Three newborn sleep tips
Today I’d like to give you three newborn sleep tips. Just three, and if you already know them, it will help give you confidence. And if you don’t already know them, then you’ll learn something new, and the more we know, the better we can parent. So hopefully it’s a win-win all around.
One thing I’m hearing a lot lately is “ I wish I knew this about baby sleep right from the start. It would have made a huge difference”. Yes, knowing a little bit more about what to expect, what’s normal and how to support your little one without falling into bad habits would definitely have helped me as a new Mum (my poor son was my practice child). It’s my hope that these three tips will change the sleep experience for you and your newborn in a positive way.
Tip one: newborn timing
The first tip is timing. Newborn babies can only tolerate around 45 minutes to 1 hour of awake time before they need to sleep again. Yes, their tolerance is that short. Now this one surprises a lot of people, so don’t worry if it’s new to you too.
Forty-five minutes is not a lot of time when you must feed your little one (which when you’re learning that too, can take a good 30 minutes or so), then there’s the nappy change, you may have some time for play, but then it’s back to sleep.
If you miss this timing (or don’t even know about it) you’ll likely have baby getting fussy. Then you’ll start wondering what’s wrong.
A tired, fussy baby can look like a hungry baby. And it is easy (oh so easy) to misread their signs, especially when you’re still getting to know this new little human. Tired can look like hunger; or could it be wind? Either way, a lot of people misread the signs. I did too. And what can easily happen with misread signs is that we end up feeding again; because when a baby is crying our first thought is hunger. So we feed again. And ultimately that means that baby starts falling asleep during feeds due to fatigue.
What can easily start happening from then on, is that the feed starts doing double duty. It’s not just filling a gorgeous little tummy, it’s also helping your baby to get to sleep. And if the two become intertwined, you can easily end up further down the track with your 9-month old nursing three times a night (or more) because it’s now a strong sleep association. Unfortunately, that can be a hard habit to break, so preventing that scenario in the first place is worth aiming for.
In summary, watch that time. If it’s been 45 minutes to an hour and you’re noticing that your little newborn is cranky, fussy or grouchy, try for a sleep. (now please don’t think I’m saying don’t feed a hungry baby, always feed a hungry baby, but if you have recently fed, then try for sleep).
Tip two: sleep is natural
The second tip is to remember that sleep is natural. We can all sleep. Yes, there will be times your newborn needs some help settling (especially if they are overtired or have trapped wind). BUT it’s not always your job to get your precious little newborn baby to sleep. Let them have a go at it themselves sometimes.
Now, as a brand-new Mum I really did think that I needed to make sure my baby was asleep before I put him down. The thought of putting him down in his bassinet before he was fully asleep didn’t even enter the equation. I would hold him and rock him and feed him (again) rock and bounce and pace until he was asleep, then I would put him down – asleep.
However, all that work for your baby is not the best way to encourage good sleep habits. Newborns should at least have the opportunity to try to fall asleep by themselves sometimes. That means they’re not always relying on YOU to help them to sleep. (I suggest starting as you mean to go on, do you still want to be rocking your 11-month-old to sleep?).
This simply means that a couple of times a day, you give it a go. After a full feed and a little bit of activity, and you’ve reached the 45 minute mark, try putting her in the bassinet and see what happens.
Honestly, I know it won’t always work (I saw your look of disbelief). BUT there likely will be times she does just drift off to sleep. And you won’t have to do anything. And that’s really quite a beautiful thing as it frees up your time, and it also means she’s figuring out how to do this sleep thing on her own. It’s a great start to sleeping well. Sleep is natural after all (and it still leaves other times in the day to hold your precious newborn to sleep, because that is totally OK too!)
Tip 3: dark for sleep
Tip three is to keep it dark for sleep. Babies can easily get their days and nights confused until their own natural circadian rhythm kicks in (our rhythms are based on light and dark). But it’s not totally missing. When they were in the womb, they relied on their Mum’s circadian rhythm, so they do have an appreciation of it. It’s there waiting to be stimulated, but it can do with a little guidance.
In terms of sleep, I recommend that the room is dark (especially after the first few weeks). Dark can really help to encourage good-quality naps and longer stretches in the night. The opposite is true for wake time during the day; make sure your newborn is getting exposed to lots of (safe) sunlight or daylight. You can do this by feeding by the window, going for walks, and making sure all the curtains are open. This can certainly help to get your little one’s body clock to fall in line with day and night rhythms faster. And that makes night sleep come easier too.
So there you have it. Three tips for newborn sleep. It may not always be easy (this parenting lark can be challenging for sure). But it gives you something to start with and work towards. And if you’re I the newborn phase. Congratulations! Hang in there, your sleep should come back soon (and if it doesn’t please contact me or book in for a free call to see how I can help).