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You know you're in a good groove when your day goes like this: The baby takes a long morning nap and you have time to shower and read the paper. You get to have coffee with a friend while the baby gurgles happily in her stroller beside you. Later in the day you play with the baby while she gets “tummy time.” By 7 p.m., she’s down for the night.
Sound like a dream? It probably is. For most new moms it goes more like this: You wake up tired. You rush to get to baby-music class, but your child just wants to sleep. She cries and rubs her eyes all afternoon, but you can’t get her to nap. You never quite get that shower, and the dishes keep piling up in the sink. By evening you’re both in tears.
The first six weeks are bumpy for everyone as mom and baby find their way. Rest, pay attention to your baby’s natural patterns, and then make plans
Take advantage of naps
It can’t be said enough: Being a new mom is really tiring. And since you likely won’t be getting much sleep at night (most newborns need to eat every two hours or so), it’s important to rest as much as you can during the day. That means sleeping when the baby sleeps.
Believe it or not, most babies do sleep—a lot. It just tends to happen in spurts. “Babies can sleep all day in two-hour spurts, nurse for 15 minutes, and then go back to sleep,” says Santa Monica, Calif., pediatrician Jay Gordon, M.D. In fact, on average, newborns sleep 20 hours a day in the first six weeks. But remember that that’s an average. “Babies are individuals,” Gordon says. “Some babies start taking two naps at 2 months of age, other babies fall into that pattern at 5 months or older.” In other words, in the first weeks, you can’t predict when your baby will sleep.
Don’t try to enforce a sleep schedule on a baby, Gordon says. Rather, let the baby find her own rhythm and then go with it. “The worst kind of sleeplessness is when parents don’t use this sleep time to their advantage,” he says.
Find a feeding rhythm
Your routine will have to be worked around when your newborn feeds—about every two hours for the first six weeks. For instance, if you want to take a shower, try timing it after one of the morning feedings when your baby is relaxed and comfortable. You can place her in a bouncy seat next to the shower door or take her in the shower with you.
Speaking of feeding, you’ll want to set up a comfortable nursing spot: Use a cozy chair and place a side table nearby to hold burp cloths and a glass of water. Avoid talking on the phone when you feed your baby. Instead, gaze into her eyes, stroke her body and give over to this peaceful time together.