Infant Sleep Strategies for the Exhausted Mom

infant sleep strategies

How can you help your baby sleep through the night so you can get some extra shut-eye?

In those carefree days before the baby arrived, sleep deprivation meant a few nights before finals or an epic house party. After baby? Well, you didn’t even know you could function on this little sleep. Even worse, nursing moms are supposed to limit their coffee intake so you’re sipping orange juice instead. Just getting dressed is hard enough and you’ve falling asleep during class or your shift at work. As you fight through another yawn, remember that moms are superheroes – and try one of these super easy techniques to help your baby sleep an extra hour or two.


Practice Safe Sleep

The first step toward helping your baby sleep during the night is to provide a safe environment. In the State of Michigan, there are approximately 100 deaths each year caused by unsafe sleeping conditions. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against co-sleeping in a family bed, since statistics show that nearly 50% of SIDS deaths occur in bed sharing situations.

ArborWoman works with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office to provide a Safe Sleep Care Program. Through it, we educate young families in safe sleeping techniques, and offer resources such as a Pack n’ Play, firm mattress, fitted crib sheets, and other infant resources.


Gentle Sleep-Training

Some mom-blogs and parenting books make sleep training sound frightening, even dangerous. Despite the controversy though, sleep training is really just establishing a sleep routine for your child so that baby learns to self-soothe. This doesn’t mean you have to leave him to cry for hours. It takes patience to create a gentle sleep routine, but it can be well-worth the effort.

Think about the evening routine that works best for you, and for your baby if you’ve noticed his preferences. Use what you’ve observed to spend a few weeks helping your baby fall asleep on his own. It’s usually best to pick a set bedtime, when baby is sleepy but not overtired. Then establish some soothing pre-bed rituals, like a special blanket, a last feeding, and a peaceful setting on the sound machine. Lay baby down in his own crib while he’s drowsy but still awake.

Your child might not want to fall asleep on his own in the crib. Stay nearby and don’t let him become hysterical. If he cries, repeat the soothing process, and then right before he falls asleep, lay him down again.  Once he can fall asleep without you, he may even roll over and go back to sleep after some of those 1 am wakings.


Use Your Lifelines!

Nobody can take your place as mom, but someone can always take your place for the night. If you really can’t stand another night shift, ask someone to take a turn while you catch a few hours of sleep. Your best friend or mom might be glad to help, especially if you explain how much you would appreciate their effort and involvement. And remember that the public library is a great resource for parenting books, including books on helping your baby sleep longer and better, like The Happiest Baby On the Block by Harvey Karp.

If baby keeps on waking? Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that every child is different and this is not your fault, even if that other mom said her little angel slept eight hours per night immediately. Eventually even the most stubborn night owl will grow up and learn to sleep (or at least stop nursing so you can drink coffee again

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.