The Battle for Sleep
Reportedly, one of the most effective means of torturing people is through sleep deprivation. This method is used, for instance, by combatants during wartime. To obtain information from a reluctant-to-talk prisoner of war, interrogators change and disrupt his sleep schedule, turning day into night and night into day. He becomes disoriented and more dependent on his captors and, it is thought, more willing to spill the beans to them.
As the father of a newborn, you may feel a little like a prisoner of war being subjected to sleep deprivation techniques. You stagger around bleary-eyed and yawning uncontrollably. By the middle of the afternoon you feel like crawling under your desk or escaping to your car for a long nap. Sleep for a new father is like sex—you are simply not going to get nearly enough of it in the early days after the baby is born.
Baby's Sleep Schedule
One of your prime goals as a new parent will be to get your baby on the same sleep schedule as you. In other words, you want her to sleep through the night with no wake-ups. Realistically, though, you and your partner may have to endure many sleep-interrupted nights before your child reaches this point.
Some babies begin to sleep through the night almost immediately. You always hate to talk to these parents if you are a new parent and your child wakes up frequently because it is impossible not to feel jealous. These people are bright-eyed and have lots of energy, while you're struggling to keep your eyes open after having woken three times in the middle of the night by your squalling baby.
Nevertheless, you ask them how they did it—how they achieved this miracle of a baby sleeping through the night—and they tell you what works for them. Unfortunately, what worked for them may not work for you. Here are some of the issues that are involved in teaching a baby to sleep through the night:
The age of the baby
Her daily routine
When she takes her naps
How long her naps are
What the baby eats, and how often
Where the baby sleeps (in her bed or with parents)
Whether her parents help her to sleep by rocking or other methods
Generally, by about six months babies begin to sleep through the night, if not sooner. But every child is different. As with so many things having to do with babies, much of this depends on the child. Some babies sleep as contentedly as cats, while others are more restless and stir more often.
Keeping a consistent routine is a vital ingredient in helping teach your baby how to sleep through the night. She needs to do basically the same things at roughly the same time each day. This includes her nighttime schedule. Habit and routine can help teach her when it is time to go to sleep.
Your Sleep Schedule (and Your Partner's)
Doctors and parenting experts like to advise new parents to sleep when their baby sleeps. If the baby is only sleeping for two hours at a time, be sure to grab some rest at those times. Once the baby wakes up, you are going to be in demand again. If you do not rest when you get the chance, you are going to drive yourself to exhaustion and possibly depression.
Your best ally in this regard is your partner, just as you are her best ally. Find an arrangement that works for both of you. If you have to get up in the morning to go to work, let her take the night shift with the baby during the week. On the weekends, reverse roles. You need to exchange baby watching duties so each of you can get breaks and sleep.
If you need to work and cannot get the sleep you need, you may want to consider staying one night a week at a friend's or your parents’ house, if they live nearby. Your overtired partner may also want to consider doing the same—just to get a good night's rest.