Newborn Sleep Tips From An Expert

September 10, 2022

Whether you are a first-time mom or an experienced mother, getting your beautiful newborn to sleep may be a frightening and, no joke, all-day endeavor! It can feel hopeless at times when you believe your infant will not sleep well. Especially as fatigue and those annoying postpartum hormones begin to kick in. But don't worry, mama, because we'll tell you everything you need to know about newborn sleep, how to best prepare for it, and some of our greatest newborn sleep advice for teaching your newborn healthy sleep habits.

There are numerous gentle strategies to educate your new baby on healthy sleep habits that will pay off in the long run and give you confidence that you and your baby will soon be on the path to the sleep you both deserve.

So What Does Newborn Sleep Look Like?

A newborn baby sleeps approximately 16 to 18 hours each 24-hour period. If they are not sleeping, they are eating, being changed, or engaging in minor interactions with the outside world. They have only two sleep stages, REM sleep, and non-REM sleep, and they spend around eight hours in REM sleep, which is critical for their growth.

Unorganized is the greatest word to describe newborn sleep! Even though you may desire longer stretches at night, their internal clocks or circadian rhythm have not yet been set, so be prepared for some long days and nights in the beginning because your infant will not sleep for long periods of time.

Around 6 weeks, most parents see that their babies' night sleep begins to stabilize, and they are able to sleep for longer lengths of 3 to 5 hours (sometimes even more! ), especially in the early morning hours. A baby that weighs over 12 pounds and is 12 weeks old is capable of sleeping 12 hours straight through the night. Obviously, every infant is unique; some require a bit more time to consolidate their nighttime sleep, while others must continue to take nighttime feeds owing to weight gain concerns or medical advice.

Proper Preparation

While you cannot force your infant to sleep, you may do all possible to ensure their success from day one. In fact, the sleeping environment is one of the first factors we evaluate during private sessions. We prefer to see infants sleeping in cold, dark, and quiet environments on firm mattresses with nothing else in the crib.

Current AAP guidelines are to room share with your infant for up to a year or at least six months, and you may still accomplish similar circumstances in your room by purchasing a bassinet, white noise machine, blackout curtains, and air conditioning. When you decide to shift your child to the nursery is up to you; just make sure their sleeping conditions remain the same. Additionally, having a comfortable, safe, and easy-to-use infant carrier on hand would be beneficial on days with difficult sleep, particularly during the last two naps of the day.

Start As You Mean To Go

There are numerous tiny things you can do throughout the first twelve weeks of your newborn's life to help them sleep well and set them up for success so that by the time they reach infancy, they are star sleepers. Throughout the first two weeks of a baby's existence outside the womb, I would advocate developing a healthy feeding relationship, keeping your infant alert during feeds, and ensuring that your baby is resting in a safe environment.

After a few weeks, you can begin working towards a relatively flexible regimen of eating, playing, and sleeping while attempting to have your infant consume a full feeding every three hours. Many first-time parents are startled by how little awake time newborns can tolerate; for most newborns, the eat-and-play component of their routine lasts between 45 and 60 minutes before they want another nap. Keeping an eye on the time and recognizing sleepy cues can be of great assistance in ensuring that you put your child down for a nap before they become overtired.

Also, do not be afraid to allow your baby to fall asleep on their own by placing them to sleep in their bed, pack n play, or bassinet while they are awake. Yes! You can succeed! Even before ten weeks of age, you can assist them by putting them to bed tired but awake and allowing them a few minutes to attempt falling asleep on their own.

Tips For Success

During the first several weeks, you can also begin to teach your infant that day and night are distinct. First, determine the morning and evening bedtimes and ensure there are 12 hours between them (many newborns go to bed between 7-9 pm). Then, begin each day with feeding in a sunny section of your home, and as day fades to night, turn out most of the house lights, speak quietly, and when you go in for a midnight feeding, use as little light as possible.

Additionally, swaddling can be a valuable tool. Babies can enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep almost immediately, and swaddling is recommended to help regulate their startle reaction, which is sometimes so strong that it might awaken them. You can use the swaddle for naps and nightly sleep; but, you should work toward eliminating the swaddle before 12 weeks of age; otherwise, it may become a sleep prop and be harmful to your baby as he or she begins to roll.

Try to nap your baby at least once a day in their secure resting environment, with most parents having the best success with the morning nap, and then gradually attempting more naps in the same space as the baby ages. If your baby isn't falling asleep for a nap in the crib, they don't need to cry; instead, pick them up, calm them, and try again. If you're still unsuccessful, it's okay; just make sure they get the sleep they need by putting them to sleep in a carrier, stroller, or even your arms.

Give Yourself Grace

Having a baby is difficult for everyone! People will provide you with a multitude of baby sleep recommendations. Do not let social media or the opinions of your friends and family make you feel like a failure. Comparison robs us of happiness! Stick to the fundamental routine of eating, playing, and sleeping, and attempt crib naps as often as possible.

Every day you can make adjustments and try again to gradually and gently teach your child how to fall and stay asleep independently. Some days may be productive, while others, especially around the six-week mark, may find you in survival mode. This is acceptable! Reach out to friends and family for assistance, nap when you can, and remember that the small measures you are taking now will pay off in the future.

For new mothers, and people with small kids, visit our blog section to learn about parenting. 

Annie Archibald has a PhD in Family Studies from York and has taught in universities for decades. Along with her professional career, she also is a mother of five and now a grandmother to two loving boys.

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