Having a baby is one of life's great adventures; the good definitely outweighs the bad, although as a tired mom you may doubt that after too many sleepless nights. How can you create a sleep schedule for your baby so that you can get more rest for all the things you need to do?
All Bets Are Off for 3 months
Helping a baby create a sleep schedule is important, but not at first. Newborns during their first weeks are busy enough learning about their new surroundings, without trying to impose a strict schedule for eating or sleeping. Newborns are not willfully trying to wear you out with their erratic sleep schedules - they're just trying to learn the ins and outs of this big world they've been thrust into.
As hard as it may seem, try to "go with the flow" for the first 3 months and follow your baby's cues. As much as possible, feed your baby when she seems hungry and let her sleep when she wants to sleep. "Never wake a sleeping baby" is good advice, although as your baby grows you will learn to make some adjustments, particularly if your baby is sleeping for a long stretch after dinner.
Look for Cues from Your Baby
Once you've passed the 3 month mark, it's time to begin imposing a little more structure for the sake of the entire family. At this point, your baby is maturing enough to know the difference between night and day, and can go for longer stretches between feedings. This is a good time to help him begin to learn when to sleep.
First, watch for cues from your baby. Does he usually seem tired around 10 a.m.? Does he tend to be wide awake just before dinner? Keep a notebook to jot these things down, and within a few days you will begin to notice some trends. Try to work with your baby's natural instincts and plan sleep times based on those.
Put Your Schedule into Action
Once you have a basic schedule of sleeping and waking times, try your best to adhere to it. If your baby wakes up an hour after going down for a nap, resist the urge to run in and pick her up. Any mom knows how hard it is to listen to her baby cry, but you will get more rest and ultimately be much happier if you try to stay firm and leave her in her bed. Eventually, (and it may take a few days) she will learn that nothing more exciting is going on, and she will settle down.
As helpful as a sleep schedule can be in ensuring a smoothly-running and happy household, don't be a slave to the schedule. Various things will come up that will result in the need to tweak your schedule, and that is fine. Let's face it: life often changes and we all need to be flexible.
By taking the time and effort to implement a sleep schedule, your baby and your entire family will benefit.
Susan Braun is a freelance writer living with her husband, three daughters, 2 rabbits, 2 gerbils and hedgehog in Indiana. She writes at girlsinwhitedresses.wordpress.com and Associated Content.