Sleep. We all need it. But no one needs sleep more than parents with a brand new baby in the house. Chances are, mom is already exhausted from nine or so months of disrupted sleep, and then you bring home a tiny human who with less than ten pounds to his or her name manages to turn your whole house upside-down. Awake all night, napping throughout the day, needing to eat every couple hours and with no ability to self-soothe, babies prove to be worthy adversaries when it comes to sleep terrorism.
And yet, they're deliciously adorable, and we love them, so we learn to make it work, right?
Well, with a career that gives me lots of time up close and personal with brand new babies, plus the beautiful bonus of having survived the newborn stage three times in my own home, I've collected a large handful of tips and tricks that I would love to share with you about newborns, soothing babies and sleeeeeeep. All you have to do is promise to book a newborn session with Rachel Friedman Photography, ok? Haha, of course I'm kidding. Here are my go-to sleep truths that I've found to be mostly true...
Even tiny humans need a little bit of awake time at the beginning, and in those first weeks, they don't understand that whole day vs. night concept. At night, make the awake time that baby thinks it wants as boring, dark and uneventful as possible. During the day, make awake time stimulating, with shades open, lots of talking and eye contact, engagement and play.
The 5 S's. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Harvey Karp with Happiest Baby on the Block, you should totally check him out. Basically, when you want baby to calm down, he uses five techniques to mimic the comfort of being in utero: swaddling, side position, loud shushing sounds, swinging and sucking. The combo of all five is magical for calming an upset baby - they worked like magic for all three of mine, including my middle colicky baby.
Get a sound machine and black out shades for your windows in the nursery (we use this sound machine in my kids rooms and the studio because I love the battery back up option, but we also love this one - both of these are louder and more effective than the popular Dohm machine).
Sleep begets sleep. This means that if you want more sleep at night, it's important that baby isn't overtired during the day. My kids all did best in the early days if they weren't awake much longer than an hour before napping again.
When baby is fighting sleep, stroking their forehead in a downward motion between their eyes can help those sweet eyelids droop in submission :)
Patience. It can take MONTHS to find a real routine (often between 5-8 months to really find a nap routine and master night sleep, if not longer). Remember that one day of a thrown-off sleep routine won't break your baby forever. Every day is a new day, and as cliche as it is, this too shall pass. I promise.
If you're anticipating some sleepless nights in your future, and don't want to forget all those sweet little details of your newborn baby in the fog of those sleepless nights, please be in touch with me about scheduling a studio or in-home lifestyle newborn session. You can book as early as the week you find out as you're expecting or as late as your third trimester (or even once baby is already born - subject to availability of course). I'd love to work with you and your Sleepy McSleeper.
Rachel is a Chicago newborn photographer who photos newborns both in her north suburban studio and in homes across Chicago and the north shore. Best Chicago newborn photographer. Chicago baby photographer.