If you’re a new or expecting parent, you may have heard all the horror stories about newborn sleep:
• Babies who don’t sleep
• Babies who only sleep when they’re held
• Babies who are up all night
• Babies who will only fall asleep on the breast or bottle
• Babies who are up for hours on end
New parents practically wear exhaustion like a badge of honor.
Yes, newborn sleep is hard! But there are some things you can do to help create healthy sleep habits for your newborn, even in those very early days.
Set up healthy sleep habits in the beginning, and you’re on your way to having a good sleeper for life!
Here are five healthy newborn sleep habits that you can start from day one with your baby.
1. Create an optimum sleep environment
Something you can do before your baby is even born is set up their nursery so that it’s conducive for sleeping. You’ll want to hang up a good pair of nursery blackout curtains, add a white noise sound machine, and make sure their crib or bassinet is a safe sleep space and is free from bumpers, pillows, toys, and blankets.
These are helpful sleep associations and ones you won’t have to wean your baby from as they grow!
2. Watch those wake windows
Your newborn baby can only be awake for so long before they need to go back to sleep. In reality, the time that they are awake is really short! Newborns can only stay awake for about 45 minutes at a time.
Keeping a baby awake past that time frame causes overtiredness and overstimulation, making it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Get a clock and watch it like a hawk in the beginning. After about 45 minutes of your baby being awake, whisk them off to a dark room with their white noise so they can get some rest.
3. Keep them awake for feeds
Feeding your baby to sleep becomes a default for many new parents, but it can also be one of the most challenging habits to break later on. You can teach your baby that feeding time is awake time early on by keeping them awake during their feeds.
Babies are very sleepy in those first few weeks of life and are prone to falling asleep at the breast or bottle. You can help them wake up and finish their feed before drifting off to dreamland.
Some things you can do to help keep your baby awake during a feed include:
- Switch breasts
- Change their diaper
- Tickle their toes
- Gently wipe a damp washcloth against their cheeks
- Undress them
- Hold them upright
- Gently blow on their face
4. Don’t let them go too long in between feeds
Whoever said “never wake a sleeping baby” definitely wasn’t a sleep consultant! Newborn babies need to eat approximately every three hours. If your baby sleeps for long chunks of time during the day, they may miss several feeds and go looking for all those calories at night.
If it’s been 3 hours since your baby last had a feed during the day, give them about 30 more minutes and then wake them up to feed them.
5. Start a bedtime and naptime routine
You can’t put a newborn on a schedule (you can try, but they probably won’t follow it!), but you can implement routines for your newborn from day one. Setting up routines gives your baby a sense of predictability and can help cue them that sleep is coming!
A naptime routine can be short and sweet. Before putting your baby down for a nap, you can sing a song, change their diaper, and swaddle them. Even a simple thing like swaddling can help let their brain know it’s time for sleep.
A bedtime routine can be 20 to 30 minutes and include a bath, feeding, song, swaddling, or sleep sack.
The newborn phase is all about being consistent while being flexible. Your newborn’s sleep patterns won’t be perfect, and newborns often have short naps and need multiple middle of the night feeds. But by implementing these five habits early on, you can help establish healthy sleep from the beginning.
Amy Motroni is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and the Founder of The Postpartum Party. She believes the whole family thrives when everyone is well-rested. She has an online newborn sleep course and offers one-on-one services to get your entire family the sleep you need!
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.