Baby sleep: 7 tips for surviving the first few months

The first few months of motherhood can make you feel like you're the unwitting victim of a sleep-deprivation experiment.

The common advice is to sleep when the baby's sleeping, but that only works if your idea of getting rest is sleeping for two hours at a time and giving up all your other responsibilities.

»RELATED: 9 common infant illnesses (and when to worry)

When your baby finally starts sleeping through the night, you'll wonder how you survived so long without your normal amount of sleep. In the meantime, these seven tips will help you survive the first few months:

Keep the lights low

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When you're getting up at nighttime to feed your baby, Today's Parent recommends that you refrain from turning on the overhead light or a lamp. Instead, use a battery-powered LED nightlight that you can stick where you need it. Your body associates bright light with waking up and avoiding it can help you - and your baby - drift back to sleep more easily after a feeding.

Cut down on caffeine

Caffeine can certainly give you a boost and you may feel like you can't make it through the day without the help of some coffee or soda, but if you're breastfeeding, you should remember that it doesn't only have a stimulating effect on you. Your baby is also getting a dose of caffeine, and it stays in the baby's system much longer compared to yours – about 96 hours, according to Parents.com.

Share a room

For the first six to 12 months, your baby may sleep better in the same room as you. This allows your baby to feel secure, which helps him or her regulate breathing, temperature and nervous center reactions, according to The Bump. It also makes it more convenient for you to feed your baby and get back to bed quickly. But, as The Bump cautions, while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends same-room sleeping, you should avoid bed-sharing for safety reasons.

Use soothing sounds

Household noises, car sounds and other distractions can keep your baby from falling asleep and they can unexpectedly wake them up. A white noise machine may be able to help them sleep better by providing a constant, consistent sound that soon becomes associated with sleep, suggests The Bump. After all, your baby was surrounded by the consistent sound of whooshing blood while in the womb. Consider getting a portable machine so you can use it away from home.

Get some help

The first few months of a baby's life are definitely a blessing, but they're also exhausting. Parents today are often more isolated than they used to be, so don't be afraid to ask for help from your co-parent, family or friends so you can get some much-needed rest, Dr. Harvey Karp tells People. Your helper can keep your baby happily occupied while you take a nap, or, if you're bottle-feeding with formula or pumped breast milk, your co-parent can share feeding duties.

Be consistent

Babies' brains store sequences that become patterns, so if you can establish a consistent bedtime routine with elements like bathing, nursing and a lullaby, your baby will expect sleep to follow, according to AskDrSears. If your work schedule makes a late afternoon nap and later bedtime more practical, that's fine, but try to keep the pattern consistent.

»RELATED: More parenting news from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Skip some middle-of-the-night steps

It's OK to skip a diaper change after a nighttime feeding if it isn't soaked through or soiled, or if your child doesn't have a diaper rash or sensitive skin, Dr. Michael Cohen told Parents.com. Instead, use absorbent nighttime diapers and thick diaper cream to protect your baby's skin. He also says you may be able to skip burping at night, especially if you breastfeed, as most babies nurse less avidly at night.

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