When I had my first baby, Ruben, I remember coming home from the hospital with him, completely overwhelmed and exhausted from a very long birth. Like many other new mums out there, I was a clueless first time mum and those first three months were definitely a shock to the system!
Second time around, I was keen to avoid sleepless nights from early on, so I worked on putting some healthy sleep habits in place, and by 3 months she was settling in to a routine and sleeping through the night from her last feed at 10.30pm.
Understanding what your newborn needs and how you can achieve this is key to an easier first 3 months.
Here are my top 6 sleep tips:
1. Wake Your Baby During the Day For 3 to 3.5 Hourly Feeds
This will ensure they are taking in plenty of calories during the day so less likely to wake as often overnight from hunger. Plus waking them up during the day will help them learn the difference between day and night.
2. Follow Age Appropriate Awake Times
These are the length of time your baby stays awake for between waking from their last sleep and falling asleep for their next sleep. Get this just right and you’ll find your newborn will settle to sleep more quickly and sleep for longer.
The first 3 weeks: Up to 1 hour
3-6 weeks: 1 hour 15 mins to 1 hour 30 mins
6-12 weeks: 1 hour 30 mins to 1 hour 45 mins
If your newborn is kept awake for too long they will become overtired and it will become much harder to settle them to sleep, they may cry and cry and cry and once they do fall asleep, they will likely not sleep for very long.
3. Set Up A Great Sleep Environment
The first 3 weeks of age your newborn will likely sleep wherever and whenever. This is usually due to the maternal melatonin your baby gets from you during pregnancy, it makes them super sleepy and so portable during the first 3 weeks! This does tend to wear off around week 3 and you'll notice your newborn starts to become more wakeful.
Ensuring your sleep environment changes to support their sleep here is important especially if your baby starts to catnap (take short naps) between 8-12 weeks old.
Start to put them down to sleep in a really dark room for their naps as darkness helps increase production of the sleep hormone ‘melatonin’ which helps them to settle to sleep more easily and sleep for longer.
Use some white noise as this mimics the sounds your baby heard whilst in the womb. It needs to be played the whole duration of their nap and at night to be effective. For more info on sleep environment, click here.
4. Use Positive Sleep Associations
Examples of these are white noise, swaddling, sleep bags and wind down rituals before sleep. Establishing these positive associations from birth is the simplest step you can take towards achieving better sleep for your newborn.
5. Trigger Their Calming Reflex
When your newborn baby is screaming or crying, to help soothe them we can trigger their calming reflex. We can do this by using the following 5 S’s
by Dr Harvey Karp. These mimic the sensations your baby felt whilst in the womb and also help them to fall asleep.
Swaddling - The essential first step to soothing your baby and keeping them happy! It imitates the cuddling and continuous touch your baby experienced in the womb. Your baby may fight this first step however it reduces the flailing arms as they are wrapped snugly beside their body in the swaddle and helps them to focus on the next 4 steps.
Side/stomach - For many babies rolling them on to their side or stomach helps to quickly soothe them. It turns on the calming reflex and turns off the upsetting Moro reflex which is trigged when upset babies feel insecure on their backs as if they are being dropped.
Shushing – This sound imitates the noise your baby heard 24/7 whilst in the womb. Your shushing needs to match the noise level of their crying for it to work. Continue with some white noise whilst your baby is sleeping to help them sleep well.
Swinging - This echoes the motion inside the womb and helps turns on the calming reflex. If your baby is really unsettled aim to induce a very slight wiggle of your baby’s head and when they start to calm slow this down to a continual rhythmical motion.
Sucking – Newborn babies love to suck and used with all the other S’s it is the icing on the cake! Use a dummy, breast or bottle.
All babies react differently to each “S” some may settle quickly with 2 or 3 “S”s others may require all 5 to settle so don’t despair if this is your baby, just keep going!
6. Don’t Stress About A Nap Routine At This Age
Following a nap routine at this age is often not very achievable. Some newborns may settle in to a routine early on but most will struggle, and this is absolutely ok. Instead aim to follow age appropriate awake times as discussed above and keep an eye on their tired cues. What we can do is introduce a bedtime routine from around 6 -8 weeks old, keep it the same every evening so your baby soon learns it’s time to go to sleep. As your baby gets closer to 12 weeks, encouraging your baby to sleep at regular times during the day will get easier.
Do you need more help with your newborn’s sleep?
Many problems new parents struggle with such as colic, fussiness and feeding issues can stem from lack of sleep. Perfect Little Sleepers can help with gentle, proven, settling techniques with a holistic sleep assessment and plan tailored to your newborn and your parenting style. Please click here to view my sleep packages.
Interested in attending classes with your newborn?
Blooming Bubs based in Chislehurst runs a Teeny Seeds newborn class and various other baby classes. The main focus of the newborn class is to support new parents in the early days of their baby's life, providing a friendly and non-judgemental place where parents can meet others with similar age babies and pick up some tips and tricks along the way.
Visit their website for more information: https://www.bloomingbubs.co.uk