One of the biggest lessons we've learned in dealing with a newborn/baby is the vital importance of sleep. When Anna was a newborn, she would get SO fussy every evening...it got to the point where we dreaded 5:00 because it would be like a switch flipped, and Anna would just start screaming.
After many talks with other moms, and much internet research, and much assurances from the pediatrician that Anna did not have reflux, I came to the not-so-brilliant conclusion that Anna was just massively overtired. After reading several different baby books and internet articles, and just quite simply paying much better attention to my poor tired baby, I began to get much better at reading Anna's tiredness cues. I began to get much more vigilant about nap times, and slowly but surely it got to the point where I could predict how happy she'd be in the evening based on how well she had napped that day. I learned very quickly that while it's ideal to put the baby down and let her put herself to sleep, if she's not napping well, it's in EVERYONE'S best interest to do whatever it takes to get the baby to sleep, even if it means sitting in the glider for an hour while she sleeps on you. Even now, if we're out of town, I won't even hesitate to break off from everybody and go lie down with her for an hour or two so that she'll sleep.
I am now a very firm believer in the baby theory that "sleep begets sleep". It's a very common thought (and really not an irrational one, for any human except a newborn, haha) that if you keep the baby up, they'll sleep more at their next nap or at night time. But the problem with infants is that they get to the point where they are overtired, and they can't fall asleep because they are too tired and overstimulated. Once we really started focusing on it, we found first-hand that the better and longer Anna napped during the day, the better she felt and acted, and the better she slept at night (woot!).
One of the best things that I ran across was this chart. It originally came from this blog if you want more information about it. This chart breaks down the amount of total awake time in between naps for babies, based on their age.
First Guideline for Awake time for babies
Newborn 50-60 mins
1 month 60 mins-hour and 15
2 months 1 hour and 15 - 20 mins
3 months 1 hour and 20 - 30 mins
4 months 1 hour and 45 - 2 hours
5 months 2 hours - 2.25 hours
Late 5 months/early 6 months 2.25-2.5 hours
6.5 - 7 months 2.75-3 hours. Some are getting more.
8 - 10 months 3 - 4 hours. Some are getting more.
11 - 12 months 3.5 -4.5 hours. Some are getting more if moved early to 1 nap
Second Guideline for Awake time for babies
0-4 weeks: 30-45 minutes
4-6 weeks: 40-60 minutes
6-8 weeks: 40-70 minutes
8-12 weeks: 50-80 minutes
3-4 months: 60-90 minutes
4-5 months: 1 hr to 1.5 hrs
5-6 months: 1.5 hours
6-9 months: 2 hours, give or take 15 minutes
When I first ran across this chart, Anna was 2 months old. And we were averaging THREE HOURS in between naps. No wonder she was massively exhausted by the end of the day!! I started really watching the clock, and really watching Anna for signs of being tired (rubbing her eyes, burying her head in my shoulder, yawning), and sure enough...she lined up almost exactly with this chart. After a few cycles, I started putting her down earlier and earlier until she was fully asleep by the end of the recommended time. And what a difference it made!!
Hopefully this might help some other new mommies reach this conclusion a lot faster than it took us, if anyone is running into the same problems we did!