Pregnancy, Sleep, and New Baby Sleep Expectations

 

Many thanks to Bamboobies for sponsoring this important discussion on sleep expectations related to the arrival of a new baby. 


And heartfelt thanks also to Rebecca Michi, Children’s Sleep Consultant, for providing her expertise in this conversation. Connect with her through her Facebook page, her website, and her excellent book: “Sleep and Your Child’s Temperament.”

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Important points shared by Jessica and Rebecca during this Live Stream:

Today we are talking all about sleep in pregnancy and sleep expectations with a new baby. Some sleep myths, such as baby sleeping through the night, are just not true.

Sleep During Pregnancy (focus on 3rd trimester)

Peeing

Rebecca: I think in that last trimester sleep becomes more and more challenging when you’re pregnant. And it’s for a couple of reasons, one of them is that you’re probably gonna need to pee five times a night and that you’re being kicked in the bladder. 

Jessica: You have a little human being on your bladder, you’re gonna need to empty way more often. Plus, your blood volume more than doubles during pregnancy and at the end there that means you’re filtering all of that out, you’re gonna have to pee more often. This is just the deal. Plus the baby’s contributing to that so yeah, lots of peeing. You’re gonna have to get up and pee.

Discomfort

Rebecca: And then you’re just uncomfortable as well and you get more uncomfortable quicker  in a position than you would pre-pregnancy and feel like you’re having to move around lots. Pillows can really help but when you gotta move you’re gonna need to move pillows. Also, your whole center of gravity is different than it once was. You’re not just easily rolling over. So even if you were just gonna come into a light sleep, roll over and go back into a deep sleep, chances are you’re actually gonna be really fully waking up because the whole, “I’ve got to move pillows,” or “I just gotta move this bump from one side to the other,” is just uncomfortable and you’re just waking up way more. 

People say you need to be getting lots of sleep, and that stresses you out, which also impacts your sleep. Good news is you can’t stock up on sleep. It’s not something you can put in the bank and so when baby arrives we’re not as tired. You are going to be tired. 

Sleep is very different with a newborn than it is in the last trimester. 

Sleep training babies before birth

Rebecca: The idea that you can train a baby to follow a sleep schedule in utero is completely ludicrous. It’s absolutely bonkers. There is no actual way that this can happen. What you’ll notice is when you are up and about and moving the baby can be very quiet and very still. And then the second you lay down and try to go to sleep or to sit down and rest that’s when baby starts getting really active. 

Normal newborn sleep, first 24-48 hrs

Rebecca: Remember that all babies are good babies, regardless of how they sleep. They’re gonna sleep like a baby which is what we want. In the very early stages you may be lulled into a false sense of security because there’s a lot of sleep going on. Being born is absolutely exhausting. So you may find that your newborn sleeps really long stretches and you just think, “We’ve got an awesome sleeper! This is great.” But that quickly changes: they will soon be spending more time awake and much shorter stretches of sleep.

They’re always hungry, because your milk hasn’t come in yet, and that quickly gets in the way of sleep too.

Rebecca: The great news is we cannot create any bad habits, whatsoever. It’s just impossible to create bad habits. And that’s when you’re feeding, you’re rocking, you’re bouncing, you’re jiggling, you’re singing, you’re talking, everything is completely fine. The nurturing that was happening in utero continues when you’re with a newborn. You’re now in the fourth trimester  and it’s just survival mode for at least the first twelve weeks. 

Jessica: Just be responsive and watch your baby and interact with your baby. Let your baby sleep and feed them appropriately. 

Rebecca: You don’t need to worry if your 2 day old is not on a sleep schedule. Not in the slightest. I wouldn’t even think about getting on a sleep schedule until over twelve weeks old. 

Jessica: Our bodies do the most milk making processing at night. As wonderful as it is when babies start sleeping longer stretches at night it does, to some degree, threaten your breastmilk supply.

Can't create bad habits with newborns

Week one

Rebecca: Getting into that week one we’re still in that survival mode. They have no idea what is day or what is night and so they’re going to just be continuing to sleep, wake, sleep, wake, sleep, wake. Sleep is just sleep. They’re not thinking of it as nighttime sleep or as daytime sleep. So if you think that your child has days and nights mixed up, they can’t because they don’t really have days or nights.

Rebecca: When they’re born their stomach is so tiny it’s the size of a marble. And that’s tiny. As they grow older and they get bigger the stomach gets bigger and your supply begins to alter as well. That’s gonna really dictate why your child is waking up and when they get hungry. 

That can continue throughout that first twelve weeks. And you may notice that you’re able to get a little bit longer between the feeds and we’re not ever dropping feeds during the night, we’re stretching the time out between the feeds.

Rebecca: The majority of children, about seventy percent, at twelve weeks old are not even getting a five or six hour stretch of sleep. 

Jessica: One of the things we know is that that interrupted sleep for the baby reduces their risk of SIDs. 

I know for me, when I was really struggling, one of the things I would tell myself is, “I’m so glad you’re awake, just keep on being alive.” Because it was hard, and I would feel a little angry or resentful like “Please just sleep!” but it was so important for me to remind myself that her frequent waking was maybe even saving her life. So, just something to keep in mind, it’s important that our babies do what they need to do. 

Rebecca: Sleep deprivation is incredibly tough when you’ve had a newborn you can see why it’s used as a form of torture because it is so effective. 

Jessica: We need to recognize that it is a part of normal human development that, starting as infants, we wake often. Most of us do.

I’ve had one of those kids that slept long stretches right off the bat, that was super easy, immediately threatened my milk supply, immediately made some growth issues for us actually, and so my doctor was telling me to wake her because this became a problem (and to this day she is still a very good sleeper). But my very next kiddo still at 15 feels like she only believes in sleep when she wants to sleep on her terms. That has not changed. She was that way from coming out and stayed that way. We kind of have this range of normal for humans and what our sleep patterns look like as an adult it’s not fair to impose those on to babies. While at the same time there are different sleep personalities, or personalities in general, and my 15 year old’s sleep patterns are, in many ways, much better than they were when she was an infant – it’s true (in large part because she’s responsible for them and not me) but she doesn’t wake me up either way so she lets me sleep. There’s a pretty big spectrum here but I think one of the biggest mistakes we make going into parenting a baby is we expect our newborn human beings to function, in terms of sleep, as adult human beings. And that’s simply not how we’re wired, that’s not how we’re gonna work. 

Week one to week six

Rebecca: More of the same. Just waking and feeding and this is gonna be happening 24 hours a day. You may have wake ups where it’s not just straight back to sleep after the feed but these are gonna be quite short. And then as your child is getting older these awake periods just get longer and longer – but not hugely.

As we get to twelve weeks the longest awake period we should have is an hour and a half and that’s where we’ve got to get everything in. That’s the feed, the diaper change, the playtime, the bath, whatever it is, we’ve got 90 minutes to do that. So don’t feel you have to be home for every nap because you’re not going to be able to do feed, diaper change, getting dressed to go out to the car to get to the store to get back for that next nap. That’s going to be totally impossible to do. So whenever you can, napping on the go is completely fine. 

Jessica: I have definitely had those kids that have slept so much better when we are on the move and the reality is I have things to do. 

Rebecca: Temperament really does play a really big part at really young ages as to how your child is gonna sleep and that’s actually normal.

Jessica: So learn what’s normal from your baby. And be educated with your healthcare provider to make sure they’re growing appropriately and they’re developing on track and all of those things. You’re going to want to recognize that there is no one size fits all sleep standard. So normal is a range. And you have to learn your baby. 

Rebecca: Only help when you need to help. Your baby knows exactly how to get you to help, their cry is very effective, it’s not something we can easily ignore. Which is one of the reasons why the human race is still here, that cry getting us to do whatever we need to do to get it to stop because that’s how we survive. Don’t over help. If they’re happy to just hang out, perfect. It may be they’re happy to hang out for 10-20 minutes and then they may fall asleep or maybe then they need help. But you don’t need to over help especially in the middle of the night if you don’t actually need to be there helping. Generally when they’re crying they need something, even when they need sleep they’ll cry because they’re overtired. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should just leave them, if they’re fussing that’s fine, but you’ve got to figure out what works for your child. Because it may be that they actually need to be held and rocked whilst you’re patting their back. It may be that you need to rock side-to-side rather than back and forward. Every single child is completely unique with what it is that they need but when they’re crying and they need something they’re not manipulating you. 

Jessica: When they wake at night, close to twelve weeks, and they want to be awake for a little while do we engage them during that time or do we keep the lights low and things quiet?

Rebecca: I would keep the lights low with low interaction. And it may be that you need to do a diaper change or whatever it is you need to be doing and we don’t want to be creating this our awake time we actually want to be encouraging sleep at this time. Just keeping it dark, dim and using a very low voice and really low interaction because we want to be encouraging sleep. 

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