
  1. When baby starts to fuss, after giving him a few minutes to see if he'll go to sleep on his own (if you feel ok with this), pick him up and do what I call an extended pu/pd. You pick up baby when he cries and try to comfort him. You can walk around the room to do this or give some jiggles, but getting him used to less movement is helpful for the future, so only move around if you have to. Once he is drowsy, lay him back in his bed. Repeat as needed up to a max of 15-20 minutes. At this point, you will fully help baby go to sleep so he doesn't get too overtired. If you think you and your baby can handle doing it for longer (limit of an hour), then you can try this. Just don't do it for more than two naps in a row without making sure he gets a good nap in, however you have to make that happen (with feeding being a last resort).
  2. Ideally when baby starts to fuss, you will wait a few minutes before rushing in to see if she can settle herself to sleep (I call this "fussing it out"). If you don't feel comfortable waiting (or if it always backfires), you can go in right when the fuss turns into more of a cry, or when you hear the first fuss.  Keep baby in her bed and comfort her in whatever way works--pacifier (stay for a minute to make sure she's got a hold on it), shush-pat, comforting words, head stroking. Try to stay out of her site. She probably won't notice you early on, but you'll start to be a distraction as she gets older. Once she is comforted, leave. Repeat as needed up to 15-20 minutes into the nap. After this time, help her get to sleep in whatever way you can, avoiding feeding if possible. 
  3. When baby starts to fuss, leave her for 3-5 minute intervals, calming her each time you go in (calming, not putting her to sleep). Calm her in anyway that, works, trying to keep her in her bed. The limited crying solution suggests starting an approach like this closer to 4-6 weeks. I find it works fine at this age with a time limit. I wouldn't' keep it up for more than a total of 15-20 minutes. At that point, you will help baby to sleep in whatever way works, outside of feeding to sleep (unless you really, really have to). You are helping her to sleep so she doesn't get too sleep deprived which will likely frustate further attempts of sleep at this age--and be a little too warring on a mom who's just had a baby. If you feel your baby can handle more than 20 minutes, feel free to try it for up to an hour, but I wouldn't do this for more than two naps without helping her get a good nap in.
  4. When baby starts to fuss, leave her for a max of 15-20 minutes before going in and helping her go to sleep. Some babies almost always fall asleep by this time, others don't. If your baby rarely falls asleep after 15-20 minutes, I suggest another method right now.
You can treat bedtime similar to how you treat going down for naps but with no 1 hour limit. It's also a good idea to double check that baby isn't hungry (especially if she was sleepy during the bedtime feed) if she is taking a little while to fall asleep.

I personally don't have the stamina to work on bedtime much with a brand new baby. I will hold or nurse to sleep at first (unless baby goes to sleep easily on her own) and put baby to bed more and more awake as the weeks go by. As long as baby is going to sleep not held/nursed most of the time by 2-3 months, this method usually doesn't cause issues with extra night wakings for people. If it does, then it's time to change the method and not hold/nurse to sleep at this time anymore :)

It the middle of the night when baby wakes, give baby a few minutes to see if she will fall back asleep on her own. If she doesn't, go ahead and offer a feed. If it hasn't been very long since she last ate, try to help her go to back to sleep in whatever way you can outside of a feed. If she won't go to sleep or wakes up again shortly after, assume she is hungry and feed her. As baby gets older, if she is having frequent night wakings, then you may also want to work on night wakings the same way you handle bedtime (see above).

Guess what, I'm going to tell you one other lazy thing I do in regards to sleep with brand new babies. :) When I give my babies middle of the night feeds, if they don't fall back asleep easily, I  hold or feed until very drowsy, sometimes even until they are asleep. I do not have the energy to spend tons of time soothing a newborn to sleep in the middle of the night so this is how I handle it. For me (and many others), as long as you are working on day sleep and bedtime (eventually), it doesn't usually cause any issues. The plus side of this is that just like getting baby used to sleeping at certain times during the day makes her feel sleepy at these times, ensuring she sleeps well at night will help her feel sleepy at this time and make future sleep easier then.

With diaper changes, I change the diaper in the middle of the feed the first couple weeks. Once a couple weeks have gone by and baby is less sleepy, I change the diaper at the beginning of the feed to make it easier for her to fall asleep after the feed. I try to avoid changing diapers early in the morning (like at 5 am) since this can wake up baby a bit and possibly even lead to some future issues with early morning wake ups (she gets used to being awake at this time as a newborn and keeps up the habit for months). I also try to get most of the burping done before I finish up a feed so that baby can be nice and relaxed before being put back down to sleep.

Lastly, here's one of my top tips for extending night sleep with a newborn. This is a touch similar to the core night method, but imo a lot easier for mom/dad and baby. After about 2 weeks (I generally feed every 3 hours at night before this time to make sure baby is gaining weight well and to make sure my milk supply is good) if baby is growing well, I start to monitor how long she is going at night. If she goes longer than the usual 3ish hours a couple times, then I will start working with that time. So let's say baby goes 5 hours a couple times. From now on, if she ever wakes sooner than 5 hours, instead of feeding her right off, I will try to extend her out to the 5 hours. This usually involves me doing the easiest thing possible in the middle of the night--popping a pacifier into her mouth (I have a love/hate relationship with pacifiers and this is one reason I LOVE them!). If this doesn't work, I will pick up baby to see if she'll easily fall asleep in my arms (you can do whatever normally helps baby fall back asleep). Most of the time baby will quickly and easily fall right asleep and we'll get 5 hours between feeds in there, sometimes longer. If baby doesn't fall asleep after trying for a short time, I will give a feed and try again the next time. I don't fret too much about backtracking at this age. You may take a step back here and there, but overall you'll be taking steps forward.  I keep doing this method as sleep continues to extend out. I also use this method to extend a feed if baby eats very little for a feed a few nights in a row.
  • I often don't go more than 5-6 hours the first 4 weeks, you'll want to see what your pediatrician suggests
  • When picking a feed to extend out, you need to work with the same feed (2 am one, 5 am one etc.), not just any feed throughout the night. Babies fall into patterns of sleeping longer and shorter at different times of the night.
  • It is common for a baby to do a longer stretch of sleep at night followed by a shorter stretch of sleep
  • While this method is often pretty painless for me and involves me being awake for a matter of seconds, sometimes if baby is really stuck in a feed (that she obviously no longer needs), it can take a bit of work short term. But the good news is that persevering for a few nights (at most several nights) will give you a longer stretch of sleep long term. Once the feed is dropped, the waking often goes away on its own (assuming there aren't other big sleep problems).
  • I started having my son Jacob sleep in the rock 'n play sleeper when he was a few weeks old (due to him hating sleeping flat on his back--reflux being part of the problem). He immediately started to sleep an extra two hours at night. I tried this sleeper at night with my next child and I had similar results. So yeah, I'm kind of in love with this sleeper since it gives me extra shut eye at night! The transfer from sleeper to flat bed at a later date is easy-peasy for most babies too.


Common Newborn Issues
  • Painful reflux: If your baby appears to have reflux that is bothersome (some spitting up is common and normal due to a newborn's immature sphincter) then let your pediatrician know. Some reflux medications can make a world of difference. Also, try to keep baby in an upright position for approximately 30 minutes after a feed. You may want to even have baby sleep on a wedge that keeps his head slightly elevated. More about this on a future post.
  • Dirty diaper: Most babies this age do not care much about a dirty or wet diaper. Lots of parents connect wet diapers with night wakings, but this most likely is not what is causing the waking, now or in the future. But you never know, so it worth considering.
  • Growth Spurts. Newborns have loads of growth spurts, or times they will eat/grow more and possibly sleep more or be fussy.
  • Colic. If your little one has colic you'll probably be holding and bouncing and doing all kinds of things to help her be happy and, if you're lucky, sleep. These things can and often do result in a baby having sleep issue when she gets older because, well, she's always had them to go to sleep so that's what she keeps needing to go to sleep. Don't worry about it. You have your hands full as it is. You can tackle sleep issues when the colic improves. You'll get a bit more protesting during the process, but it is never too late to improve on sleep.
  • Ear Infections. Ear infections and babies are not fun, but unfortunately they go together quite a lot with some babies. Breastfeeding, holding upright while bottle feeding and not smoking around your baby can reduce the risk of ear infections. If your baby has recently had a stuffy nose and suddenly gets a fever, is extra fussy or cries shortly after being layed flat, suspect an ear infection. Actually, regardless of what is wrong, any fever at this age warrants an immediate call or visit with your pediatrician. 
  • GasYour baby's digestive system is still trying to figure things out, and until that happens (and even maybe after :) you've got a little gas monster on your hands. Be sure to burp 2-3 times during a feed and if needed, try out different bottles if you're bottle feeding. If you're breastfeeding, you may want to adjust your diet a bit, although most of the time this doesn't seem to make much of a difference. Getting gas somewhat under control will help your little one sleep more soundly. If he wakes up suddenly with a high pitched scream, you might be dealing with gas. I also always recommend  probiotics to help with gas, especially for formula fed babies. Refrigerated ones (I use this one for my newborns) are the best, but this one seems to still have decent results and easy to find online and in stores

Common Questions:
Do I really need to wake my baby up to eat during the day? 
If your baby is growing well and not going an abnormally long period between day time feeds, then no, of course you don't need to wake baby up. BUT, not waking baby up during the day for feeds may lead to 1) not enough food/feeds during the day which means more feeds at night and 2) an extension of day night confusion--baby will be getting her long sleep stretches during the day and waking more at night. The above two things don't always happen, but from my experience, most newborns will sleep longer at night at a sooner age if they are woken during the day every 2.5-3 hours for a feed and some waketime. So what you do is up to you. If it feels wrong to wake baby up during the day for a feed and she's growing well, then don't do it. Just realize that an extended night sleep may take a bit longer for your little one.

Won't fully assisting my baby to fall asleep (say, after you've tried extended pu/pd for some time and it has failed or in an attempt to make a nap last longer) end up backfiring? I thought I was trying to teach her to fall asleep on her own? Wont' she start to depend on me if I don't let her do this?
Great question! If this has occurred to you, then high five, you're starting to understand this whole sleep prop and habits thing I've been talking about. I admit it does sound a bit odd to suggest helping baby to fall asleep on her own when you're trying to teach her to do it on her own, but it is necessary. With a baby this age, if she gets too overtired, you will get nowhere. Sleep will just keep getting worse and worse. And you know what, so will mom's patience. She has just had a baby! She needs some rest right now too. I don't expect she can handle helping baby sleep all. day. long. It is emotionally and physically exhausting. Believe it or not, but at this age, all the practice baby gets trying to fall asleep, even if it is just for several minutes at the beginning of each nap, really adds up. Most will get better at falling asleep on their own even if you end up helping them at times. By the time they are 3-6 months old, you'll stop helping them fall asleep when needed (it really backfires), but for now, it is in their best interest. 

Can I successfully breastfeed while encouraging my newborn to be a good sleeper?
Why yes, yes you can! The idea that breastfeeding automatically leads to terrible sleep and that there is nothing you can do about it a common myth. I've successfully breastfed past a year with my children and I've talked with hundreds of other parents who have done it successfully too--all while on a routine. You can find out more about breastfeeding and routines here.

Should I give my baby a Lovey?
At this age, babies will not respond much to any sort of lovey, and most of them are not very safe for their age anyway. Wait a bit longer before introducing them, usually not before 4 months.

Do I need to worry about limiting naps at this age?
Too much day sleep can rob night sleep. I know, most of you are thinking what, there's a baby out there that sleeps too much during the day! I can't get mine to sleep at all! Too much sleep in the day does happen sometimes though, and the result can be less sleep at night. With newborns, if you wake them around every 3 hours during the day and try to give them a little bit of awake time before they go back to sleep, you rarely have a problem with too much daily sleep.

When will my baby start to sleep through the night?
The all too common question! I've outlined when babies often start sleeping through the night on this post. After helping countless of parents with sleep, I can tell you that following the suggestions above will help you get there sooner rather than later. Remember to keep in mind that every baby is different and sleeps through the night at a different age.

Every time I lay my baby to sleep she suddenly pops right awake again. What can I do?
This is pretty common. Your baby, while drifting off to sleep, notices something different (being put down) and wakes right up again. And sometimes, because she's somewhat startled awake or has just had some of her tiredness knocked off by sleeping a few minutes, she'll be wide awake and not seem the least bit tired at all. There are a couple ways to deal with this. One way is to make sure she's in a deep sleep before you put her down, that means you'll have to wait 5-20 minutes before setting her down. Check to see if her arm is limp before setting her down and set her down slowly, step by step, possibly staying cuddled up with her for a moment in her bed before taking all contact away. THis works with many babies, but not all.  The other way is to put her to sleep before she gets so drowsy (or falls asleep) and work on having her fall asleep there alone, or with your help.

My baby wakes up 15 minutes after I put her to sleep (or some time around that). Help!
Check to see that gas isn't' a problem. Also make sure she wasn't overtired or overstimulated before going to sleep. Check out the short nap post. She may have also been put to sleep too drowsy or fast asleep and is waking up wondering where you went.

My baby wakes up from a nap after being asleep for 45-60 minutes. How can I get her to sleep a bit longer?
Make sure to give her a few minutes to see if she'll go back to sleep on her own.  If she won't go back to sleep on her own, try helping her go back to sleep (avoid a feed if possible). If, after about 20 minutes she still isn't asleep, get her up and plan on putting her down for another nap pretty soon. Check out the short naps and extending naps posts.

My baby always fights sleep. She gets upset the second I start getting her ready for bed.
Some children are just like this. They don't like to shut out the world. Keeping things extra calm a short time before their nap can help. Making sure they don't get overtired can also be helpful.

What if my baby won't fall asleep after putting her down awake?
If you've gone through one of the four options above and it has been more than 20 minutes, I would probably help her go to sleep so she doesn't get too overtired. If you and her feel up to it, you can keep working on helping her go to sleep on her own her entire nap (but for no more than two naps straight without her getting a good nap in). If she doesn't fall asleep after 1 hour, get her up and put her down again when she start to get sleepy (this will be pretty darn soon). Try not to have her fall asleep on you if you can help it.

What if it's time to feed her but she either hasn't fallen asleep yet or is about to go to sleep?
If it is almost time to feed her but she still hasn't fallen asleep for a nap, go ahead and get her up feed her, doing your best to keep her awake. Then put her down again for a nap after the feed is through. If she falls asleep eating, it isn't the end of the world, but it's best to prevent it if you can.

If you're about to put her down for a nap but she needs to eat soon (maybe your e/w/s/ routine is a bit off because she's been struggling falling asleep for naps), go ahead and feed her right now, trying hard not to have her fall asleep while eating.


Let me know if I missed any questions you may have! 


Newborn Survival Guide 0-3 months


Joshua, 4 days old
A little overwhelmed by the list of newborn sleep posts? I don't blame you. It can be a bit daunting, particularly if you have no idea where to begin.

That's where this post and the 0-3 Month Newborn Sleep Guide come in.

Here you'll find a summary of the most asked about topics from baby's screaming introduction to this new world to around his 100 day birthday. 100 days? Don't think that sounds so long? For some of you, it'll sound like an eternity. Time will almost feel like it's stopped. And you'll spend your free time (if you ever have any) daydreaming about inventing a time machine to get you past this tough stage. I'm not trying to make you pee your pants with fright, but, folks, the newborn stage doesn't always flow by like an ABC family special. And for some reason, most of us don't seem to know that when we sign up for this parenting gig!

So let's start from the beginning.

From Birth to Beyond
When your baby is born, don't expect the gerber baby. You'll get there soon, but it probably won't be during your hospital stay. I'm sure you'll still think your baby is the cutest thing ever, but let's just face it, once the mottling and smooshed head and rashes disappear, she'll look even more perfect--not to mention a little more like what you expected.

Some of you might be end up with babies like mine that fuss and cry the entire time in the hospital. I sent my babies to the nursery a couple times (which I don't think is as scary or as bad as the breastfeeding experts make it out to be!) and even the nurses were flustered by my babies. But guess what, these first few days weren't at all a reflection of how they acted later one. So if you have a baby like mine or the complete opposite, don't put too much merit into it. I see far too many people worried out of their minds by their baby's behavior by day two when they have a completely different baby by day four. At the same time, don't get too smug if you've got a heavenly baby in the hospital. You may be in for a surprise!

I want to throw in that every parent parents differently. There is no one best way to be a mother. Do the best you can do and don't let others make you feel guilty for doing things differently from them. And certainly try not to judge others for doing things differently from you. Until you've walked in someone's shoes, you can't completely understand where they're coming from.

Little Sleepy Head, or Not
The first couple weeks home from the hospital (by due date), your baby will be an 'A', 'B', or 'C' baby (these are beautifully and artistically named by me). 'A' babies like to sleep all the time. You can play pass the parcel with them and they won't even blink an eye. Getting them to do what babies do best, EAT, is even a difficult task (tips on how to keep baby awake during feeds here.). You may have to wake them up every few hours to get calories in them. If you've got one of these babies, you might be thinking this baby thing is pretty dang easy--what is everyone else complaining about?? And you might also be making some small enemies with the parents of C babies!

C babies are active and alert from the get go and do not sleep well. I've had one of these babies and to this day I still think it is overly unfair to have a baby like this after you've gone through 9 months of pregnancy and labor! These babies are tough! If you've got one of these babies, you may be daydreaming about that time machine I mentioned--or about punching that mom who keeps showing off about her A baby :)

B babies fall somewhere in between A and C, because that's just how the alphabet goes.

After the first couple weeks at home most babies wake up a bit (if you have a C baby things may stay pretty much the same). Some will suddenly become active and alert and no longer sleep easily like they did before. Some will slowly become less and less sleepy over the next several weeks. This change can be a bit shocking for parents--I know it was for me the first time around! Just think of it as practice for the months and years to come because children are always changing and surprising parents!

The Newborn Fussies
Most newborns go through an extra fussy period in the late afternoon and early evening that people sometimes call the Witching Hour (a time of bad luck). And trust me, it can be a majorly terrible time of bad luck (if you're lucky, it might not be very bad at all). If you've heard parents tell nightmarish stories of babies crying for hours on ends they were probably talking about this time. Good thing there's a post coming up about this time to help you get through it in one piece! For now, turn on some LOUD tv (funniest home videos saved me with my colicky first) and focus on the tone your arms and legs are getting form all this baby holding and jiggling. Who would have thought your baby would be your own personal trainer?

Along with the witching hour, most babies get progressively fussy (especially at night) for the first 6 to 8 weeks of their life. After this point, it usually SLOWLY goes down hill. I emphasize slowly because I thought things would suddenly improve, but they didn't. And I'm pretty sure I cried.

If your baby is really fussy at night, don't worry about lots of holding etc to get her to go to sleep. You do what you have to then for her and for you. Once she gets over this phase, then you can work on sleep more at this time. Working on it now will likely not be too helpful.

Keep in mind that babies have their on and off day with fussiness and sleep. One day you may feel you have an angel child and the next you may wonder if someone switched out your child for another while you were sleeping! Try not to get too worked up problem solving all these changes because much of the time (as you can see by the wonder weeks and growth spurts) there isn't much you can do--you simply have to wait them out as gracefully as a tired parent can. With newborns, these changes can happen by the day, with older children, they happen more by the month. If you are breastfeeding, feel free to evaluate your diet, but very likely it doesn't have anything to do with all these changes. If you are worried your child may be  fussy because he is ill, of course check with your pediatrician.

Colic
No one knows for sure what colic is or what causes it (some even say it doesn't exist) but lots of babies are diagnosed with it. If you've got one of those babies, I'm sorry. I'm so so so sorry. And for the next 3 to 4 months, I'll continue to be very very sorry. The good news? You'll have some majorly toned arms, abs, and thighs by the time your baby is 4 months old! Until then, The Happiest Baby on the Block and a swing can help. IMO, this is the best swing out there by far. I also always recommend  probiotics for babies, especially formula fed babies. Refrigerated ones (I use this one for my newborns) are the best, but this one seems to still have decent results and easy to find online and in stores.

Sleep and Eating
Sleeping and eating with newborns starts off pretty erratic  They've just come from a womb where food was 24/7 and, if you recall those fetal kicks keeping you up while you were trying to get some shut eye, they don't know the difference between day and night. In fact, most newborns don't consolidate their sleep much at all. Naps kind of happen all over the place and night sleep is, well, often just like day sleep. {ahhhhh!}

Most people out there encourage you to just wait. Wait for baby to sleep longer. Wait for baby to want to eat more than 1 hour apart. Wait for baby to figure out his days and nights.

I completely and totally disagree.

There is so much you can do to guide baby towards more manageable sleeping and eating habits (you know, manageable enough that a parent can actually do it long term without crying for their own mommy).

I'm not in the group of people that thinks baby always knows best. I think we are here to be parents and to me, being a parent means we gently guide our children. We are here to be their advocates as well as advocates for ourselves and our family. We need to take everyone into account and do what is best for everyone. And having a baby that wakes all night long and requires moms's attention 100% of the day isn't healthy for mom, it isn't healthy for a marriage, and it isn't healthy for the other children in the family who need their mom, just like baby does.

That's where my newborn sleeping and eating methods come into play. They are gentle but effective. And they'll not only help baby eat and sleep better (which is important to his health too!) but they'll make having a newborn a more manageable, and for many, a much more enjoyable experience. They'll help make the newborn period a time that you can thrive in not just survive in! Go ahead and hop on over to the 0-3 Month Newborn Sleep Guide for more sleep specific tips.