The first six months of your baby’s life might be the hardest of your life. You’ll worry about the amount of money your spending, about the decreased alone time you have with your spouse, and your utter exhaustion at the end of every day that keeps you from doing the things you really love. In many ways, these problems won’t end until your little one leaves for college, but the first few months in particular are difficult because they are a period of adjustment for everyone. On top of all that, you’ll be getting less sleep than ever before. Without a doubt, your baby will be waking you up at the ungodly hours you haven’t seen in decades. No matter how structured you try to make your baby’s schedule, his sleep patterns will defy it. Unfortunately, this is just one of those baby traits you’ll have to grin and bear. Research shows that it’s a result of shorter sleep schedules.

When we sleep as adults, our bodies work on a circadian rhythm. This rhythm is first dictated by our internal and instinctive reaction to light and dark, but it is also based on the need to sleep, so we can sleep when it’s light out if our bodies need it enough. Babies do not develop this rhythm until they are least six weeks old. Even when they fall asleep, they dream immediately and continue for up to thirty minutes, and those dreams might even wake them. Adults don’t dream until it’s near morning even though dreams sometimes feel like they are hours long. You might think that your baby is sleeping and waking up randomly, but in actuality, he is slowly developing a rhythm. Unfortunately, his sleep patterns will be nothing like yours for quite some time. However, if you know this in advance, it will make the whole process easier, and you should try to sneak in naps whenever you can.

If you’re having a baby, consider assigning “emergency” babysitters. These will be the people you call when you and your partner have had absolutely no sleep for a night or two and you simply cannot bear to stay awake long enough to care for your bundle of restless joy. By sharing the burden of sleeplessness, you’ll be able to at least get enough rest for those first few months until your baby can sleep through the night.

Source: Avi Sadeh et al: Parenting and Infant Sleep. Sleep Medicine Review Volume 14 Issue 2 pp. 89-96 April 2010

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