When it comes to baby sleep everyone wants to know, what is going to get me the most sleep? And, where should my newborn sleep? When breastfeeding it definitely makes it a lot easier if your baby is very close to you.
I'm not a sleep expert (although after two kids back to back I might feel like one) so I am not going to tell you how to get your baby to sleep through the night, when they should sleep through the night, or why babies wake so frequently. I am just going to offer some tips from my experience about where your baby should sleep and how that will maximize sleep for you both while breastfeeding.
When it comes to where your newborn should sleep the best place is near you
Putting your baby in their crib in their own room alone is probably going to get you the least amount of sleep when they are a newborn. In fact the AAP recommends that babies room share with their parents in their own crib or bassinet within arms reach of your bed until around six months of age. It is well known that the AAP also recommends placing your baby to sleep on his back. They also recommend breastfeeding for as long as possible to help reduce the risk of SIDS.
Some sleep options include having your newborn in a bassinet or co-sleeper next to your bed, having your newborn in a sleep basket/bassinet on your bed, or even having your baby in your bed with you. While the AAP does not recommend bed sharing, the La Leche League and other breastfeeding organizations do believe it is fine when done safely. The La Leche League has some information on safely bed sharing if that interests you.
As I said before, having your baby in their own room will probably yield the least amount of sleep while they are a newborn. I know some people have moved their babies right away and it works for them but it's not my style. I personally do not enjoy getting out of bed and walking down the hall in the middle of the night, so I can't imagine doing it multiple times a night with a newborn. My feeling is that babies do best when they are near their mother. After being in your womb for nine months it seems natural to keep them near you.
Many breastfeeding mothers who bed share say this is absolutely the best way to get the most sleep. You can roll over and feed your baby and drift off without having to even unlatch. Or baby can latch on without you having to wake. I never felt quite safe enough to do this regularly but I did sometimes and it was so easy and restful. Having my baby right next to me in a co-sleeper was the next best thing.
As a breastfeeding mom it was still easy to roll over, get my baby out of the bassinet, nurse and go back to sleep. I used a cozy bassinet with a slight incline for both of my babies during their newborn stage. They both slept well in it and when they outgrew it I moved them to a small pack N play. I was able to keep both the bassinet and pack N play right next to my bed. It took some trial and error with my first baby to figure out where she was happiest sleeping but by the second baby it went great. I actually had a really easy time dealing with the newborn wake ups and feeding with my son.
I moved both of my babies to their own room when the time seemed right. For my daughter this was around the six month mark and for my son it was much later. The transition went well for both of them and I don't regret keeping either in my room for as long as I did.
Having your baby within arms reach is easiest and keeps you from waking up fully when breastfeeding.
Newborns really seem to hate flat large surfaces. I tried using a full size pack N play in my room from the start with my daughter and she hated it. I bought my bassinet shortly after she came home and it was so much better.
Newborns sleep pretty well in Rock N Play's and swings and they sleep the best with you. While none of these are actually recommended by the AAP for sleep you will find that you have to do what you can to get the most sleep. Discuss your options with your pediatrician if you are worried.
Swaddling and white noise always worked great for me in combination with breastfeeding. Nursing your baby to sleep is okay.
In summary, the AAP recommends newborns sleep in their own crib or bassinet in your room, by your bed, for about six months. This is to help reduce the risk of SIDS and facilitate easier breastfeeding.
If you are breastfeeding having your baby right next to you will maximize your sleep. It is much less disruptive to have your newborn right next to your bed and avoid fully waking to walk down the hall. I enjoyed having both of my babies in my room and I do feel it helped me get more sleep overall. Moving them later when they were waking less was the right time for me.