Parenting

How to Get a Good Night's Sleep with a New Baby

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Babies don’t manipulate you, they need you. There’s a sweet balance all mothers have to find in the midst of nurturing a newborn and surviving those early months.

Somewhere along the line of our modern world, anticipating a new arrival transformed into decorating a nursery and buying a crib, a carrier, and a vast amount of baby paraphernalia. All of these hinge on learning the sex of the baby long before he makes his grand entrance.

None of these things are bad. What we don’t anticipate with near as much thought are the actual needs of a baby and new mother.

With all of the changes going on in your body, combined with sleepless nights, before you know it you’re searching Amazon for the secret to a good night’s sleep.

That’s what good babies do, right? They sleep all night long in their own cribs in the newly decorated nursery. Or, are your instincts screaming something different?

Before you answer that, I think it’s important to understand exactly what is going on with a newborn before you try to fix it.

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. writes at Psychology Today

The neuroscience secret that will guide you to trust your instincts’ scientific validity is this: your baby’s brain is largely unfinished at birth, with brain cell connections forming at the speed of 1.8 million per second throughout the first year. These rapidly forming brain-cell connections shape structures of critical significance, particularly in the right hemisphere, which is predictive of future mental health. The emotional processing and social parts of the brain form first in infancy. These circuits hold elements of our very humanness—the ability to sense others’ intentions and feelings, to feel empathy and compassion, and ultimately, to thrive in intimate relationships, etc. And all of this development happens in direct response to your loving interaction with your baby. Because of this responsivity dance, you never want to stifle communication through behavioral conditioning. 

In a very real way, your baby’s brain is in the process of developing his emotional connection and communication with you. That doesn’t stop at night. Babies aren’t wired to sleep all through the night in isolation for hours without food or touch. Truth is, we adults wake up all through the night as well. We just don’t panic over it.

When your baby is born, he simply moves from your womb to your arms. The secret to both of you getting the rest you need is meeting his needs. Sleeping in the same room as your baby, also known as co-sleeping, is one of the best ways to remain attentive to your baby all through the night. If you’re not medicated and stay sober, sleeping with your nursing infant is the best way for both of you to get the sleep you both want and need.

I love the term “responsivity dance.” That’s exactly what happens. Soon your body and his will sync intuitively. One morning you’ll wake after a good night’s sleep to find your baby contentedly sleeping with his mother’s milk rolling down his chin.