If you have a newborn, you've likely already been here. If you're still expecting, you'll be here soon.
It's easy to walk your way through the check list that causes newborn strife during the day, but at 3 am, it's all about survival. You know this sweet being is fed and dry, but for some reason she just won't.stop.crying. The reasons you THINK she's crying, and the most common reason's why she is actually crying are quite different. I'm going to help you navigate through those murky midnight waters.
Why you think your baby is crying at 3am
- She hates you.
- This isn't your child, the hospital clearly switched her with a quiet baby who sleeps from 7pm-7am.
- She's spoiled.
- Everything is awful.
- The house is one degree too cold. Or maybe one degree too hot. Who touched the thermostat again?!
Real reasons why your baby might be crying
- She's over stimulated.
- Her diaper is wet/dirty (yes, even though you haven't even finished changing the last dirty diaper - this does happen)
- She's over tired.
- She's hungry
- She's going through a growth spurt.
What you can do about it
Cut down the stimulation. This helps ANY time of day at most ages. Are there lights on? Noises from outside? Are you stressed? Create a calm relaxing environment. If you're stressed, your baby can and will feed off of that energy. Try to relax, talk in a soothing voice, hum, sing, be silent. Whatever works for YOU. And if you can't relax, hand her over to a relaxed partner, or lay her in a safe place and walk away while you regroup for a few minutes.
The 5 S's. Harvey Karp is a genius when it comes to calming babies, and it works *almost* every time. 1- Swaddle 2- hold baby on her Side- tummy to tummy with you, on her Stomach, or over your shoulder; baby wearing is wonderful for this, as well as skin to skin. 3-Shush; your baby spent 10 months inside a sack of water, mimicking the sound can have a calming effect. If this works for your baby, a white noise machine will be worth its weight in gold. 4- Swing; again, mimicking the womb is comforting. Rock your baby, sway your baby, or even gently bounce your baby! 5- Sucking on a pacifier, or suckling at the breast are incredibly soothing for babies (and even toddlers)
Stick to a schedule. It may seem counter intuitive, but sleep begets sleep. If your little one is missing a nap time, and then staying up late it's possible she is OVER tired, and it's keeping her from settling down to sleep at night. Look at your schedule and see if something different happened today. Maybe her two hour nap was only 30 minutes. Or maybe she skipped a nap all together. Sticking to a schedule can help tremendously.
Feed her, again. Your baby was eating normally all week, and suddenly wants to eat non stop in the evenings! There's no WAY she's still hungry. Offer, she may surprise you. Baby's stomachs are incredibly small and growth spurts demand extra nutrition.
Recognize growth spurts. You can't change them, but having an idea about what's happening and can help you keep your sanity. I can not recommend The Wonder Weeks enough. It gives you a good map over your babies first year of growth and "mental leaps" when she's learning new things. SO MUCH changes within the first year, and it takes a lot out of her. Even if she's not showing a physical change at the moment (learning to roll over/crawl/etc) she could be going through a mental development such as recognizing patterns or the connection between words and actions. Growth spurts are very physically and mentally demanding. This can cause sleep interruptions, increased appetite, and just over all fussiness. The silver lining is, she's learning something new and will be moving on before you know it.
Ride it out. Sometimes babies just don't sleep. You can read every book out there and it's possible that your baby is like mine and just isn't interested in any of your shenanigans.
The days are long, but the years are short.
I guarantee, there will come a day where you'll barely remember the details of these long nights. It's hard to appreciate them while you're in the thick of it, and that's OKAY! Tomorrow is a new day, do what you need to keep yourself and your baby happy and healthy <3