By Caroline Conneen
Have you read any baby books lately? A good number of them have been tackling a very hot topic for tired parents of newborns: when to sleep, when to eat, and when to play...that is, for the baby, not for you.
Over the past several years there has been a growing trend of firm believers in the "feed, play, sleep" cycle for infants. Advocates recommend feeding baby upon waking, playing with baby for a while, and then some time to allow her to self-soothe to sleep. While this may work well at times for some infants as they grow, it definitely will feel counterintuitive to what your newborn will want to do.
What is more likely to feel natural for the first several months is a "sleep, play, feed" cycle. This has real life usefulness for teaching a baby night from day, but by no means will put an infant on a schedule. Babies are changing and growing so rapidly in the first year of life, and especially in the first 6 months, that you can expect a lot of unpredictable feeding and sleep patterns.
When your baby wakes during the day, even if the baby is fussing, avoid putting the baby straight on the breast. Instead, spend a few moments interacting with her or making some of the routine infant care tasks part of a special time. Smile at your baby, kiss your baby, sing a silly song, or teach your baby body parts during bath time. Just holding your baby can be soothing for both of you. Playing will put your baby in a calm alert state and make her feel loved. Once your baby's social and emotional needs have been met, then offer the breast. You will find that your baby is likely to breastfeed so much better after having time to interact with you first. After breastfeeding, your newborn will likely be asleep or drowsy. Transfer your baby to their place of sleep, safe and sound until the next wakeful time.
When baby wakes up in the middle of the night, keep the feedings boring. Minimize eye contact, use only as much light as you need, and put the baby back to sleep after the feeding. The same infant that is sleeping through most of the night at 6 weeks is likely to be waking a couple of times a night at 4 months. This is completely normal because of the developmental growth spurt that is occurring.
It is much less important for you to be figuring out all of the reasons for your infant's behavior than it is for you to learn to relax and go with the flow. There is something about becoming a parent that really does turn your world upside down. Just try to enjoy the coaster ride without falling off. The thrill is worth it in the end.