Surviving the Newborn Sleep Survival Mode
I diligently read all of your pregnancy calendar and I loved it! Now I have a one month old daughter who is pretty much perfect except for one thing.
She only sleeps if she is being held or at the very least next to me or my husband. That means during the day while my husband is at work, she’s with me on the couch all day. We have a pack and play in the living room that’s supposed to be her nap space but if I put her there, I normally get maybe 10 minutes before she starts to cry.
At night, my husband stays up with her while I sleep for a of couple hours. When he comes to bed and puts her in the bassinet next to me, we again only have a few minutes until she wakes up. I’ve been sleeping on the couch with her nearly every night. I know that’s really unsafe but I don’t know what else to do. We can’t put her in bed with us because we have a big dog and I’m worried the dog might hurt her on accident.
At one month in, you are in full-on, whatever-it-takes survival mode.
That means…pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You get as much sleep as possible, whenever (and wherever) possible. You feed your baby. You change her diapers. You feed yourself and try to stay hydrated. Showers are a bonus, as is a load of laundry. At the end of the day, if everybody is alive, you did it! That’s a successful day! Even if you never really got off the couch.
Obviously, there are limits, particularly around sleep safety.
Just because you realize your baby sleeps better on their stomach does NOT mean you go ahead and let them sleep on their stomach. You don’t just plop your baby in the middle of a bed covered in loose blankets and pillows and call it proper co-sleeping. And yeah, sleeping with her all night on the couch isn’t great either. (There’s a high risk of falls or the baby getting wedged or smothered in the cushions.)
So what else? Where else?
Most newborns do sleep a little better when they aren’t flat on their backs, and your daughter is definitely not the first to reject the pack-n-play. And since a one-month-old isn’t going to be sleeping for very long stretches No Matter What or Where, things like swings and carseats are perfectly fine alternatives for now, for a little while longer. I have so many memories of all kinds of Creative Napping Solutions — dragging swings and bouncy seats into the bathroom and turning the faucet or shower on! A swing frame that our infant carseat snapped onto so I could extend the sleep-inducing magic of a car ride around the block! Manually rocking the carseat with my foot while folding laundry. Pushing a stroller back and forth with one hand while I laid on the couch, completely wiped. And swaddling. So much straitjacket-style swaddling.
And while this won’t get you any additional sleep, if you DO want to feel a little less couch-bound and productive during the day, I highly recommend trying a few babywearing options (slings, wraps, carriers, etc.) and see if any of them satisfy your daughter’s desire for constant closeness. My third baby was just like her, but since I had a toddler and a preschooler to also keep alive, I basically kept him strapped to my body all day until I could hand him off to my husband for a few hours. He didn’t cry, he had easy boob access, AND I had the use of both arms! What a luxury.
We still haven’t brainstormed an overnight solution for you, I know.
I did co-sleep with my newborns, usually for the first 8 to 12 weeks. (Here’s a guide on how to co-sleep safely.) Since a one-month-old is entirely too young to be sleep-trained, I wonder if you could think about crate-training your dog? (I swear, it’s not cruel! My dogs love their cozy crates and I love having them not on my bed or being otherwise overly anxious/high-strung/destructive when we’re not home.) Or could you offer him an alternative sleep location, just for the next month or two?
Could your husband take the dog out of your room and sleep on the couch instead? That would probably be my top suggestion since while sleeping on the couch might not get him the most optimal night’s rest…it’s at least a safe space for an adult human to sleep. The couch is NOT safe for you and the baby no matter what you do or try, while your bed can at least be made into a safe space with some tweaks/caveats. (Here are some more do’s/don’t on co-sleeping safely.)
If getting your dog and/or your husband out of your bed aren’t viable options, I’d go ahead and buy an inexpensive twin mattress for the floor of her nursery. That might seem a little dramatic for such a short window of time, but your email subject line said it correctly: I need to sleep too! (You can always save it for when she transitions from the crib to a real bed, and it might come in handy during sleep training if you prefer a more gradual/gentle extinction style.)
But remember, this WILL pass. You’re in the foggy, hazy early days and she’ll change and grow SO MUCH over the next few weeks and months. (So be prepared that what works right now might not work for very long.) But she will sleep, and so will you, again, at some point. Just do what you gotta do for now. Just safely.