I was three weeks into being a new mom when I became convinced that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was conducting an evil experiment on sleep deprivation. Just about all the ways that my daughter naturally wanted to sleep—lying on her stomach, or in our bed, or on me—were forbidden in the AAP guidelines on how to reduce the risk of SIDS. Then the organization came out with new advice to not use weighted swaddles—one of the only things that actually got her to sleep on her back alone in the bassinet.
I swear I could feel the dark circles under my eyes growing an even deeper shade of purple.
I love sleeping—always have. When I got pregnant, one of my biggest fears was how I’d get by without my typical nine, sometimes 10 hours. (I know! Like I said, I love sleep.) Was there any way I could hack my way into a reasonable amount of shut-eye with a newborn?
My first two nights with a baby were a, well, wake-up call. I got a total of about one hour each night, broken up into 15- to 30-minute naps I was able to sneak in between cluster feedings. Even when she’d fall asleep on me after eating, any time I’d go to put her down in the bassinet, she’d let loose screams so loud that they’d send our dog hiding under the bed.
I needed serious help. So I set out on a mission to discover anything that would put her—and me—to sleep. These are the eight that have worked best so far.
A magic bassinet
The biggest game-changer by far has been the SNOO. Invented by pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of the best-selling book The Happiest Baby on the Block, this robotic bassinet calms a baby with swaddling, gentle rocking, and white noise, then responds to any fussiness by incrementally increasing that rocking and noise to lull them to sleep.
It took some nights before I got used to letting her whimper for a little while until the SNOO quieted her down. But once I got the hang of which cries needed my attention and which I could let the SNOO handle, we finally had something we could put her down in that wasn’t my chest or our bed. Aside from rocking her to sleep (and back to sleep), one of the most helpful parts of the SNOO is the app’s tracking feature, which lets me quickly check how long she’s slept and when she last got up to make sure we're keeping the right wake windows and not letting her nap too long during the day.
A soft nursing nightgown
Although I’ve never been a nightgown person, a friend had warned me that I might want one after giving birth. She was right—throwing on Kindred Bravely’s Lucille Maternity and Nursing Nightgown felt much easier than trying to deal with shorts or pants during those early postpartum recovery days. It continues to keep me warm and comfortable while breastfeeding at night, with easy access to snap off the top to nurse. And the soft cotton feels so soothing on sore, sensitive nipples.
I will admit: The lace-y, plunging neckline gives it more MILF vibes than I’d anticipated—I’m not exactly comfortable saying "hi" to the neighbors while wearing it. (I probably should have chosen a color other than black.) And the lace has fuzzed up after getting caught in diaper velcro multiple times. But—and this was especially true in those early days of leaking boobs and Depends disposable underwear—I've appreciated wearing something that makes me feel feminine again.
A solid bedtime routine
Most sleep consultants agree that newborns aren’t yet ready for a strict “sleep schedule.” But you can start a bedtime routine pretty much right away to help them get the hint that it’s time to go to quiet down for the night.
“The biggest thing about a bedtime routine is really to just help them make that transition between daytime and nighttime,” says sleep consultant Cara Walker of Well Rested Mama.
Our routine is short, but it does the trick:
- Take off her daytime clothes.
- Feed her a dropperful of vitamin D.
- Give her a bath with Mustela Cleansing Gel and Foam Shampoo, or just a gentle wipe-down using Mustela Micellar Water.
- If she’s calm enough, I’ll give her a mini baby massage with Mustela’s Multi-Purpose Balm with 3 Avocado Extracts (and usually steal some for myself because it smells so good). Otherwise, it’s straight to a fresh diaper and PJs, then cuddles and lullabies.
I'm sure this one seems obvious to any veteran parent, but during those first few weeks we kept forgetting that using a pacifier was an option until we were at a breaking point. Eventually, we realized this tried-and-true parent hack helps her self-soothe. We were given a few different pacifiers, so now we keep one everywhere we put her down—the bassinet, the car seat/stroller, the bouncer, and the travel bassinet we keep in the living room. We've found the best to be from Nanobebe since it's just the slightest bit lighter and smaller than others, so it stays in her mouth easier.
A comfy eye mask
One of the hardest parts about nursing at night is getting myself to fall back asleep. No matter how tired I am, my brain decides to circle through All The Things every time I lie back down.
Although in pre-baby days, I used to only wear an eye mask to counteract 5 a.m. sunrises, now I've started reaching for one regularly as something of a trigger to signal to my brain that it’s time to wind down again. My go-to is the Manta Sleep Mask. The circular padding around the eye sockets on this keeps any fabric from touching my eyelids or eyelashes. It also, yes, cuts out any daylight, though TBH I wish I had also invested in good blackout curtains since I'm, ahem, not the only one that the light wakes up. Walker highly recommends the Sleepout Portable Blackout Curtains.
A morning walk
Apparently, newborns come into this world somewhat nocturnal—they’re used to sleeping during the day in the womb when mom’s movement rocks them to sleep, and then staying up at night when she's still. To bring our little night owl closer to our schedule, I've found daylight to be hugely helpful, especially if I can get it in first thing. During maternity leave, I took her on hour- or two-long walks every morning after breakfast.
My favorite way was to strap her into the Ergobaby Omni 360. Out of the three baby carriers I was given, I've found this one keeps her close to me (her happy place) with plenty of head support, so once she gets tired of looking around, she can happily nap away. I appreciate the multiple pockets to stash my phone, mask, and wallet, plus a sun hat for her. Most crucially, the lumbar support band keeps the pack from hurting my back on our longer adventures. And with many adjustable straps and snaps, it even lets me breastfeed safely right in the carrier, which I managed one evening when we were out hiking and were cutting it too close to sunset to stop for a feed.
A light projector
This one didn’t come in handy for a few weeks, until her vision was developed enough. But now that she can see more than a foot in front of her, one of her favorite things to look at is lights. PureBaby's Sound Sleepers Sound Machine and Star Projector puts on a half-hour light show of stars on the ceiling right above the bassinet, keeping her just occupied enough to prevent boredom if she’s ready to wake up before we are, or if I want to put her down before she’s totally drowsy. We only use it every once in a while, but when we do, I’m very glad for it.
A connected baby monitor
Despite always assuming I’d be pretty chill as a parent, I've turned out to be the exact opposite. During those first couple of weeks, every time I put her down for a nap, I stayed in the room “just in case.” Which ended up leaving me with a laundry list of things I didn't get done that my brain loved to circle through at night.
Once we got the Hubble Connected Nursery Pal Premium baby monitor set up, nap times became an actual break for me. I like that I can move the camera remotely, or even peek at the feed from my phone. I also appreciate that the monitor always tells us the temperature in the room, which was helpful during multiple heat waves this summer when the bedroom crept up to 90 degrees whenever the A/C wasn't blasting.
The parent unit doubles as an interactive tablet with pre-loaded games, videos, and stories you can use as entertainment when baby gets older.
Now that we’re three months in, I now officially no longer have a “newborn” but an “infant.” And every once in a while, she lets us all get up to six hours of sleep at a time. But I’m still very much keeping every one of these things in my arsenal to get as many Zzzzs as we possibly can.
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