One of the most common complaints that I hear from parents is that their child’s sleep schedule is unpredictable and they have no structure to their day. I understand that completely. This was how I felt with my first child and as a type A individual, not having structure to my day was creating more anxiety in my already new role as a parent. This is exactly why I created a Sample Schedule starting from week one of your newborns life to 13+ months of age. I wished I had something like this as a new parent to allow me to add some predictability into our day.
Moving on to the focus of this blog (which ties in nicely with the Sample Schedule mentioned above) are my top 5 tips for newborns sleep. Now, if this doesn’t apply to your stage of life right now, send it to a friend who is expecting or just had a baby! If anything, they will walk away with a few tips and a free Sample Schedule to get them off to a good start!
Tip # 1
Did you know that a newborn baby can only tolerate staying awake for approximately 45 minutes before they need to sleep? Within those 45 minutes you need to feed them, play with them and then prepare them for naptime before the 45 minute mark is up. This means they need to be falling asleep after 45 minutes of awake time not preparing for sleep at 45 minutes. Sounds crazy, right? Overtiredness is the most common culprit to fussiness. So, make sure you are following age appropriate wake windows to keep them happy and well rested.
Tip # 2
One of the most common issues parents of older babies have is a feed-to-sleep association and this association always begins earlier in their baby’s life but doesn’t become a problem until later. Following an Eat-Play-Sleep routine will help decrease the chance that your newborn will fall asleep while eating because they are eating when they are the most alert and awake. I am not saying that following this routine will guarantee that your baby will not fall asleep while eating but this routine certainly will go a long way in helping to decrease the chance of a feed-to-sleep association from developing.
Tip # 3
Consistent bedtime routines are essential to set the stage for bedtime and to build off of as your child continues to grow. Initially, this may look like a quick bath or a baby massage before PJ’s and a top-off feed but as your child can tolerate longer wake windows and you have more time to prepare for bedtime, you may choose to add a song or a book. Keep in mind that a routine should take no longer than 10-15 minutes for a newborn and a baby older than 12 weeks you can add another 5-10 minutes for a total of 20-30 minutes. Creating a manageable bedtime routine will help create a consistent and predictable routine that your baby will begin to recognize and allow their body to mentally prepare for sleep.
Tip # 4
Along the lines with Tip # 2, ensuring that your baby is having full feeds is important for growth and also for helping with longer stretches of sleep. If your baby tends to be more of a snack and snooze newborn, focus on keeping your baby awake during the feeds. This can look like changing a diaper at the beginning of the feed and then again in the middle, undressing your baby to just a diaper to keep them a little cooler, tickling their feet or blowing gently on their face as they become drowsy during the feed. Newborns are often a challenge to keep awake for their feeds and will take some effort on your part to ensure they are getting a full feed. Now, if they do end up falling asleep, no worries! Just try again at the next feeding. (Not sure if you are feeding enough or over feeding? Check out Stomach Size Guide on my Freebie page!)
Tip # 5
Last but not least ensure that you have created a safe sleep environment for your little one. Approximately 3500 infants per year die suddenly and unexpectedly and many are thought to be caused by SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Gone are the days of crib bumpers (even the mesh ones!), loose blankets in the crib or anything in the crib for that matter. Always place baby on their back and in their own sleep space for sleep, use a sleep sack or swaddle, and avoid allowing baby to get overheated are just a few of the recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics published new guidelines back in 2022 and you can find the complete article here.
In conclusion, establishing a consistent daily routine can greatly help regulate your newborn’s sleep pattern while ensuring their safety and healthy growth. These tips, ranging from ensuring full feeds to creating a secure sleep environment, require dedication and patience on your part. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and every baby is unique. Pay attention to your baby’s cues, make adjustments when needed, and most importantly, trust your instincts. You are doing an amazing job, and each day is a new opportunity to build on their new sleep skills.