Before I give you some newborn sleep tips, allow me to say congratulations! You are either expecting or have recently welcomed a new baby (or babies) into your life. It is an emotional rollercoaster, as we are filled with such exhilaration, a love that is beyond measure and a realization that our life will never be the same again.
Now about newborn sleep. You will likely find it is probably the most frequently asked question is “How is he sleeping?” Is she sleeping through the night?” There will be no doubt a myriad of conflicting advice from well-intended family and friends on what you should be doing. Being constantly asked about your baby’s sleep and being compared to how well your friend’s newborn is sleeping, is enough to create an anxiety and unnecessary stress about your baby’s sleep.
I am going to give you a big gift right now: No bad habits can be formed under 3 months of age.
My number one newborn sleep tip is to do what you need to in order to keep both mommy and baby rested. Here are a few others that will help you accomplish that.
1- Sleep environment: Your newborn is very portable within the first few months, so feel free to take your baby out with you as they will likely sleep in their baby carriers when they need to. You will have plenty of time to be home bound with a good nap schedule! When you are home, you will want to create an optimal sleep environment for your newborn. We like to look at the first few months as a fourth trimester. Recreating that “womb-like” environment is extremely helpful in soothing your baby and helping them sleep better. A dark room, white noise (making sure that your white noise machine is not placed right next to the baby, but rather across the room and at a volume equivalent to a running shower). The temperature should also be considered. Babies sleep best if the room is cooler rather than warmer, between 68-72 degrees is ideal depending on how they are dressed.
2- Swaddle: Most babies will sleep better if they are bundled up in a proper swaddle. Make sure not to swaddle your baby too tight. These days there are some great products out there as an alternative to the traditional swaddle blanket.
3- Bedtime Routine: As of 5-6 weeks of age, around the time we see those social smiles, your baby is now able to make associations. This is a great time to start to establish a solid and consistent bedtime routine. Babies thrive on consistency and structure, they feel safest with the predictability of a good routine. Your routine should be done before every nap and bedtime. This is an example of a nice bedtime routine:
– Warm bath
– Baby massage
– Dress and swaddle baby in their sleep environment with dim lighting and white noise started
– Nurse/feed and sing your favorite lullaby
-Place down in their bassinet/crib to sleep. You can experiment with placing your baby down to sleep drowsy but still awake; however, if they start to get upset (more than just fussy), it is ok to pick them back up and soothe them to sleep. Again, at this stage don’t worry about “spoiling.” You cannot spoil a newborn.
4- Intervals of wakefulness: This is a big one. Your goal with your baby’s sleep is to avoid the overtired state. If a baby is overtired it is very difficult for them to settle, to fall asleep and to stay asleep. From birth to around 4 months, a baby cannot tolerate more than approximately 2 hours of wakefulness. The younger the are the less they can handle before reaching the overtired zone. A 4-week old baby may be ready for sleep only an hour or so after waking. They are too young to be put on a “clock” schedule and so you need to watch them for sleepy cues. Watch for a yawn, eye rubbing, fussing, ear pulling, or staring (zoning out) these are all tired signs. That’s your cue to bring the baby into the sleep-conducive environment and prepare them for a nap/bedtime.
If you can follow these newborn sleep tips listed above, you will know that you are doing what you can to help establish a healthy foundation of sleep for your baby. It will make any sleep training you choose to do later on much easier.