Newborn Sleep: The Basics
When I left the hospital with my twins… I remember feeling like stopping the nurse and saying, ‘You know I have no idea what I’m doing right?’
It’s crazy to think that you go from no baby to a real life baby in a matter of hours, and then you’re expected to kind of, well, take care of them…
So since some of you reading this may be in the throes of newborn life, I’m going to make this as concise as possible. Let’s get to it.
Ideal Sleep Environment:
Dark: use black out shades to keep their sleep space very dark, especially at night- think cave-like
Cool: 68-72ºF is ideal to prevent overheating
Quiet: Use white noise to block out disruptive sounds
Safe: Please check out my blog about Safe Sleep to insure you are set up for safety.
WEEKS 1-8- THE TRENCHES
-Sleep patterns do not exist. There are no rhythms, no habits, no consistency.
-Baby does not know when it’s nighttime or daytime.
-Baby will sleep up to 18 hours per day, but you get no say as to when those 18 hours occur.
-Baby will need to sleep every 30-45 minutes or so. Watch for their sleepy cues and offer them sleep immediately to avoid becoming overtired.
Sleepy cues for a newborn:
Staring into space
Turning head side to side
Overtired cues after all needs are met:
-Expose baby to lots of sunlight during the day
-Keep sleep space as dark as possible at night
-Use red light bulb for any night wakings to keep things calm and hormones supporting sleep
-Follow baby’s sleepy cues
WEEKS 6-8- FIRST SLEEP MILESTONE
-Baby is reaching their first sleep milestone
-Nighttime circadian rhythms begin to emerge
-We see longer stretches of sleep at night
-Social smiles begin to appear
-We can begin to practice healthy sleep habits to help build that foundation for sleep
-Work on a soothing routine to help prepare your baby for when it’s time to sleep
-Practice putting baby down drowsy but awake
-Continue watching sleepy cues for nap timings
-Phase out sleep props like swings, stroller rides, car rides, and baby wearing- doesn’t mean they can never happen, just use them less and less
-Put baby down for naps in their own sleep space, like their crib
Soothing routines can consist of:
Combo of one or more thing
Soothing Routine Goals:
-This is a CUE for baby to sleep, not a MEANS
-Soothe them until they are drowsy and ready for sleep, before they fall asleep, put them down
-If your baby is almost asleep, put them down
-If your baby is happy, content, and awake, put them down
-If your baby falls asleep in your arms, either continue to snuggle or put them down and practice drowsy but awake for the next nap
*Remember, this is only practice.
We are working on establishing those healthy sleep habits so that your baby continues stretching those sleep times longer and longer.
THERE ARE NO RULES AND NO FAILURES, JUST PRACTICE
8-16 WEEKS- THE INBETWEEN
-Stay consistent with everything outlined above.
You’ll start to see things slowly change…
-Night sleep will continue to lengthen
-Bedtime will move earlier and earlier
-Naps will slowly begin to lengthen and become predictable
*Don’t forget to keep watching for those sleepy cues! Your baby will still take SEVERAL naps per day at this age. 60 minutes of awake time can still be a lot for them. The answer to fussiness/not sleeping is almost never 'too much sleep.'
16 WEEKS- FROM NEWBORN TO BABY
This age is a big milestone. We start to see daytime circadian rhythms fall into place. Nap times are more predictable/set.
Nighttime sleep is even more predictable and falling into place, especially if we have been working on that healthy sleep foundation.
This is the age we can consider formal sleep training.
Before I wrap this up, I just want to say, you’re doing it. You’re doing the thing. You did not receive a manual when this baby came into your life, but I’m hoping this information gave you more solid ground to stand on.
I'm always here for you and your family- feel free to reach out anytime.