The first few weeks with a newborn can be overwhelming! Who ever thought that this tiny little person could take up all of your time, day and night? A typical day for me with my 7.5 lbs baby girl mostly consisted of breastfeeding every 1-2 hours of the day, and 2-3 hours at night, and the rest of the time Sue was taking short naps while I got a shower in. Do not try to do anything with a newborn, recover from the birth, no matter what you went through, if it was a normal birth or a cesarean, be kind on yourself. I could not be on my feet for more than 15 minutes at a time for two weeks after Sue’s birth, my incision scar hurt so terribly. Your body just went through the most amazing thing it will ever do, and it needs to recover. Soak up those first few weeks with your very fragile and dependent little one. Cuddle, sleep, breastfeed and watch old movies. A huge blessing to us was that my mother in law brought us a crockpot full of goodies every night, and after a month, our friends from church brought us dinners. It was a special time of bonding with my baby.
So, how do you get sleep with a newborn that needs to nurse every 2-3 hours? I tried the typical method for the first three weeks, of having baby sleep close to me in a side sleeper but not co-sleeping. We used the Summer Infant by Your Side Sleeper. I could see her, hear her and touch her, and this is a great option if you do not feel comfortable with co-sleeping. But the drawback is that I still had to sit up to nurse her, and that woke me and her up fully. One of the problems with baby waking up fully is getting her back down to sleep, the second is, when you are fully awake, your body is capable of having a bowel movement. If you keep baby as asleep as possible, the possibility for a bowel movement decreases, and if her skin is not sensitive, you could go a few hours without changing her diaper. But since I was waking up fully, I carried Sue to the nursery to feed her there. We were both wide awake and would sit there for an hour or so, until she fell asleep again and I ever so gently carried her back to her side sleeper next to me. I remember reading online articles and chatting with fellow mommies who were up at midnight, 2:10 am, 3:45 am and 5:35 am.
After three weeks of broken sleep I took her out of her sleeper and just laid her next to me, where she nursed at 3:35 am. I fell asleep and forgot to put her back in the sleeper. I woke up a few hours later with her snuggling against me and she looked so happy. I actually got 4 hours of somewhat unbroken sleep! My husband was startled when he saw her next to me and told me to be careful. But after this happened a few more times, we both grew comfortable with it.
Around the 7th month of pregnancy my belly was so big that turning to my other side woke me up as I could not do it in my sleep. I strongly feel this prepared me for sleeping with Sue. I was so used to laying still on one side for hours and not moving when I sleep, that when Sue came into the picture, it was as if I still had the huge belly that prevented me from moving. Additionally, as a mommy you have a special mommy radar that tells your body your baby is next to you. But as always, if you do decide to co-sleep, do so safely. Don’t smoke, don’t drink in excess, don’t cover baby up with heavy blankets and ensure you have a bed rail.
Co-sleeping allowed me to sleep through the night with a newborn! Our sleep cycles came in tune with each other and when she roused a bit, I would let her nurse and I’d quickly fall asleep again. I was probably awake for a total of 15 minutes during the night, 3-4 minutes each time she needed to nurse. This was pretty much my schedule when I was pregnant too, getting up a few times a night to go to the bathroom. It is wonderful how God prepares our bodies for this little person, even before they are born we already have to get used to interrupted and uncomfortable sleep.
We co-slept until Sue was 11 months old and I wanted to night wean her so I could face pregnancy again. Additionally, at 11 months she was almost 25 lbs and very active at night, so not only was she nursing, but also now kicking and rolling and moving constantly. Selfishly, that was another reason why I decided I was ready for the transition of her out of our bed. But I will do it all again with my next baby. I truly enjoyed co-sleeping and the benefits are countless to both mommy and baby!