Hey New Mom, It’s Totally Okay to Nurse Your Newborn to Sleep

Image via Flickr/ sonfotografias

Dear New Mom: Congratulations on that baby of yours! She sure is beautiful! Isn’t it amazing how your newborn baby can convey a full range of emotions in the blink of an eye just by scrunching and unscrunching her little face? I bet that right now you’re pretty tired. Like, shockingly tired. Like, I-know-everyone-said-babies-are-exhausting-but-I-didn’t-know-they-were-this-exhausting tired. 

Newborn babies are fantastic snuggling partners and wonderful entertainment. But they also have pretty high needs when it comes to the whole sleep thing. If you have a typical baby, she’s probably eating every other hour or so. And between feeding, changing, and soothing her back to sleep, you’re probably not finding much time to rest. This, as it would anyone, is probably stressing you out. You’ve got a lot on your plate right now. You’re learning how to care for a newborn on the fly and doing your best to figure out who the little person you’ve been gifted really is. 

{ MORE: 5 Tips for Dealing with Engorgement }

In addition to taking care of your baby, you’re probably still recovering from delivery and hoping each day that this one will feel a little more normal than the last. It’s a lot. Right now, in the early days of motherhood, there’s a lot you need. A hot meal, someone to hold the baby while you shower, clean laundry, and a stocked pantry to start. But there’s one thing you ABSOLUTELY don’t need right now and that, new mom, is the weight of bad newborn sleep advice. 

Bad sleep advice comes in many forms. It’s the family member who claims her baby was sleeping through the night at a week old because she knew what she was doing. Or the aunt on Facebook who’s constantly tagging you in articles about how you shouldn’t spoil your baby by rocking them to sleep. It’s the friend who drops by and advises you to let your baby cry in her crib so she’ll learn to go to sleep on her own. And the countless articles you can find online that go back and forth on whether cry-it-out leaves babies emotionally scarred or not. 

The thing about bad sleep advice is that even when you KNOW it’s bad advice there’s a tiny (or maybe not that tiny) voice in your head that wonders, are they right? AM I screwing this whole parenting thing up? Will my baby demand to nurse to sleep every night until the second grade if I don’t cut her off now? So, new mom, in the interest of helping you to calm your talkative inner voice and affirming that you’re not, in fact, screwing this parenting thing up, let me clear a few things up.

 • Newborn babies are not supposed to sleep through the night.

• Most newborn babies need to eat about every other hour.

• Lots of newborns need to eat more frequently than every other hour.

• Your baby is not developing ANY habits right now. 

• Normal newborn babies crave touch and warmth. You can, and should, rock, sway, nurse, or cuddle your baby to sleep.

• Until now, your baby has slept in a warm, dark, swaying place; it feels weird to be out of that warm, dark, swaying place. 

• Newborn babies cry a lot sometimes, especially at night.

• Just because your baby slept five hours last night and then only two tonight doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. 

• Nursing your newborn to sleep will NOT result in a toddler who doesn’t know how to self-soothe. 

• You cannot spoil a baby by holding it too much. 

• There is no such thing as a spoiled baby! 

So new mom, if the days are hard and the nights are harder take comfort in the fact that you are doing your very best and that you're completely and totally NOT screwing up when it comes to getting your baby to sleep. And, as if you haven’t already heard it a million times, remember, this too shall pass. 

{ MORE: What to Do About Nursing Strikes }

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Hey New Mom, It’s Totally Okay to Nurse Your Newborn to Sleep

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More

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