I have a personal sleep hierarchy for newborns. I have come to this value system on sleep based on my personal experience and a compilation of things I have read in various sleep books. It is quite simple:
GOAL #1: Baby Sleeps When She Should
My number one goal for newborns and sleep is that they sleep when it is time to sleep. I don't care what it takes for sleep so long as sleep is happening.
If a newborn gets overtired, she isn't going to sleep well, and that isn't going to do anyone any good. She won't be able to put herself to sleep in that state, which just perpetuates a non-sleep cycle. She also won't eat well if she is tired, which isn't healthy. Plus, sleep is important.
So the most important thing is that baby is sleeping when it is time to sleep.
GOAL #2: Baby Sleeps When She Should, In Her Own Bed
Of course, there are risks and problems with baby sleeping at all costs. A major problem in my mind with baby sleeping in a swing or in a sling is that sleep while in motion is not as restorative as stationery sleep. So if you do use motion to get baby to sleep, it is best to have the nap take place in a stationery place, like her own bed. Weissbluth suggests if you have baby fall asleep in a swing that you turn the swing off once she is asleep. Stationary sleep is far superior to sleep while in motion. Sleep while in motion does not allow the body to get into as deep of sleep.
So, even better than baby sleeping when she should is baby sleeping in her bed.
GOAL #3: Baby Sleeps When She Should, In Her Own Bed, and Falls Asleep On Her Own
The ultimate goal is to have your child sleep when she should, in her bed, and fall asleep on her own. This is what is going to get her the most benefits from sleeping. Another risk of having baby sleep at all costs is starting bad habits--like being unable to fall asleep unless she is in a swing. This goal is the best case scenario--this is what you are striving for.
But goal three shouldn't completely replace goal one. For a newborn, sleeping is most important. So if you put her down in her bed awake and she has a hard time falling asleep, my thinking is it is best to help her fall asleep so you can try again next time. Odds are she is having a hard time falling asleep because she is over tired or over stimulated. If you help her fall asleep, you can try again next nap to get the timing right. If not, she will be overly tired perpetually.
I definitely understand the desire to avoid sleep problems down the road. Start as you mean to go on! McKenna went to sleep on her own for every nap and bedtime starting at three days old. Without crying, but I didn't know for sure she would do that the first time I put her down. Yes, I highly value good habits from the start.
Part of that is because I allowed and started bad habits with Brayden from the start. When we finally went to CIO with him, he had a hard time because he wasn't just learning how to sleep on his own, he was unlearning all of these props he had been supplied with. Of all my kids, he had the hardest run with CIO--the most intense crying. It took him the longest to get it. I do believe if you can get them in the right habits from the beginning, it will be easier on them in the long run.
But you have time to work on things in the future. This is my newborn sleep hierarchy; a sleep hierarchy and my practices would be different for babies 3 months and older. But for the newborn, it sleep is the most important goal right now. It is a fine balancing act between establishing good habits and allowing for sleep. It is one you will likely stumble on along the way--especially your first time around. But you can get it. Try your best to not stress about it. If your baby needs help falling asleep, there is always the next nap. So long as baby doesn't get too tired, you will be able to keep working at it.
RELATED POSTS/BLOG LABELS
- Optimal Waketime
- Baby Whisperer: Start as You Mean to Go On : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/08/baby-whisperer-start-as-you-mean-to-go.html
- Consistent Schedule: Start Your Day Right: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/11/consistent-schedule-start-your-day.html
- Establishing Consistency--Make Sacrifices: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/02/establish-consistencymake-sacrifices.html
- CIO Bootcamp: Revised and Updated: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2009/12/cio-bootcamp-revised-and-updated.html
- CIO Responsibly: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2009/01/cio-responsibly.html
- Optimal Waketime Lengths : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/07/optimal-waketime-lengths.html
- Overstimulation : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/12/overstimulation.html
- Sleep Training According To Babywise: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2009/08/sleep-training-according-to-babywise.html
- Sleep Training: The Four S's : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2009/04/sleep-training-four-ss.html