Your maternity leave is a magical time – who wouldn’t want weeks of snuggly bliss with their adorable little newborn? But as maternity leave draws to a close, many of us have one pressing thing on our minds:
“How on earth am I going to function at work all day when I’m up with the baby all night?!”
For this reason, many moms are (understandably) focused on how they can help their babies start sleeping well before the transition back to work.
Now, I should point out that it’s not advisable to do real sleep training with your newborn – most babies aren’t ready for that until around 4 months of age. Additionally, it’s key to remember that newborns simply are not capable of sleeping 8-10 hours straight at night, so you definitely don’t want to strive for that. Your newborn will need to wake every few hours and feed in order to grow and thrive and be healthy.
That said, you CAN gently and gradually teach your newborn healthy sleep habits during your maternity leave – habits that will form the foundation for sleeping through the night and long, regular, restorative naps once your baby is a bit older.
3 Ways To Teach Your Baby Healthy Sleep Habits During Maternity Leave
- Build healthy routines that shape your baby’s sleep and feeding times. No newborn is ready for a rigid by-the-clock schedule, but you can build routines that will help shape your baby’s day (and better-prepare him for daycare once you go back to work). The Eat-Play-Sleep routine is a great one, as it allows opportunities for your baby to go into the crib awake for naps at least some of the time (although you shouldn’t strive for that all the time – it’s perfectly fine for you to nurse or rock or hold your baby to sleep most of the time in those first weeks after birth!).
- If you want to work towards your baby falling asleep independently, try gradually fading out your child’s sleep associations. For example, if you usually rock your baby all the way to sleep, try rocking her for 5 minutes less tonight; then, next week, make it 10. Eventually, you will be able to fade out the movement altogether, and just hold your baby until she falls asleep. Note that you don’t have to do this for every nap and every night waking, especially in the beginning.
- Create fixed points in your baby’s schedule. A ‘fixed point’ is simply an activity that happens at roughly the same time (give or take 30 minutes) each day. Slowly introducing fixed points into your newborn’s day is a great way to lay the foundation for a more predictable, clock-based schedule down the road. At first, start with just one fixed point: the start of your baby’s first nap is a great one. Gradually, you can add in the start of the first afternoon nap, and bedtime.
You don’t want to spend your entire maternity leave stressing over your newborn’s sleep, obviously – it’s so much better to simply enjoy your baby, and to savor those precious early weeks. But putting forth even a little effort to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits can pay big dividends down the road, and can set your whole family up for great sleep.