4 Best Practices for Newborn Sleep Success
I love to read and I love to feel informed. So, when my first little boy was born, I really felt that I was sufficiently educated about the needs of a newborn.
However, I realised after my baby was born prematurely, that most of the information I had been reading didn’t include infant sleep. I mostly researched topics about breastfeeding and caring for a preemie.
Now that I am an infant sleep coach, I would love to share with you what I wish I could tell my past self.
1. Make Sleep a Priority
Newborns need sleep not only to rest, but also to process all of the new sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of a new and strange world.
Your newborn should not be awake for longer than 45 minutes at a time (day or night). Once baby wakes up and you feed, burp, and change a diaper it will probably be time for them to go right back to sleep.
If parents don’t step in, a newborn can often stay awake for hours at a time. This will make them increasingly upset, and it will become very difficult to get them to sleep. And once they are finally asleep, their sleep won’t be as long or restful as it would be otherwise.
Decide now to make your baby’s needs the priority and discuss together with your immediate family how you can explain that to any visitors.
Do not wake up your baby to meet new people. Do not keep your baby up for friends and family that come to visit.
There will be plenty of time for this after baby has grown-up a little and is more able to cope with our crazy world.
2. Create a Non-Stimulating Sleep Environment
Sleep is a sweet relief for a newborn that is overwhelmed and over-stimulated by the many new things that they experience after birth.
Sleep baby in a space that is dark and quiet (except for a white noise machine if you prefer).
Although it may feel odd to put a baby to sleep in the complete dark, remember that baby was in a very dark environment for 9 months in the womb. The dark will likely feel very comfortable and familiar.
You can also avoid over-stimulating baby during the day by avoiding toys that make noise or vibrate. Keeping baby away from lots of the sound and light caused by electronics (like TV) will also help them sleep better.
3. Sleep Baby Flat
The best newborn advice that I ever received was to “begin with the end in mind”.
If you wish for baby to sleep on a flat surface as a 6-month old (or even a 2-year-old) then you need to introduce that kind of sleep environment from the start. The majority of sleep (especially night sleep) should take place on a flat surface.
Avoid using swings, hammocks, and other baby positioners for infant sleep. Often these products are not safe for sleep. They also encourage baby to develop an unhealthy sleep dependence on the motion or the curled/cradled position.
4. Use a Variety of Tools
When I coach the families of older babies (3+ months), we focus almost exclusively on teaching baby to fall asleep independently. However, it isn’t reasonable to expect this of a newborn.
New babies may fall asleep on their own at times (which is great!), but most of the time they will need a little bit of help falling asleep.
Use a variety of strategies and techniques to help baby, so that they won’t start to develop a dependence on any one thing.
I would be very careful to avoid feeding to sleep, as food/sleep confusion is the most difficult sleep habit to overcome.
And while skin-to-skin time is very important for a newborn, I would be careful not to lie baby to sleep on you every single time. This will become an expectation very quickly.
Instead, I highly recommend patting, shushing, walking, swaying, and rocking (all in a dark and quiet space).
Use different methods and different people to help baby understand that sleep exists independent of food, motion, and particular people/positions.
If baby needs a bit more help, then you might occasionally offer a dummy, or a ride in the car or stroller. This may be particularly helpful in the late afternoon when baby has the hardest time going to sleep.
Newborns can experience a variety of sleep issues, but these 4 best practices are a great place for every newborn to start.