We are fresh out of the newborn haze over here, the constant flow of diapers, feeding, burping, bouncing, rocking, crying. In the middle of the crazy, it is possible to start laying the foundations for your newborns sleep! I’m going to walk you through our first few months to show you how!
This was our third time with a newborn, and also our third BOY (pray for us)! After every birth, I have struggled with PPA (post-partum anxiety) that tends to focus on my babies’ sleep- so I knew that for my mental health, I needed to do all I could to lay a good foundation for sleep from day one.
With newborns, this is built with consistent routines, practice, patience, and a LOT of grace- for both of you!
The key with newborns is to have a routine, not a set schedule! Newborns will only be awake for about 45 minutes without becoming overtired, so keep that in mind for your routine! Also look for tired signs in your baby to figure out their sweet spot of awake time. For us, that looked like red eyebrows and disengaging (gazing off into space). For the first 6 weeks or so, your routine might look like feed for 30 minutes, diaper change, a couple of kisses, some tummy time, and right back to sleep. Maybe even pop outside for a few minutes in there- light is so important in helping day/night confusion and developing their circadian rhythm in those early weeks!
Expose them to lots of light during the day, and keep lights off or dim for night feeds. Adding in sleep cues to your routine will also help baby’s body recognize when sleep is coming. We kept our sleep routine simple- diaper change, swaddle, and white noise!
From day one, we tried to give baby opportunities to practice falling
asleep independently in the bassinet or crib. There are two reasons for this. The first is so that baby would recognize the sleep space as a safe and familiar place. A lot of sleep time during the newborn period is contact sleep- sleep on mom or dad! And that is okay and normal as baby is getting used to life outside the womb and needing extra help with soothing! But we also don’t want to get to 5 or 6 months and have the crib feel like a foreign space to baby. Secondly, research shows that parental presence at the time a baby or child is falling asleep is strongly correlated to increased night wakings. In order to encourage consolidated night sleep from the beginning, allowing them a few minutes in the crib to see if they can fall asleep without help is a great, gentle and gradual way to help baby learn the skill of falling asleep in their sleep space!
Most of our naps were in a carrier, car seat, or inour arms, but our goal was to practice an independent nap once a day for that first nap of the day when sleep pressure is the highest- some days we didn’t practice at all because life happens! After he had been awake for about 40 minutes, we swaddled, turned on white noise, rocked him for a bit, then laid him down ready for sleep. At first, he would lay there wide awake for a while before getting upset. If he was only lightly fussing, we gave him space; if he was crying, we calmed him, and laid him back down to try again! If he was not asleep after about 20 minutes, we helped him to sleep to prevent him from becoming overtired.
Flexibility with this sleep practice is so important. Remember that helping baby after this practice is not a failure! There was still success in giving baby the opportunity and exposure to their crib and independent sleep.
Patience and Grace
Newborns can stretch your patience so thin. At a time when a newly postpartum mother themselves needs a lot of care and rest, a newborn also needs a lot of care and attention. A newborn’s cries can cue a physical reaction in their mothers- I can literally feel my stress and blood pressure rising when baby is crying!
Balancing that feeling of urgency with patience and curiosity can be so helpful in helping baby sleep. Instead of rushing to them at the first whimper during the night, pause, wait, be curious about what baby can do! Newborns are such noisy, active sleepers! If you run to them at the first peep, you may actually be waking them up! Building that sleep foundation will take time and lots of opportunity to practice, so have patience with the process.
The newborn stage can be hard. You are both learning each other, figuring out feeding, what baby likes, managing doctor appointments, etc. If working on sleep feels overwhelming, you can come back to this when you are ready! If you feel like you have the capacity- or like the structure of having a sleep plan in place- then setting a foundation. in these early days can pay off big time in the future!
Enjoy the snuggles, rest when you can, and if sleep becomes unsustainable for you, we are here to help! We offer a variety of newborn packages to help walk with you through this phase and take the guesswork out of newborn sleep!