After my daughter was born, my friends frequently commented on how well-rested my husband and I looked. (And, our baby was the happiest baby they had ever seen, too!) What was our secret? No, we weren’t faking it. We had learned a “secret,” which I discovered in a book. I’ve enthusiastically recommended the book, “On Becoming Babywise,” to every new mother I meet.Although I don’t agree with everything the book states (some may find some of it’s content somewhat controversial, as any parent book is), its guiding principles can certainly be used as a framework to have every baby achieve the longest stretches of sleep possible at night while in the infant stage.
The book is a very easy and quick read for any sleep-deprived mother—I read this book in a few days when I was only getting 1-2 hours of sleep at a time and my daughter was only a few weeks old. While I implemented the principles of this book with no to minimal (only a few minutes’ worth of) “crying it out,” this book could easily be used without ever requiring an infant to cry at all. (Sleep regressions are another subject, which we will discuss in a later post.) Every child is different and unique, so the guidelines in this book are the “secret” to getting a baby to sleep at night for as long as possible for that particular child. For some babies, this may only be a 4 hour stretch at night; for others, it might mean an 8 hour stretch at night—every child is different. In a nutshell, the book advocates for ensuring that your baby gets the most nutrients as possible during the day, so that your baby doesn’t wake up to eat as many calories (and when they are a little older, no calories) during the night.
During the first month of life, there really is no “schedule” you can get your infant on. They biologically must eat every 2-3 hours. What you can do, which the book recommends, is help establish your baby’s circadian rhythm, which is day/night distinction. Babies’ bodies will eventually learn this on their own, but by supporting the day/night differentiation, you can speed up the process.
Concrete actions that mothers can take during the first month to help speed up the circadian rhythm include opening windows and turning on all of the lights in the house during the day. At nighttime, have all the lights dimmed at night and keep talking to your baby at a very minimum and in hushed tones.
The human body is amazing, and, establishing the baby’s circadian rhythm is hastened by this process. By following this, my baby knew the difference between night and day by two weeks old, as evidenced by her stopping trying to “play” at nighttime and going immediately to sleep after feedings at night. During the day, my baby was awake after feedings and wanted to “play” during the day after feeding.
There are a few other sleep tips gleaned from the book, On Becoming Babywise, which we will discuss in a follow-up post. Stay tuned!