Newborn-Sleep-ScheduleAs a new parent, nothing is more thrilling (or terrifying!) than the moment you get to bring your newborn home.

Those first few days are quite nerve-racking. It can be scary not knowing what to do and what to expect!

Next to feeding, sleeping is usually the main topic of concern that new parents bring up during their meetings with It Takes A Village Baby Consultants. You may not realize it, but regular sleep is actually a skill that babies need to learn, not something that always comes naturally.

For some babies, falling into a sleep routine happens relatively quickly. However, most babies need to be taught good sleeping skills.

The First Few Months

During the first three months, you can expect your newborn to sleep a lot (as much as 16-18 hours.)

I know you’ve heard it plenty of times before, but it’s true: be sure to sleep when your baby sleeps! Getting your sleep in will also help with milk production if you are breastfeeding.

Don’t look for any logic in your baby’s current sleep pattern. Because babies have been in a dark environment for the past 9 months, they have difficulty distinguishing between days and nights, and their sleep can be all over the place because of it .

Don’t worry…there is a lot you can do to guide your newborn and set them up for good sleeping and eating habits.

I am NOT saying that you should sleep train your newborn, however, there are a few things you can do to support and guide them.

Your job is to help your newborn to make the transition from the womb to her new environment. Here are some ways that you can do this:

1. Respond To Their Cries

Those first few days, all you want to do is to hug, cuddle, rock and hold your newborn. Don’t ignore those instincts!

She needs to learn that when she cries, these amazing people are going to rush in and figure out what she needs. In these early days, it is important to form trust between you and your newborn.

2. Give Them Plenty Of Sunlight During The Day

Many new parents worry that their newborn has his days and nights mixed up.

Giving your baby plenty of sunshine during the day and creating a darker, calmer environment at bedtime will help him distinguish between daytime and nighttime. This will aide in his adaptation to his newborn sleep schedule.

3. Swaddle

The first few days are the perfect time to get your baby used to being swaddled.

Swaddling helps to recreate your baby’s life in the womb. It also helps your baby to sleep better because it controls her startle reflex while she is sleeping on her back.

4. Give Full Feeds

Feeding newborns and getting them to fall asleep go hand in hand.

Getting your baby to take full feeds is a little more difficult to do in the very early days when your baby is feeding often and falling asleep during feeds. In those first days, you want to feed your baby on demand. If you are breastfeeding, this will help with milk production.

If your baby falls asleep while you are feeding, change his diaper, move to a different environment, and try again. If your baby does not take full feeds, then you will be up every 20-30 minutes to feed again. Stay persistent in giving them full feeds every time.

In the first few weeks and months, you are going to work up to feeding your baby every 2 ½ to 3 hours. Even babies who are fed on demand can get to 2 ½ to 3 hours if they have had a full feed.

5. Create A Healthy Sleep Environment

Your baby will probably sleep next to you in your room for the first few weeks. Whether your baby sleeps next to you or in her own room, you can make the environment conducive to sleep by following these pointers:

  • Have the room very dark. Think cave-like. Use black out shades if you need to.
  • Use a white noise machine (continuous noise is best). The Dohm by Marpac is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Continuous white noise recreates the sounds that your baby heard in the womb. This sound can work wonders when it comes to creating a soothing environment for your sleepy newborn
  • Maintain the temperature of the room at 68-70 degrees.

6. Watch For Your Baby’s Sleep Signs

Even as a newborn, your baby has ways of telling you when he is tired. These include, yawning, staring, looking away, or crying.

Learning your newborn’s sleep signs can help you put him to bed at the right time. If sleep signs are ignored, babies can become overtired, which makes it much more difficult to get them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

7. Set A Daily Routine

This is often difficult to do in the early days of being home with your newborn.

A good rule of thumb to follow during the first few months is to know that a baby gets tired around 90 minutes after they wake. So if your baby wakes at 7:00 am for the day, then her first nap would be around 8:30am. The rest of the day would follow the same 90 minute routine of waking, feeding, playing, and then back to sleep.

Obviously, every newborn is different. Some of the suggestions we have provided may not work with your baby, but they provide excellent starting points to base your newborn sleep schedule off of. We hope they help you immensely as you learn all about your new baby!

Click here for more advice on infant sleep from It Takes A Village Baby Consultants.

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Joanne Palermo, M. Ed is an early intervention developmental specialist. She has over 30 years experience working with babies, toddlers and their families. She is also a certified sleep consultant.