One of the most common issues my company Boston Baby Nurses sees among new parents is that of getting baby on a sleep schedule. While you can’t really incorporate any sleep routines for the first six weeks with your newborn, after that you should be able to start working on a flexible schedule (definitely by three months). And while it surely takes quite a bit of dedication and patience at first, the sleep your whole family ultimately gets from it is worth it (some say a million times over!) However, I realize that every family has their own priorities and ways of doing things. We professionals can tell you what works best or how you should go about something in regards to your baby but in the end, you have to do what works for you and not feel guilty or stressed about it. My managing Editor Abbey McDonald Tiderman guest post below is a great example of this, which I am happy to share with you:
Babies and sleep. It varies so widely from home to home. Some new parents are successful at moving their infants into their own room and crib just a few weeks after birth, some have them in a crib in mom and dad’s room for a while and some keep baby in bed with them for years. My husband and I didn’t come into parenthood with a baby sleep plan. I just assumed after a month or so we’d transfer our little boy into his own room and crib. It didn’t happen. In fact, for the first month our son slept in a Boppy between us in our bed. Then he moved, swaddled in the packn’play next to the bed (but always ended up back between us in the early morning for feedings). Then we tried to keep him in his crib in a separate room around five months. I could go on and on, and depending on whether our son was teething or sick or we had interrupted the schedule we’d established by going away for a few days, he always ended up back in our room, in our bed, between us.
The ironic thing is that since the day he was born I’ve had the privilege of working on The Baby Nurse Bible manuscript written by experienced nurse, lactation consultant and baby expert Carole Arsenault. In her book (and in person to me) she emphasized the importance of creating and sticking to a flexible sleep routine. Throughout my son’s first year, I certainly took in her valuable advice, but had a hard time mustering up energy and patience to implement it. But when my son was about 13 months, I finally said enough’s enough and spent a week really dedicated to creating a concrete bed time and routine for him.
The first night I sat next to his crib and while he cried (this lasted a good 45 minutes!). Second night I moved a little further away from the crib and he cried for about 20 minutes. Third day, the same and so on. By the sixth or seventh night he didn’t cry at all when I put him down and fell asleep quickly. It worked. Now he heads to his bed room by choice when it gets to be that time and sleeps through the night completely in his own room and his own crib! And let me tell you, it’s WONDERFUL.
Carole had given me the best advice about baby care along the way with my son. She was there for every question I had (and some of those were ultimately included in the book!) But when it comes to sleep, parents tend to have to do what they can with their circumstances. If one or both parents are working there needs to be some sort of calm during the night. If that means bringing baby back into your room and bed for the night, so be it. But if you’re really interested in getting baby on a sleep schedule, it does only take about a week of dedication to it (and Carole describes great methods in her book!). Granted, this all requires patience but it can be extremely worth it for everyone involved. So bottom line, do what works for your family but know that when you’re ready, Carole’s advice will get you there!