Suspends the current thread for a defined period of time. If only that was possible with a small person.
One thing that seems to define both babies and new parents is their relationship with sleep.
Nothing can prepare you for the new and exciting world of sleep deprivation that you will experience in the post-small world. This is more true for us gentlemen than the ladies in our lives. They have been slightly more prepared by biology to be more in sync with smalls sleep patterns. Of course you may not have noticed this occurring as until now they have been hiding away behind their pillow forts on the other side of the bed.
Due to the c-section situation I previously alluded to I did find myself in the unusual position (presumably) in the early days of having small sleeping next to me in our side sleeper. Side sleeping cots are excellent, I cannot recommend them enough especially with the guidance currently for 6 months in with you to lower the SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) risk. There is something reassuring about being able to check that small is still breathing (I am reasonably sure I am not alone in doing this) simply by reaching out a hand as well as providing comfort and easy pick up. With small needing to bed fed roughly every 3 hours due to him being very tiny it definitely made life a lot easier.
You will want to be extra vigilant about duvets and loose sheets though, as I did have one heart stopping moment waking up to find small with his head completely under corner of a duvet that somehow got into the side sleeper!
One contentious area I will touch on briefly is sleep training. You may have heard of various methodologies from cry it out to pick up — put down. This is not something to try with newborns, they don’t have a set pattern to sleep and they will not self soothe as they just don’t have the capability. My advice is just to pick them up, cuddle them and let them sleep. Routines are more important as the child grows as it gets the child ready for sleep and these will develop after 3-6 months. We moved our routine a few months ago to get bedtime to around 730/8pm from 9pm/10pm but I am not convinced about sleep training the more I read about it. I suggest you read into the positives and negatives and think about your child and situation and do whatever you feel is right at the end of the day (being a grown up sucks with all these decision right!).
As a new parent you will often hear the phrase ‘sleeps through the night’ as both a boast and a goal. This does not mean what you think, and it changes depending on the age of the child. A typical newborn is up every 3 hours for food and they will sleep around about 17 hours a day. My current small is 9 months, has slept for 8–10 hours overnight without feeding.
Sounds brilliant you might think, but small sleep habits are continually changing and the next word you will be finding quite often in regards sleep once you are in a settled routine is ‘regression’.
A regression is effectively just a change in sleep behaviour but it is agreed they tend to happen at various points for most children. The first two are around 3 months and 9 months and come hand in hand with physiological and developmental stages small is going through. A good resource to understand the developmental side that I found was definitely ‘the wonder weeks’, it gives a good idea of what to expect and why and it seemed to ring true for me.
Regressions are hard. It is a change of routine for you and your child leading to upset which can occur on both sides as you have just got used to the previous routine. During a regression the best you can do is whatever you need to do to cope, remember it won’t last forever and you will eventually drop back into a more stable pattern. I like to remind myself that small is learning new and exciting things during these times so just bear with it (look out for these new things over the next week(s)!).
Having a partner to share the load is good, if you do and its practical it is worth organising things between you to lighten the load. I usually do early wake ups and mid-morning ones as often wifey will get caught out by milk demands. As I don’t have the required equipment small mostly goes back to sleep instead!
No matter how you end up coping through regressions do try to keep your normal routine where possible. There is no point trying new things. If after a week or two nothing is improving then start to evaluate and change tactics as necessary.
As our small person is breast fed I personally love bed time as it’s an opportunity for me to do a feed with a bottle of expressed milk, I would recommend this to all fathers just to get into the habit of bottles (when and if possible of course).
We have also read bedtime stories from a very young age (I even read my own books to him quite often in the hospital in the first few days) and whilst we do that less now I think it is a great bedtime activity for fathers to get into. I am a great fan of the Hairy Maclary books as they have a nice relaxing patter to them and anything by Julia Donaldson seems to work well for a similar reason. Sharing my love of books with small is something I am looking forward to as he grows.
One final thought on the bedtime side of things is that baby sleeping bags are amazing. They eliminate the whole concern around sheets and tucking in. You can also get swaddle type ones if your newborn needs that (ours never really took to it). Just ensure the sizing is right and pay attention to the heat ratings. Remember it is better to err on the side of to cold than to hot with babies in general.