Updated: Feb 6, 2021
Let’s talk newborn sleep expectations...
Our first was a very fussy, unsettled baby. She cried a lot and hardly slept in stretches longer than 45 minutes, day and night. I was a clueless first time mum who had very unrealistic expectations around newborn sleep and those first three months were definitely a shock to the system.
Second time around, I expected the worst, but was lucky enough to have a more easy going baby. He was by no means a perfect sleeper, but at least he didn’t constantly cry, although, he was a little koala and definitely preferred to be held for most of his sleeps.
And now, I write this three weeks in, third time around. Being an experienced Mum and knowing the ins and outs and science behind babies sleep, there’s still a part of me that wasn’t prepared for how brutal the sleep deprivation with a newborn can be.
The most common question I get asked from parents of newborns is “how do I help them to sleep in their cot/bassinet, so I don’t have to hold them all day and night?”
And honestly.. there isn’t really an answer to this.
You can definitely set them up with healthy sleep habits from the very beginning ie. Tight swaddle, white noise, dark room, following awake windows. However, a lot of babies for the first twelve weeks, will just prefer being held close to you compared to being laid down on their own. I know this isn’t exactly what you want to hear when you can’t sleep at night because you can’t put your baby down.
If you are struggling with your newborn’s sleep here are my top 10 tips.
1. The best advice I can give is that you may need to adjust your expectations. Not only around your baby’s sleep, but also around what you can achieve in a day. You are likely going to be stuck under a sleeping baby for the majority of the day, so some of the chores around the house might just have to wait. Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to enjoy those newborn cuddles.
2. Make sure you are waking your baby during the day for 3-4 hourly feeds, especially in the early weeks. This will ensure they are taking in plenty of calories during the day so less likely to wake as often overnight from hunger.
3. You’ve probably heard this one a million times before, but if your baby will sleep in their bassinet during the day, sleep when they sleep if you can. I know it's not easy to drift off when your mind is running through all the things you "should" be doing, so perhaps just dedicate yourself one nap a day or every couple of days where you can allow ourself to sleep (or rest) without stressing about the enormous pile of dishes. If you have other kids to look after, then sorry, this probably doesn’t help unless the stars align and everyone is napping at the same time.
4. You can try settling in the cot/bassinet starting with one nap a day by patting and shushing, but if this just upsets them up or is unsuccessful after about 20 minutes, it’s ok to give up, help them off to sleep and try again tomorrow.
5. If your baby wakes shortly after transferring them into their cot/bassinet, try holding them for an extra 10-15 minutes before putting them down so they are in a deeper sleep.
6. Split the night into shifts with your partner so you both can have a decent chunk of sleep. If breastfeeding, leave your partner with a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula.
7. Co-sleeping is not recommended, especially at such a young age as there is increased risk of SIDS. If you decide that co-sleeping is your only option then read up on the safest way to do so.
8. Invest in a good baby carrier. If you have other children to look after, this will be a lifesaver to enable you to keep your hands free while keeping your baby close while they sleep.
9. Keep an eye on awake times to avoid your baby becoming overtired. An overtired baby is hard to settle.
10. Don't feel ashamed about asking for or accepting help when it's offered. This could be a friend coming over to hold your baby while you have a shower or a nap, or your mum picking up some groceries or cooking you a meal. It takes a village to raise a baby, no one expects you to do it on your own.
Important Stages Of Newborn Sleep
First three weeks
For the first three weeks your little one will be very sleepy, this is due to a surge of maternal melatonin which they receive via the placenta before they are born, They will wake enough for a feed and quick nappy change then go straight back to sleep. In saying this, your newborn will still wake frequently to feed so you're not likely to be getting any long stretches of sleep yourself during this time. This maternal melatonin usually wears off by week three.
Around week 6-8 your baby will start to produce their own melatonin. Due to this, it's also the age where catnapping usually starts to emerge as their day time sleep cycles become more apparent. So, now is where healthy sleep habits and a loose routine can start to fall into place to encourage better sleep.
Set up their sleep environment and watch out for tired signs and awake windows. You may also find that they no longer cluster feed in the evenings, so you can bring bedtime earlier.
For a complete guide on newborn sleep download the Newborn Sleep Guide HERE!
One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x