Newborn Sleep Essentials
Congratulations if you have recently welcomed a new little addition into your family! This newborn phase is wonderful and challenging all at the same time. So many changes and adjustments going on, it can feel a bit overwhelming (especially when you throw a bit of sleep deprivation into the mix). I hope this blog post will offer a bit of guidance but also normalize what you are going through.
How is it that through our whole pregnancy we learn and prepare for the short stint of time we are at the hospital surrounded by healthcare professionals, and not for what to expect or what to do when we get home? A lot of what we do as parents comes naturally, but sleep is often one of the things that can be a bit overwhelming.
Newborns sleep a lot! It may even seem like that’s all your baby is doing. In the first few weeks, your days and nights may literally consist of sleeping, eating, and then right back to sleeping. To help organize your baby’s days and nights, split the 24 hrs in a day into a 12 hr night and 12 hr day. It’s normal for babies at this point to eat every 2-3 hours. Cap long stretches of sleep during the day at a maximum of 3 hours between feeds. Your baby requires a certain amount of calories during a 24 hour period. If your baby is not getting those calories during the day, he will make up for it during the night. If your baby is having weight gaining issues or there are concerns with jaundice, it is so important for you to follow your doctor’s recommendations on a feeding schedule.
Try to follow an “Eat/Play/Sleep” routine. This means, shortly after he wakes up from either a nap or his nighttime sleep, offer a feed. By placing the feed at the beginning of his awake time versus at the end (before he goes back to sleep), you are encouraging a nice full feed. If you offer the feed when he is drowsy, there is a good chance your little one will fall asleep before finishing the feed. This creates a “snacking and snoozing” flow to the day. Help fill your baby's tummy by feeding when he is most alert.
A bedtime routine is something that you can start implementing right from the start. It can be very basic. The purpose of a bedtime routine is to start cueing the brain and body that sleep is coming. With consistency, the simple act of a bath and swaddling will help your baby know what’s coming next. During the newborn phase, always feed your baby as the last step in his bedtime routine. You want to make sure his tummy is nice and full for that first stretch of sleep.
Preventing your baby from becoming overtired is one of the main things you can do to help his sleep! An overtired baby has a difficult time falling asleep, and then once asleep, it is often more fragmented. For the first six weeks, follow a 45-60 min awake window. This means, 45-60 min after your baby wakes up, you will help him back to sleep. The feed is included in this awake time.
And lastly, don’t stress too much about where your baby is napping at this time! Your number one goal is that your baby is feeding well and sleeping. Getting sleep at this point is much more important than where he is sleeping. If your baby is napping really well, start with nap 1 in the bassinet, and all other naps being held/in the swing/stroller. As your baby gets older and if he is doing really well with that first nap in the bassinet, try nap 2 in there as well. There is no need to rush. Your baby will learn to sleep in his bassinet for naps. But like I said earlier, getting good sleep in the first few weeks is much more important than where his is sleeping.
Whether you have just arrived home with your little one, or you are struggling with their sleep, follow these simple steps in creating the basic foundation of your child’s sleep hygiene. I promise you things do get easier, and you will sleep again.