When I brought my first child home from the hospital and walked through the front door, I remember thinking “OK, now what?” I had no idea what to expect (even though I’d read tons of books) and I was basically learning as I went. Parents often forget about learning how to teach a newborn sleep habits when they’re approaching the due date, but they quickly realize their error–not all babies “sleep like a baby!”
Here are some tips you should keep in mind when establishing the newborn sleep habits:
I’m shocked at the number of families who still put their baby on their tummy to sleep. Yes, babies do sleep better on their tummies, but until they have the strength to roll to their tummies on their own, the safest place for baby to sleep is on their backs. Follow the ABCs of Safe Sleep to ensure your newborn’s safety:
- Alone – on a separate sleeping surface from other people or pets, without blankets, pillows, bumper pads, toys, or other soft items.
- on their Back – not on their side or tummy.
- in their Crib – not on an adult bed, water bed, armchair, sofa or other soft bedding.
They’ll Want to Sleep all Day and Party all Night!
Newborns often have day/night confusion, which means that they sleep for longer periods during the day, and have longer awake periods at night. To help your newborn sleep better at night, keep some lights on and make some noise during the day, and be as quiet as possible with the lights down low at night. Try to avoid stimulation when you’re feeding your baby at night, otherwise they might think it’s playtime!
Newborns often have day/night confusion.
Sleep is Very Unorganized
Your child’s biological sleep rhythms don’t exist yet, so there are no patterns as to when and how long your baby will sleep for. They just sleep when they’re sleepy! It’s great to establish a daily routine, but save the strict schedule for when they are closer to 4-5 months.
They Need Frequent Naps
Your newborn will only have short wakeful periods during the day – around 1 to 2 hours at most. Keep this time frame in mind so that you avoid letting your newborn get over-tired. Once they’re asleep they may only sleep for 30 minutes at a time, but that’s normal! All they need is a quick little nap to recharge them for the next activity.
It’s great to establish a daily routine, but save the strict schedule for when they are closer to 4-5 months.
You Should Help Your Newborn Sleep
At this point you cannot create any bad habits, so do whatever it takes to soothe your baby to sleep. Some soothing techniques you can try are gentle rocking, cuddling, baby massage, singing, and sucking (nursing or pacifier). As your baby reaches closer to 3 months, you can start implementing a more consistent place for your baby to sleep, and incorporate a consistent soothing routine.
Take Care of the Caregivers (YOU!)
Looking after a newborn is the equivalent of working 3 full-time jobs with very little sleep, and it’s exhausting. Take every opportunity to get some rest yourself, and don’t be shy about asking friends and family to help out while you go pamper yourself, take a nap or just get out of the house! If you don’t get the rest you need, your body’s immune system will struggle to fight off illness, your fine motor skills will suffer and simple tasks like climbing the stairs becomes dangerous, you’ll be crankier and at a greater risk for postpartum depression. Don’t wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honour, and do yourself and your family a favour by looking after your needs too. Your baby will thank you for it.
If you don’t get the rest you need, your body’s immune system will struggle, your fine motor skills will suffer, you’ll be crankier and at a greater risk for postpartum depression.
It helps to set realistic expectations when it comes to your newborn’s sleep so that you can get the rest you need as well. It may not always be easy, but if you can establish newborn sleep habits, you’ll all be getting a great night’s sleep in no time at all!
Jenn Kelner is a mother of three children, including twins, and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant at BabyZzz. Just as every family is unique, Jenn supports many different sleep methods and works directly with families to design a solution that will help them become well-rested, happy families.