The newborn stage in a baby’s life is from birth to three months. Newborn babies sleep a lot, but for short periods of time. If a newborn sleeps for three months, which is rare, then a mom must consider herself to be very lucky. The first three weeks in a baby’s life are the adjustment stage, where the baby is adapting to this new and unknown, less dark environment after leaving the womb, where he was safely tucked away for months.
Tips for better newborn sleep
1- No rush in structuring the baby’s sleep
My advice to new moms is to lower their expectations, and o have realistic goals when it comes to baby sleep during the first few weeks after birth. Give the baby the time and space they need to fully adjust. When parents ask me about structuring their newborn’ s sleep I only advise them to take care of the baby and to tend to their different needs, in addition to spending time with the baby, as sleep structuring cannot be done during the first few weeks of the baby’s life.
2- Encourage full feeds
When the baby gets a full feed, they fall asleep faster and hassle-free, and they sleep better as well. This is why it is very important not to let the baby fall asleep during feedings before the feeding is complete. If the baby falls asleep hungry this means that he will get up soon after because of hunger. I always advise moms to wake the baby up if he falls asleep while feeding. Stop the feeding, burp the baby, tickle their nose, talk, and play to them to wake them up and finish the feed.
3- Respect the awake window
It is very important to know that the awake window of a newborn baby is between 45 minutes to one hour. This fact might frustrate new moms, who are receiving guests and want to meet the baby and play with them, but the newborn sleep is more important than having the guest spend time with them. Respecting the awake window is a key pillar in establishing healthy sleep habits, or what I like to call sleep hygiene. Putting the baby to sleep before the end of the awake window, when he is not tired and not sleepy yet, will lead him to fight sleep through crying and fussing. Keeping the baby up past his awake window will make him overtired and overstimulated and will contest to sleeping by crying. Moreover, not respecting the awake window will mean that the baby will sleep for only a short period of time.
4- Learn the sign of sleepiness
The first and most obvious clue telling you it’s time to put the baby to sleep is the awake window, if 45 minutes to one hour since your baby has been awake have passed then it’s time to sleep! The other clues are crying, fussiness, yawning, stretching, pulling of the ear, rubbing of the eyes, and gazing. If your baby is gazing and is distracted this is a major sign of sleepiness. It is imperative that the baby is put to sleep immediately, as these signs appear when the baby has been tired for a while, he just decided to share with you now.
5- Use a white noise machine
There are different options that provide white noise to help with the newborn sleep. The most popular is the white noise machine, there are also many apps available that can be used with smartphones. White noise blocks any external sound that might interfere with the baby’s sleep and reduces the Moro reflex. When using a white noise device, which is considered a great sleeping tool, it should be two meters away from the baby, and the sound should be between fifty to sixty decibels for best efficiency.
6- The proper light
There must be a dimmed light around the baby when they sleep during the day, to train the baby’s brain that this is daytime, and this is a nap. When the baby awakes from their nap, we celebrate his awakening and open the curtains so that the light comes through the windows. When the baby sleeps at night the room must be pitch dark. Structuring the light this way around the baby’s sleep is essential to train the baby to differentiate between night and day, and between a nap and a night’s sleep. At two months of age, a baby can sleep in a dark room night and day so that they get used to dark as part of their sleep environment. Moreover, it is essential to go on with the daily activities when the baby naps during the day, without any disturbing noises.
7- Designate a sleeping place
Setting a specific place for the baby to sleep during naptimes as well as at night, is an important component in establishing a healthy sleeping habit.
8- Assist the baby to feel sleepy
It is imperative not to assist the baby to fall asleep and instead help him to wind down and feel sleepy. The baby must also fall asleep on their own to be able to sleep independently later. We can rock the baby gently to calm them down, but I don’t recommend rocking the baby to sleep, the same goes for breastfeeding, and the use of a pacifier, all of these can be sleep aids but not sleep tools.
9- The use of a pacifier
The use of pacifiers is highly recommended by the American Academy of pediatrics as it highly reduces the risk of SIDS. I don’t recommend the use of a pacifier right after birth to avoid nipple confusion and to ensure the success of breastfeeding. Later the pacifier can be used to soothe the baby, but I don’t recommend keeping it in the baby’s mouth while they are asleep. I recommend the cessation of the use of pacifiers at eight or nine months of the baby’s age to avoid dependency.
10- Establishing a bedtime routine
Preparing the baby to sleep through a fixed pre-set routine is essential to ensure good baby sleep. The bedtime routine is a series of steps that we follow constantly with the baby and later with the child, to prepare them for sleeping. The routine is a transition between sleeping time and daily activities. We can’t expect the baby to immediately fall asleep after coming home from an outing and spending time around lights and other stimulants. Some of the steps that can be included in the bedtime routine: are bathing, changing clothes if the baby was out, dimming the light, telling the baby it’s time to sleep, and with newborn babies the use of a sleep sack, that must be used in all sleeping situations with consistency. A bedtime routine lasts between 15 to 20 minutes, and it can also include a baby massage, singing a lullaby, and reading. The activities of this routine must be quiet and soothing and not stimulating. I recommend starting the bedtime routine as early as possible, and to continue with it later while adjusting the steps to meet the child’s needs and development. With older children several stories can be read instead of one, we can talk to them about their day and even do puzzles. The bedtime routine is a precious opportunity to bond with children and to spend quality time with them while enhancing their language, social and emotional skills.
Also read How to calm your colicky baby