The most commonly used phrase you hear when a new baby is imminent is “Get ready for the sleepless nights!” And let’s face it, none of us expect our newborns to sleep through, do we? Or do we? I keep reading articles about ‘distressed parents’ who are so tired after so many sleepless nights. So tired that they embark upon a mission to get their baby sleeping through. And then I discover their baby is two weeks old. Two weeks old! So this is what to do if you’re asking the same question, that is- should my newborn be sleeping through?
First of all, remember that your newborn baby is very very young, and survival instincts are in full throttle. There is no manipulation, no wanting to be awake to join in the fun of every day life, and no feelings of jealousy that older siblings get to stay up and watch TV. Your newborn’s life revolves around survival- eating enough to stay alive. And as she grows, the rest of it develops too- she wants comfort, warmth, security. But at two weeks old she is still settling into life on the outside, and her body is still adapting too: feeding may not be properly established yet. She is still getting to know you. You are still getting to know her. Ultimately, at the root of it, she is waking because she is hungry. And she is hungry because her tummy is tiny and can only hold small amounts of milk at a time. When it empties, it needs filling again. And this happens every 2-4 hours 24 hours a day.
So should your newborn baby be sleeping through? No!
Sleep training is NOT recommended for newborn babies. Two weeks of sleepless nights IS hard work, but it’s not unusual. What is unusual is the baby who sleeps all night at two weeks of age. Of course when this does happen, it’s wonderful! As long as baby is gaining weight and your doctor is happy that all is ok, then baby should continue sleeping though! But if your baby isn’t sleeping through at two weeks old, don’t waste time worrying that you’re doing something wrong. Try these tips instead:
Go to bed a little earlier, and try to rest during the day. I know that ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ is often the worst and most frustrating advice that you can give a new mum who has lots of household chores and other children to take care of- but if there is an opportunity, take it. The dishes will wait and hopefully your partner can help out too.
Stop wasting energy on striving from the unattainable– for now. Focus instead on helping your newborn to adopt healthy sleep habits for life. Create a good bedtime routine and help her learn how to fall asleep independently.
Look after yourself. Sleep deprivation is hard. Really hard. Try to eat well and drink lots of water so that you can cope with the wake ups when they happen
Don’t sweat it. Your baby will sleep through when she’s ready. I promise!