How to handle my newborn baby and sleep?
“My newborn baby does not want to sleep!”
“My newborn has these long stretches of wakefulness in the middle of the night!”
“My baby only sleeps when we contact nap during the day, help!”
Any of these sound familiar?
You’ve been preparing for the birth of your baby for roughly 9 months, now your baby is here and they are pretty much sleeping ALL THE TIME!? Surely it’s not as tough as everyone makes it out…
Slowly but surely your baby starts waking up more, aware of more sounds and light. So what now! How must I handle my newborn baby and sleep?
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
This is a guide, not a manual, and it includes tips and strategies to try out during the wonderful but scary first four months of your baby’s life, particularly in the area of sleep! Just keep in mind that you cannot spoil your newborn baby in any way! So get as many cuddles and snuggles in as you can.
Our two most important tips:
- GET TO KNOW YOUR BABY
- During your baby’s first four weeks of life, you need to get to know each other.
- Care, socialise and connect with your baby, and just take in all the smells and cuddles you can.
- Have skin on skin as much as possible.
- Talk to your baby, look them in the eye and build attachment every day.
- Establish feeding (Breast or formula feeding) as it takes time to figure it out.
- HAVE REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS
- Babies from 0 to 4 months old, “STILL WAKE UP AT NIGHT” to feed.
- Their tummies are too small for them to eat enough to last all night.
- Night wakings are a way for you to make sure they are okay and check on them during the night.
- Caring for a newborn baby takes time so if someone offers to help out with something, say YES! Even if it means you get to take a shower!
When you are ready and feel confident, we will help you in a gentle way to get your little one asleep. No anxiety, no pressure, just encouraging you to genuinely love the newborn phase.
P.S. You need to start small with our suggestions and if you get to a day when it’s not going well, just chill out, take a step back, and try again the next day. Our babies pick up on how we feel, so if your baby is dysregulated and fussy check your own emotions too. (We know hormones are all over the place at this stage!)
Before we begin any soothing techniques, we must first understand the basics of sleep and set the stage for our baby. Remember that every baby and mother is different, and you must find your own rhythm with your child.
Set the scene: Sleep Environment
Before we can sleep well, we need to set the scene. As parents, it’s up to us to make sure that our babies have a good and restful place to sleep.
TIP: Your baby can sleep anywhere you are for the first six weeks. If you show them light during the day, it might help them tell the difference between day and night for those first 6 weeks.
- Safe Sleep
This is the most important step and something you should implement as much as possible. Each year, more than a 1000 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly. Some are due to unknown causes – SIDS – and others are sleep related causes. Highest risk is at 1 – 4 Months of age.
Here are a few recommendations that are set by the American Academy of pediatrics (AAP):
- Always place baby on his/her back to sleep for naps and at night.
- Keep baby in your room close to your bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for the baby’s first year, but at least for the first 6 months.
- Do not put soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, or loose bedding under baby, over baby, or anywhere in baby’s sleep area.
- Do not let your baby get too hot or too cold during sleep, we recommend a sleep suite and check the tog rating as a guide.
- Use a firm and flat sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft items in the sleep area.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby or in your baby’s environment.
- Think about giving your baby a pacifier for naps and nighttime sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Give your baby plenty of tummy time when he or she is awake and someone is watching.
- Swaddle your baby, but ALWAYS place baby fully on his or her back to sleep. Stop swaddling baby once he or she starts trying to roll over.
- Light & Darkness
It’s amazing how our bodies were created. When we are exposed to daylight it helps our bodies set our biological clock. Newborn babies still have immature circadian rhythms so exposing them to natural light will be beneficial for day and night. This also helps with their moods.
When it’s nap time and bedtime try your best to keep the room at its darkest especially from 6 weeks. Ideally we aim for a 10/10 darkness at naps and always at bedtime, it can start off dim while doing the bedtime routine and then switch to dark when it’s sleepy time.
From when your baby could start hearing in your womb all they heard was white noise. The sound of blood rushing through your placenta, and when measured it sounds as loud as a shower!
So when we use white noise in our babies room for naps and bedtime it’s a familiar sound and takes them to that calm state they were like in your tummy.
Tip: Always keep it at 65db but when your baby is crying turn the volume up and come down as they start calming.
- Room Temperature
An ideal room temperature is 18-22‘ degrees. This might not always be achievable. Try to dress your little one accordingly under the swaddle blanket or suit.
- The science behind newborn sleep:
Newborn babies have immature circadian rhythms and their sleep cycles are spread throughout the night AND day. A newborn baby’s sleep cycle is much shorter than an adult sleep cycle, and babies spend much more time in light sleep cycles.
This is partly due to survival, as babies need to wake when they are hungry, in pain, wet or need attention.
Their biological clock is also controlled by hormones. Cortisol(the awake hormone) and melatonin(the sleep hormone) and these levels fluctuate naturally during the course of the day.
Their real-time and internal time can differ and if it does not meet/sync then it can be really difficult to fall asleep.
So for day naps, when a newborn falls asleep they immediately go into an active rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Characterized by flickering eyes, lots of movement and you need to try settling baby for nothing less than 20 min.
They then move into a deep sleep, and when their bodies relax you can move them onto their backs. It might be normal for them to only sleep for 45 min. You can try to resettle them for 10-15 min to link their cycles and see if they will sleep some more.
Between 8 and 12 weeks sleep cycles start to emerge as sleep matures.
Newborn babies do not have sleep associations, use your tools available to assist your baby to sleep and prevent an overtired baby at all cost.
Throughout 12 weeks till 4 months we need to start being mindful and actively decreasing our intervention when calming your baby so that we give them ample space to learn self-settling and allow them some time to see if they can settle.
- Structure your day with a flexible routine
Babies have their own rhythms and you need to watch their awake windows and tired signs instead of the clock. From +- 12 weeks our little ones start showing regular patterns. Allow a little more flexibility in your schedule for yourself and your newborn, especially in the beginning. Times can change every day.
Something you can try:
Start to see how long your little one can happily stay awake. Each baby is unique at this age. We recommend you log times for 3 days to see a pattern. Once you see your little one can stay awake for example +-60 min before showing “I am sleepy “ signs then start to go to your ideal sleep environment and put your little one down before they become overtired.
We love Tracy Hogg’s EASY routine as it is a no anxiety and flexible way to structure your day. What EASY means is:
- E – EAT
- A– An activity : like Tummy Time/nappy change
- S– Sleep
- Y– Your time.
Even if this is the only routine you follow, it’s OK! One of the things we allow to happen is not always feeding before sleepy time and rather before an activity.
- Nap and bedtime routine
Spend 10-15 minutes of special time before naps. Take a series of small steps before your baby naps. This sets the stage for sleep and provides sleepy signs.
Change a nappy, have a chat, close the blinds, tell baby your sleepy words, it’s dudu time, white noise, into sleeping sack / swaddle, and into bed. This will help your baby know it is time to sleep. It’s a great method to gain additional cuddles and quality time.
And it should be implemented in the same way for bedtime! A great start for a bedtime routine is a bath! This helps calm them and wash off the stimulation of the day, as well as help relax their tummies and get rid of winds. Bedtime should also stay consistent and have a set of steps you follow every single night similar to the nap routine.
Create a healthy sleep foundation
Step 1 – Set the sleep environment up as above
Then take step 2 – Calm your baby & swaddle
Implement step 3 – Start implementing a nap and bedtime routine from birth.
Step 4 – If your baby is calm, place them in the cot and observe. If they start drifting off to sleep, amazing! If not…read on
A very important step 5 – Turn them on their side if they are fussy and pat them a little on the bottom or the back. You can also place your hand on their chest and gently rock them back and forth.
Step 6 – If the crying is escalating, pick up and calm by rocking or patting in your arms.
Assess the situation, if your baby quickly calms in your arms you might want to try the process again by putting them down and observing. If they take a while to calm you might want to get them to sleep sooner rather than later using your usual method of getting them to sleep.
Conclusion: Once you start finding your rhythm with your baby, things will start to feel more manageable.
NEED MORE HELP?
If you are still struggling to find your feet and feeling uncertain about your baby and sleep, we have a Brave Little Baby Online Newborn Sleep Course that:
- Guides you step by step and is self paced
- Helps you settle baby in the cot
- Tips and methods on handling fussy colicky babies
- Get an independent sleeper by the time you go back to work
- Get more structure in your day by 4 months
- Banish any anxiety you might have regarding sleep so you can genuinely love the newborn phase.
Moms are raving about this course and wish they knew about it sooner!
We also have a facebook support group where you can ask any questions for support once you join our course.
Looking forward to supporting you through this wonderful time being a new, second or third time mom.
If the going gets tough, reach out to your health professionals and support for help
Making sleep easier for tired families
Your sleep sidekicks Zanda and Lindi