I sooooo often have mamas calling me in desperation in the newborn stage, which is exactly why I created my Newborn Sleep Program. Families need help in that first, brief, portion of their baby’s life but there is a lot of contradictory information out there. Further, I acutely recall that when I had my first child people would tell me, “Don’t worry, things get so much better after week 12.” They may as well have said after year 12, because that’s how it felt to hear that I’d need to endure another several weeks of the newborn stage. So, without further ado, here is a sneak peek of some of my best newborn sleep tips for the first 12 weeks of life.
- Have realistic expectations.
I feel the need to put this at the top. Let’s remember, newborns are busy learning how to keep their bodies at the right temperature and HOW TO BREATHE, so give them, and yourself, a little break when it comes to expectations. Before I gave birth, I read a certain popular baby sleep book that made me feel like if I did A + B, then my 8-week-old should definitely be doing C. If she wasn’t doing C, it was because I was doing something wrong. That’s crap. If your newborn isn’t sleeping well DO NOT SWEAT IT! Please. Just don’t. Even if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to there are a myriad of other factors at play. Over half of all newborns suffer from painful reflux, others lack the gut bacteria to properly digest many of the trace amounts of common foods found in breast milk and thus have excruciating gas, and many are just unhappy being newborns. (This is just a personal theory here, but I SWEAR some children just hate being helpless newborns. I don’t blame them. Being a baby sucks sometimes.) Anyway, do your best then just let the rest go.
- Set up a proper sleeping environment.
This will matter more and more as baby gets past the 6-week mark. Set up a room for your baby to sleep for naps and bedtime. The sooner your baby starts to associate darkness and loud white noise with sleep, the easier his or her life will be. People always worry their baby will become addicted to or dependent on darkness and white noise and then won’t be able to sleep without it. Newsflash, adults have sleep preferences too! I don’t like to sleep in planes, trains, or automobiles—I prefer sleeping in my bed, with my pillow, etc. Many adults swear they sleep just fine through any errant noise, but studies show that constant pink (what we think of as white) noise helps the brain go into more stable levels of sleep. You can also just not use white noise or darkness and then see how that goes. Most (not necessarily all) babies sleep better with loud white noise and as-dark-as-possible darkness. This is a post about how to get your kiddo to sleep better, after all…
- Do not let your baby sleep longer than 2 hours at a time from 7 am to 7 pm.
This has got to be the single most effective thing you can do encourage your newborn to have longer stretches at night. Granted, this will literally be impossible to accomplish for most babies before 4 to 6 weeks. When those new newborns want to sleep, try as you might, they will not wake up. But, as soon as you see that you’re able to wake them up a bit, do so! Take off their clothes, expose them to the cooler air, take them outside/expose them to sunlight, put them in a baby tub filled with lukewarm water. Simply put, do anything you can to wake them up if they’ve been asleep for longer than 2 hours.
- Keep wake times to a minimum.
Wake times matter much less after the age of about 4 to 5 months, but they mean everything to a newborn. Keep those newborns awake for about 50 to 60 minutes (including feeding and changing time if they’re awake during the feeding) and then start to get them ready for a nap by swaddling them, taking them to their room, and actively trying to get them down for a nap. Ideal wake times range depending on the age of your newborn and time of day, but in a nutshell, the younger they are, the less time they’ll be able to stay comfortably awake (ie. 30-60 mins), and as they get older awake time can stretch to as long as 90 minutes.
- Perfect your swaddle technique.
I can’t tell you how many parents tell me their kid hates the swaddle. But nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience, while there are a few babies that truly hate the swaddle, most parents mistake their child’s fussing for hate. Try to implement use of the swaddle for naps and at bedtime. Try it for several weeks before writing it off.
- Feed your baby every 2.5 to 3.5 hours during the day.
If possible, try to establish a cycle where your baby wakes up and eats immediately (while staying as awake as humanly possible), remains awake to complete the 60 minutes of wake time, sleeps for some amount of time, then wakes again and eats. This is a great way to ensure your kiddo gets as many calories during the day as possible, and hopefully sleeps longer stretches at night.
And there you have it mamas. I hope these quick tips help. And if you’d like more like this — sign up for my free newsletter for the free bedroom guide and regular tips! And use the coupon code NewbornBlog10 at checkout for 10% off The Newborn Sleep Program.