I woke up this morning with so many wonderful intentions for the day. I made breakfast, did the dishes, started packing for our trip, made a grocery list, and right before we were getting ready to leave for the market, Harper decided it was time for a nap. I had tried to put her down a few times before but she wasn’t having it. So I wasn’t surprised that she was a bit overdue for some Zzzzzs. I was a little tired myself so I decided to lie down with her and fell asleep. Four hours later!!! This was a record. Harper has never napped this long in her short little life. I guess she (we) really needed the sleep! So our day really didn’t get started until about 4pm. Which kind of negated any of my plans to cook, but I’m happy with chicken chili leftovers…mmmmm :)
Ever since Harper was born, we didn’t find it necessary to put her on an eating or sleeping schedule. What we found worked best for us was to be in tune with and follow her cues. Eventually she had formed her own sleeping and eating patterns. This approach works best for us because then we are never fighting with her to go to sleep or forcing her to eat when she isn’t ready. She eats when she’s hungry and sleeps when she’s tired. It makes for a very happy family.
Because we aren’t working off a specific schedule, we go about our day and do what we have to do with Harper in tow. The great thing about breastfeeding is that it is portable. So I never have to worry about running out of food. I am comfortable feeding Harper wherever we go. Whenever she is ready to eat, I am ready to feed her.
Along the same lines, we are lucky that Harper is able and willing to sleep wherever we are. Her favorite spot is on her daddy’s shoulder but she also loves to sleep in her carrier. She gets the best rest at home in our bed, so our preference is that we can get her to sleep before or after we go out, but in the case that she gets tired while she is out, she gets adequate naps on the go as well.
For Harper’s nap and bedtime routine, she usually likes to nurse herself to sleep. However, there have been plenty of times where she has nursed and then decided she was going to put herself to sleep by sucking on her hand or singing to herself. Lately, she has wanted her dad to put her to sleep. He will usually bounce her around the room patting her back, with her head rested on his shoulder while singing to her. Once she is asleep he puts her onto the bed and lies with her for a little while until she is completely out. Sometimes her best sleep is when her dad puts her to bed.
When it comes to sleeping through the night, Harper got the hang of this early on. However, I have always fed her 2-3 times during the night. She never really wakes up but she starts to stir and will be rooting around looking for food. As long as I get her to latch before she wakes up, she eats and is back to sleep in no time. This is a huge benefit of co-sleeping. The less hustle and bustle that occurs around a nighttime feeding, the more successful we have been at getting Harper to sleep for long stretches at a time.
I believe it is important to continue to nurse Harper when she wakes throughout the night. Breast milk is natures perfect food and therefore digests very easily. As growing and developing little babies, they need as much nourishment as their bodies can get. When babies are asleep their bodies are working overtime and therefore they require sustenance to keep the fires burning.
Sleep is always a hot topic with new parents. Getting used to being more flexible with your sleep schedule is the biggest adjustment of having a newborn. There are many different approaches to teaching our little ones how to sleep and stay asleep. As a mom who subscribes to the theories of attachment parenting, I have found Dr. Sears’ approach to sleep the most helpful. Here is a great link that offers some suggestions on how to help your baby get the best rest.
At the end of the day, it is essential to remember that when it comes to babies, everything is a phase. As soon as you think you have your little one figured out, they change and grow and you are back at square one. The biggest lesson I have learned is to just go with the flow and be patient. They are only little for a short time so do your best to savor each moment, even the sleepless ones. And if you get the chance, take a break and lie down with them for a snooze once in a while. Getting in some cuddle time with your baby is the best feeling in the world!