When you’re pregnant, you dream of your new baby. Who will he look like? Will she have blue eyes or brown? What will his favorite lullaby be? But, after the first of what will be many, many all-nighters, parents start to dream of one thing above almost anything else: a full night’s sleep.
I’m going to say that phrase that all expecting parents hate to hear, but it’s still true: You can’t understand it until you’ve lived through it. You may think you’re ready for the 24-hour demands of parenthood because you’ve raised a puppy, or you’ve had a job with odd hours, or heartburn is keeping you up at night during pregnancy. But take it from me, none of those will prepare you for the cries, shrieks and screams that keep you from your bed night after night.
Parents all come up with their own ways to cope. They’ll try to find the perfect combination of rocking, bouncing, singing, shushing, bottles, pacifiers and, of course, caffeine (for themselves!) I wish I could share that perfect combination, but unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. For every book that says you should swaddle your baby, there’s another book that says to let them sleep with their arms free.
For expecting parents, or parents who are just starting out, there are a few tried and true methods to explore:
Back is Best
This is non-negotiable. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all babies be put on their backs every time they go to sleep – both for naps and nighttime – to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). If your baby can roll over both ways (back to front and front to back), you should still place him on his back, but you do not have to flip him over if he rolls onto his stomach. Parents should always put babies on their backs until their first birthday.
Wrapping babies up tight can help them sleep longer through the night. The swaddle simulates the mother’s womb and is cozy for the baby. If you do swaddle your baby, remember not to have any loose blankets or other objects in the crib, because they can be a strangulation hazard. You should typically stop swaddling around two months of age, so the baby can learn to roll on her own.
Pick a Pacifier
Pacifiers help soothe babies through sucking. Be mindful of when you give your baby a pacifier, and don’t use it when the baby actually needs to be fed. There are dozens of types of pacifiers, and even pacifier attachments, so picking out the right one can be tricky. Really the only way to find out if your baby will like the pacifier is to try it. If that one doesn’t work, pick a different one and give it a shot.
It may seem like an uphill battle, but it’s a journey countless parents have been on before you. Keep a positive attitude and a little perspective, knowing someday sleep will return to you. And it will be everything you dreamed of.