As new and expectant parents we don’t generally get the opportunity to learn a lot about newborn sleep and how to set up healthy sleep habits early on. I had my first child back in Australia and the only class offered during my pregnancy was a childbirth class, which included learning about the birthing process and then how to swaddle and change a diaper.
What newborn sleep looks like:
A newborn baby’s sleep times and awake times are largely governed by the need to feed. They are mostly awake when they are hungry and because their wake times a short may either fall asleep while feeding or shortly thereafter. Newborn babies are quite noisy and wiggly when they sleep. Sometimes that can make you think they need your help when really they don’t!Click To Tweet
You may hear lots of groans or cries, and these are perfectly normal. It is important to remember this and try not to respond to every noise. If you hear them, wait a minute or two and see if they settle back to sleep. If you find yourself responding to every cry you may accidentally start a night waking habit.
It is important to remember that a baby’s sleep cycles are different for an incredibly important reason – to keep them safe. It essentially serves as a measure of protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The components of healthy sleep for your baby.
- A consistent place to sleep (e.g. crib or bassinette).
- A dark and quiet sleep environment that is conducive to sleep.
- A consistent soothing bedtime and naptime routine that acts as a sleep cue.
- Putting your baby to sleep when s/he needs to sleep.
- Ability to soothe self to sleep at bedtime and naptime and at brief wake ups.
- Being flexible about bedtimes based on the quality of previous sleep during the day and activity levels.
Things you can do to encourage healthy sleep.
- Keep windows of wakefulness short – under 1 hour. Watch for sleep cues like eye rubbing, yawning, losing interest etc.).
- Start a bedtime and naptime routine that you do the same way every day. Whilst your baby is a newborn, your routines do not have to be incredibly long, but as their windows of wakefulness increase, you can extend them to 15 minutes for naptime and 30 minutes for bedtime.
- Practice as often as possible putting your baby down drowsy but awake. You may not be successful every time and that is okay. The more you do it, the better your baby will get at putting themselves to sleep.
- Put your baby to sleep in a dark and quiet environment. Invest in back out blinds and a sound machine for the room your baby will sleep in.
After we bring home our newborn baby from the hospital the two biggest things we worry about are their feeding and sleeping. I hope this helps you feel better prepared to handle your bundle of joy’s sleep during the newborn phase.
Congratulations on your little one!
If you want to have a more in-depth dive into newborn sleep, please register for a Newborn Sleep Strategy Session. It is a great way to learn about all things newborn sleep to help you feel more confident as you take care of your bundle of joy.