10 Truths About Newborn Sleep

by Jenni Smith
Originally Published: 
A newborn baby sleeping with yellow pacifier

Before having a child, the idea of sleep training would have surely boggled my mind. Certainly, the phrase “sleeping like a baby” has to originated somewhere, so why would babies need sleep training? Why, indeed.

I’m beginning to think that this certain phrase was a sarcastic comment made by some sleep deprived couple a thousand years ago. And, it’s been used to effectively punk hundreds of generations of parents since then.

Since bringing Hazel home from the hospital, I have learned that newborns do not, in fact, sleep peacefully. They grunt, squeal, squirm, kick, cry, eat, poop? and smile their way through their 16-18 hours of sleep per day. In the beginning, I thought there was something seriously wrong with my daughter and took her to be evaluated by my pediatrician, only to be told she was fine. Perfectly healthy. There was to be no miracle cure for my noisy and ineffective sleeper- in fact, she was doing exactly what she was supposed to do.

As I packed up our things, sobbing, ready to return home to additional rounds of Go the f!#* to sleep, a nurse walked in. After giving me, my tears and my shirt turned inside out, a once over, she gently stated, “All four of my daughters were noisy sleepers, too.”

And, I realized this was not simply a nurse, but a sage veteran. She had SEEN things, been in the trenches, and she understood. Instead of offering any advice or consolation or condolences, she merely patted my hand, and told me to stay strong.

It was then that I knew that I had been punked, and my little bundle of joy was actually an adorable sleep terrorist holding my sweet dreams hostage. And, judging by the haunted eyes of that nurse, it wasn’t going to get any better any time soon.

I went home that day and rifled through all of my literature from the hospital, skimmed through my what to expect books, and leafed through my 100 page binder from birthing class. Surely, there was something in one of those tomes about newborn sleep. Surely, our medical society, who all but require you to take a six week class on the birthing process- couldn’t fail to provide you with the necessary manuals to operate this newborn? Where was the reset switch?!

And, I had an epiphany. If they told us the truth, people might stop procreating. It was all a conspiracy! So, what is the truth about newborn sleep?

1. Babies are noisy sleepers. Worse than your grandpa snoring after having too many cocktails. They grunt, and they squeal. They thrash about, even when swaddled to within an inch of their lives. They poop, pee, and express gas. They talk and they coo. All while sleeping! You will run to their crib multiple times an hour, just to ensure that the noise they are making is normal, only to wake them up and have to start it all over again.

2. Additionally, they DO frequently sleep with their eyes wide open. Staring at you, like adorable little stalkers. Sometimes, they let their tired eyelids fall to half mast while their eyes roll back, doing an impression of a zombie that the Walking Dead would be proud of. It doesn’t get less creepy with time, you just get used to it.

3. If you are a new mom, and your child is one of the magical unicorns who sleeps eight plus hours from the get go, do not tell your friends. Do not brag on your blog. Do not share this with me. Because, I hate you. Really and truly, I hate you. We can be friends again one day, but right now this is war and you are on the other side. Embrace your victory, and enjoy the magic.

4. Please do not ask me “Have you tried swaddling?” Yes. In fact, I’ve tried every swaddle on the internet. I’ve tried every “Miracle” product they sell. In fact, I have tried everything short of duct tape and handcuffs. Although, I seriously considered the latter. And, while the swaddle would soothe for a time- my clever child figured out soon enough that kicking her tiny feet in the air and banging them down on the mattress helped to dislodge the wrapping. It was just another hugely fun addition in the “Keep Mommy Awake” game.

5. In fact, please do not ask me about any of the other (insert every baby sleep aid). I’ve got two white noise machines. I have tried every pacifier on the market. I considered, in one particularly, desperate night of zero sleep- taking a silicone mold of my breast to see if that would lull my little one into sleep. I have swung, jiggled, rocked, and paced. It buys me some additional sleep time… But, my days of sleeping more than four hours at one time, have been relegated to the dimmest parts of my memory.

6. The word colic is a scary term thrown around that means “Your baby cries a lot, doesn’t like to sleep and your doctor doesn’t know what else to tell you.”Also, there’s really not a cure, other than age.

7. Do not let the white noise fool you- making any noise in the room will not mask whatever noise you are about to make. Popping open a coke can, at 3 am, will go off like a grenade at 50 paces. If you need to go to the restroom, and your newborn is in the same room? Suck it up, and just lay in bed, without moving. The creak of your mattress will be heard. I promise.

8. Your mom, sisters, aunts, have more than likely been there, so when they offer to watch the baby overnight, Do Not Feel Guilty. Take them up on their offer, and forego the urge to scream “See ya, suckers!” as you dive under your covers, and into dreamless sleep. Calmly, hand over your sweet child. And, run, do not walk, to your room. Do not bring your phone or computer. Emails, blogs, and voicemails can wait until after you’ve gotten this precious, partially restorative sleep.

9. Sleep when your baby sleeps…Unless your baby only sleeps, while you drive around in circles, in the car. Or, unless you are a human being, and would also like to shower or eat, while your little one is sleeping. See number 7 on how to truly get extra sleep.

10. If you find something that works, run with it and use it until it stops working. Just the other day, I was talking to my sister, and expressed how exhausted I was. She sympathetically agreed, and offered this bit of comfort – as a mom of three, none of her children ever slept more than three hours. But, as they age, you can threaten them with consequences if they don’t at least stay in their bed and pretend to sleep. So, see? It does get better with time.

Related post: You are never going to sleep again

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