How to help a newborn to sleep.
This blog will give you some idea of what to expect from newborn sleep as well as giving you some tips on how you can help your brand-new bundle to get the best sleep they can. The tips set out here are goals and should be seen as just that. Practice makes progress and if you want to achieve the best sleep you can from your newborn then you could trial some of the below tips to see what works for you.
When my son was first born people told me that he would soon get himself into a sleep routine (even though I had never asked them this question). It was true though and he did get himself into a routine which consisted of going to sleep at 4pm, waking for feeds every 2 hours and then waking ready to party at 3am. Not ideal when we had plans with other new mums and baby classes the next day.
Although it caused us to have unpredictable sleep, I loved feeding my son to sleep but I also had time on my side and a lot of healing to do from my c-section. I appreciate though that many parents and carers may not have time on their side or may have another child to care for or simply be someone who needs some routine in their lives.
Babies and young children thrive on routine as it lets them know what to expect next. If your little one is in a routine, then any upset out of what is normal for them will let you know if there may be something wrong like they are getting tired, they are hungry, are windy, bored or indeed overstimulated.
Your baby’s little body may look calm while they sleep, but there’s a lot of vital work going on in their bodies. Growth hormones are being secreted to help your little one gain weight and grow, cytokines are being produced to fight off infections and produce antibodies, and many other intricate systems are at work laying the foundations for growth and development. If you would like to look more into the benefits of sleep then have a read of ‘The benefits of sleep’.
Between 0-12 weeks your baby can average approximately 6-8 hours of sleep during the day and 8 hours at night. This sleep occurs in stretches of 2-4 hours at a time. Newborn sleep is split into 2 sleep cycles, 50% of the time in deep sleep (Non-REM) and 50% in dream sleep (REM) and is pretty inconsistent.
Initially for newborns, the most important element of a routine that you can introduce the idea of night and day so that they know when a time is for sleeping and a time for playing.
I have made a list of gentle tips for getting your baby to get the best sleep they can.
Newborn sleep goals (0-6 weeks) and how to encourage good sleep.
- In the daytime ensure the room is lit with daylight and with normal noise levels and at night, ensure it is dark and quiet.
- Learn their sleepy cues so that you can get them to have a sleep before they become overtired as baby’s that have become overtired tend to do lots of crying and have more unsettled sleep later in the day.
- Newborn babies struggle to stay awake much longer than 45 minutes at first as it is not long after they have had a feed than they are falling to sleep again.
Sleep goals from 6 weeks.
I want you to note that I write ‘goals’ as that is just what these tips are. If you are having a day where you do not have the energy for anything else other than resting with your baby and feeding them to sleep, then do so and do not worry. Simply try again the next day and even then, work towards these goals once a day for 1 or 2 naps or indeed just for bedtime.
At around 6 weeks they can now stay awake for about 60-90 minutes before they need to sleep again. At this time, they can start to be encouraged to build some sleep habits that will help toward longer stretches of sleep throughout the night.
- For the first few weeks it will be near impossible for your baby not to fall asleep straight after being fed or whilst they are mid-feed. After a few weeks you could try to feed your little one when they wake up so you can avoid feeding them to sleep in the daytime. When they wake you could feed them and then try and encourage a little playtime with them and then repeat this process.
- Hopefully they now understand the difference between night and day and at around 6 weeks their sleep is now capable of becoming a little more structured and you can introduce a little bedtime routine. A routine helps to separate day and night further and a bedtime routine should take place in as calm and quiet an environment as possible and in dim lighting.
- If you want to teach your baby some early sleep skills, you need to bear in mind that what you are trying to teach them at this stage is simply to connect the feel of being tired with falling to sleep. If you feed you baby in your arms until they fall asleep what happens is that when they come to a normal mini waking, instead of falling back to sleep again they will need to go back to sleep in the same way that they initially went to sleep (in your arms being fed to sleep). I totally appreciate that it is beautiful feeding your baby to sleep but it may not be something that you can keep doing forever. Try to put your baby down before they are fast asleep. If you normally feed your baby to sleep, finish the feed, burb baby and then lay them down in their cot whilst they are still awake and allow them to fall to sleep on their own. This will help them to link their sleep cycles together for more consolidated sleep.
This time is so precious, and you are getting to know your baby, being a family and you may also be healing. Take it easy on yourself. Your babies circadian rhythm will mature over time and if they are guided to sleep through these sleep tips they will sleep better in the day and be able to consolidate a little more sleep at night.
If you are curious to understand a little more about the 4 month sleep regression you can have a read of my blog here.
If you need more advice on newborn sleep I can offer my antenatal package to teach you a little more. If your baby has gone through the 4 month sleep regression and you are struggling please get in touch. Book a free, no obligation call and we can talk about working together to get you a better night’s sleep.