No parent is going to want to read this but: A baby who wakes often and sleeps lightly is well protected from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/understanding-sids.html, http://moms.mylifetime.com/parenting/blog/sids-enfamil-restfull-formula-yes-connection-exists (the latter is a blog post but it give info regarding several studies on the topic).
The fact that it is a good thing that your baby gets up every few hours does not change the fact that it is exhausting and there is a great reason that sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture (hint: sleep deprivation is wretched).
There are some things, tricks and thoughts that can help the situation.
Tips & Tricks For Newborn Baby Sleep
– Perspective. Remember, the nights of sleep deprivation will not be forever, even if they seem like they will be. Soon you’ll have a child that can move so fast all you see is a blur of a short person. Then you may be up late at night in their teen years- but for an entirely different reason. Each stage of babyhood and childhood has its benefits and drawbacks. One of the benefits of the early baby stage of frequent waking is the excuse to cuddle your baby and smell the amazing baby smell.
– More perspective. Recent research has indicated that long stretches of sleep are not the way our ancestors slept in two distinct chunks of sleep with a waking interval. The idea of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is a new thing: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783
– Co-Sleep. This may mean sharing a room, bed sharing, using a co-sleeper, or some variation. But having your baby close to you will make night wakings easier. Which is easier: waking, stumbling to your baby’s room picking up baby and then comforting or reaching over and comforting?
– White noise. In the womb your baby heard a lot of noise. Digestion, heartbeat, voices, music and the like were the soundtrack to his life. It is a huge change being born and having all of the familiar and comforting sounds, smells, and tastes change. White noise can be very comforting. There are smart phone apps, white noise machines, or the good old standbys- a fan or vacuum.
– Follow your baby’s cues. A baby can go from tired to over-tired in mere minutes. Sleep cues can be light sighing, rooting, blinking, looking for a cuddle, but as babies grow and change their sleep cues also may change so be aware of this.
– Establish a bedtime routine. Bedtime can be a sacred time- it can set the tone for sleep and rest. However, when you are making your routine, make sure that you are prepared to do it every single night as babies become very accustomed to their routines and do not like to be thrown off. Some sleep routines can include, breastfeeding, massage, bath, reading or a song. Just make sure you are set to repeat it.
– Swaddle. Babies love the familiar- one thing that is familiar to infants is feeling cuddled and snuggled. The last few weeks in the womb space is tight, so a baby is cuddled and warm, swaddling can help replicate that. Swaddling a newborn is not that hard, but it does take practice. If you have never swaddled a baby have your midwife, doula, nurse or other parent give you a quick lesson. There blankets that are supposed to help facilitate swaddling. While they are a good idea- they are not necessary though, at least in my opinion. For older babies or babies that do not like to be swaddled, sleep sacks or wearable blankets are fabulous. They ensure the comfort of your baby, without the risks associated with blankets.
– Do not have TV or screens on before bed. They inhibit sleep cycles and circadian rhythms.
– Keeping a safe sleep environment is paramount for your baby. This means making sure that there are no bulky blankets or suffocation risks in your babies environment. Also, experts recommend that the room temperature for optimal sleep be slightly cooler than one may expect, at 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you choose to bed share- do so safely. Do not use any medications, drugs, or alcohol that impact your sleep. Research ways to make bed sharing safe.
– Patience. Babies are hard wired to want to be close to adults. They instinctually know that parents and caregivers keep them safe and cared for. Being alone, especially after being inside a womb, warm, safe, and snuggled can be scary! Have patience with yourself and your baby.
It can seem like infant and newborn sleep is somewhat of an oxymoron as newborns do wake up quite frequently. While this reality can be extremely challenging for parents, it is a natural part of infant and child development.
This stage is so brief, try and look at the positives, even when you are groggy and bleary eyed- then ask for a great coffee maker for your birthday or a gift card to a coffee shop (with a drive-thru.)
For more advice, these links may be helpful..