Sleep Advice For Newborns

Our Top 10 Tips To Help Your Newborn Sleep Better

Although newborn sleep can be very unpredictable and erratic, newborns do need a lot of it – between 16-18 hours a day in fact. Even from this early tender age, there are a number of sleep components you can influence and apply now in helping your newborn sleep well and set them up with healthy sleep habits. Here are my top 10 newborn sleep tips that I think are crucial in helping your newborn sleep better.
  1. Keep awake times short
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can offer is to not let your baby get overtired. Keeping them up during the day will not help them sleep better at night. A newborn (0-6 weeks) can only handle around 45-60 minutes of awake time, with this time slowly increasing up to approximately 120 minutes at 16 weeks old. When you see the first tired sign (baby zoning out, rubbing eyes, pulling ears etc.), you have about a 5-10 minute window of opportunity in which they will fall asleep fairly easily. If you miss this window, your baby will be overtired. This can result in your baby having a harder time to fall asleep, only doing short naps and having increased night wakings.

  1. Distinguish between day & night
Day/night confusion can last up to around 6 weeks of age, however there are a few things you can do to help them differentiate between day and night quicker. Make daytime interactions full of light and daytime feedings social by chatting and singing as you feed them. Make nighttime interactions efficient, quiet, with very little interaction and in very low light. Once the nighttime feed and nappy change is done, it should be right back to bed with no playtime.
  1. Introduce a consistent sleeping place
Between 6-8 weeks of age is when you want to start establishing a consistent place for your baby to sleep. Around this age is when your baby starts to make connections and they start taking in a lot more of their surroundings (a great sign they have met this milestone is when they start to social smile). Ideally this is the time to introduce the cot, so they come to learn that their cot = sleep time.
  1. Blackout curtains
The best way to make your baby’s sleep environment conducive for sleep is to use blackout blinds. A dark room will produce a hormone called melatonin, which helps make us feel drowsy and helps to cue the brain for sleep. If you don’t have a dark room for your baby, this can contribute to those frustrating 45-minute catnaps! Think ‘cave like’ dark! Don’t worry about confusing night with day by having a dark room – as long as you are making awake time during the day full of light, this will not happen.
  1. White noise
Shushing or white noise, replicates the constant background noise a baby heard in the womb, so any shushing in the soothing routine or white noise during naps and night sleep can be very effective and is a great settling tool. Have the white noise machine across the room from your baby (not right next to them) and have the volume similar to that of a running shower (50 decibels or quieter).  There are plenty of free apps to download if you don’t want to spend money on a white noise machine.
  1. Swaddling
I can’t recommend swaddling enough. Swaddling helps newborns to feel secure, just like they were in the womb, and helps to stop the startle reflex therefore sleeping longer and fussing less. Some mothers feel that their baby hates to be swaddled, but for the majority of these times it is just the process of being swaddled they don’t like – once all nice and cosy your baby should relax and sleep much better.
*If your baby is able to roll from back to front in their swaddle it is important to stop swaddling for safety reasons*
  1. Experiment with self-settling
Another really important sleep component I consider for a baby is their ability to self-soothe and to not rely on sleep props (i.e. falling asleep nursing, rocking to sleep etc). We do have to take this process slowly with newborns, however once around the 6-8 week mark, my suggestion would be to experiment; say once or twice in every 24 hours to see if your baby can self-settle by putting them down for a sleep drowsy but awake.
Twins 2
The best time to experiment is generally for the first nap of the day when your baby is better rested from their night sleep, or at bedtime when the drive to sleep is much higher. However, don’t put too much pressure on it if your baby doesn’t settle. The main aim at this tender age is to help your baby get the sleep they need, so use your back-up sleep options if you need to.
  1. Implement a soothing routine for naps
By the 6-8 week period, your baby will be becoming a lot more aware of their surroundings and is less likely just to close their eyes and fall asleep. To help in preparing them for a nap, start a soothing routine. A soothing routine should be consistent and predictable, so your baby knows what to expect and that naptime is nearing. In the soothing routine you might like to include things like rocking, singing, swaddling etc.
  1. Implement a consistent & predictable bedtime routine
It’s never too early to develop and implement a bedtime routine for your newborn. I recommend implementing a consistent bedtime routine by about 6-8 weeks of age. It’s also at this time that bedtime should naturally start to become earlier, usually between 6-8pm. Work on a bedtime routine, and keep it consistent so that again your baby knows what to expect. You might like to include things like a bath, massage, story, cuddles, singing, bedtime milk etc. This shouldn’t take too long, approximately 20-30 minutes. A consistent bedtime and some simple bedtime rules, even at this young age, are important - it’s how they start to regulate sleep.
  1. Create a flexible feeding & sleeping routine
Don’t stress too much at this stage about a set daytime routine. Of course you don’t want total chaos, as some sort of organisation and routine can help to understand why your baby might be crying i.e. you can ask yourself are they due for a feed or how long has it been since their last nap. During the day, keep them on a 3-4 hour feeding schedule (wake them if you need to), so they get in all their calories during the day and keep their bigger sleeps for nighttime. With feeding, we suggest you do this when your baby wakes up from a nap (rather than just before a nap). This is because you want to avoid feeding your baby to sleep and it becoming a sleep association between feeding and sleeping, as it may cause problems later on. The exception is bedtime where you want a nice, long feed just before bed.
Hope these tips help. Enjoy this time with your newborn; the time will go by so fast and they'll be crawling and walking before you know it.

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After two weeks of implementing Emma’s Personalised Sleep Plan the feeding to sleep habit has been broken, day sleeps are lengthening and are now between 60 and 90 minutes long and he has started sleeping through the night!  

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