Newborns have a lot on their plates when they come into the world, and because of that we need to keep our expectations realistic and goals simple. There are lots of things you can do to promote the best sleep possible in your newborn, but here’s my top 4 tips when getting started. Easy peasy.
Tip #1: Establish an eat, wake, sleep cycle early.
Remember that things with newborns take time. Just because it’s impossible to keep your 2-week-old awake while she nurses, does not mean it will be impossible to keep her awake during a feed in 2-3 weeks. Initially, it’s helpful to at least try to focus some energy on establishing an eat, wake, sleep cycle. Help your newborn try to stay as awake as possible during their feeding, and then keep them awake a bit longer until you see a yawn or other tired sign, which is when you will get them to fall asleep for a nap. If you try to put some energy towards helping your newborn somewhat disassociate feeding and sleeping, it will be one less habit to break when the time comes to sleep train baby.
Tip #2: Learn your newborn’s sleep cues.
This can be tricky as not all newborns exhibit sleep cues, and when they do, they can go from awake to asleep very quickly. A sleep cue can be something as simple as a unique kind of cry or yelp, a certain rhythmic head motion, or a glassy-eyed stare. Look for these cues about 35-50 minutes after a newborn wakes. Very young babies often want to sleep frequently.
Tip #3: Establish an environment that is conducive to sleep.
Even though your 5-week-old baby seems to sleep anywhere, it’s very helpful to get them used to a healthy sleeping environment in the initial weeks of life. All that’s really needed is a crib or Pack n’ Play, loud white noise, and a very dark room. Even if you help your child fall asleep by bouncing or rocking, giving them at least some opportunities to practice sleeping in an appropriate sleep environment can help the shift to sleep training be less shocking later down the line.
Tip #4: Relax
The most important thing to remember is that needing to sleep train can simply not be prevented. Newborns do not just come out of their mother’s bodies knowing how to fall asleep unassisted. As such, parents develop ways to help their babies fall asleep, and whether it’s co-sleeping and nursing throughout the night, using a swing, or sleeping in a carrier, any assistance that a newborn gets to fall asleep is interchangeable, and all of these habits are equally difficult to break. So, if you cannot prevent the need to sleep train, do the best you can during those intense newborn weeks to do what you need to do in order to get the sleep you need. Then worry about breaking the inevitable habits you have formed later down the line, when it’s more developmentally appropriate for your child to fall asleep unassisted. In other words, relax during those early weeks, and try not to worry too much about creating habits. Do what you can to foster positive sleep habits, but most importantly, take advantage of bonding with your baby.
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