The reality is that newborn sleep is erratic. Your newborn is adjusting to lightness and darkness, loud sounds and quiet sounds, and he does not yet have organized sleep cycles like his parents.
Newborns sleep a lot, but often that sleep is broken into small spells throughout the day and night. In the early weeks, your baby will mostly wake just long enough to be fed and changed. It sounds cliché, but in order to stay well rested parents should absolutely try to sleep when their baby sleeps.
In the beginning, your baby may have his days and nights confused. This is very normal! Once his days and nights are sorted out expect that baby will likely wake every 2-3 hours to be fed.
The most important thing for you to remember at this stage in the game is helping your baby get the rest they need. It may not be perfect, it may be difficult to achieve sometimes, and that’s ok and normal. Babies will NOT suffer greatly from sleep deprivation in these early months but I’m sharing sleep tips on how parents can adjust to their newborns’ sleep patterns and get your newborn sleeping better and longer.
Newborn Sleep Tips
Safe Sleep and Environment
It is important that there are no glowing lights in the baby’s room, or outside light peeking through his windows or doors, if possible. The Blackout EZ shades are my favorite!
It is safest for an infant to sleep in a cooler room. Sleep experts recommend somewhere between 65 and 72 Degrees F. This helps a baby (and an adult!) sleep better and also helps prevent against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Pure white noise (static – not nature sounds or music) helps mask outside noises and prevent wakeups during lighter sleep. Invest in a good white noise machine and this will help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep! Make sure to keep it on during middle of the night feedings.
It is safest for baby to sleep on a stationary, flat surface for both naps and nighttime sleep. Baby gets most restorative this way, too.
Swings, strollers, car seats, bouncers, loungers, and rock and plays not safe for sleeping despite what the marketing may suggest.
A nap on the go, or an attended nap in the stroller every now and then is ok, but it is safest and most restorative to have most sleep take place in a stationary space. Baby’s sleep area should free of any toys, bumpers, or loose blankets to prevent distraction and keep your little one safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges against anything other than and fitted sheet in the child’s sleep area during the first year of life to prevent SIDS/SUIDS.
It is never too early to introduce a bedtime routine! In fact, a bedtime routine will signal to your baby that it’s time to get ready to go to sleep! Routines are great steps to create healthy sleep habits. A bedtime routine can look something like this:
- Bath, on bath nights
- Lotion and massage
- Put into pajamas
- Place into crib
As your newborn gets older, you can start to implement independent sleep skills, also known as sleep training, which is the skill of teaching your baby to fall asleep independently. This will help them learn to start sleeping through the night. If your baby has sleep problems and you want to get them on a sleep schedule, I highly consider looking into a sleep training program to address their sleep needs 1:1.
Sorting out Day & Night Confusion
Day and night confusion typically rectifies by the time your baby reaches 6-8 weeks old. Social cues, exposure to light and dark, and general maturation of the sleep cycle will help with this. This will help to develop their circadian rhythms. Newborn sleeps on average 16-18 hours a day (in a 24 hour period) and in the early days, a lot of that sleep may be during the day!
Try to get your baby out into the daylight during the day. Natural sunlight is best but certainly keeping lights bright throughout the day as baby naps are very helpful. Limit the length of baby’s naps. Do not let your baby sleep more than 2 hours at each nap during the day. This will help your baby to understand the difference between daytime sleep and nighttime sleep. Babies may sleep until they wake for a feeding overnight once they have returned to birth weight and your pediatrician has approved.
Growth Spurts and Development
Growth spurts are typically more challenging in the early weeks and months. Babies will likely experience disrupted sleep during growth spurts in the first three months. Some signs of the growth spurt are increased feedings, your baby my cry more frequently or be fussy. After that time, most babies tend to sleep more during growth spurts.
In healthy, full-term newborns growth spurts occur around:
- Around 7-10 days
- Around 2-3 weeks
- Around 4-6 weeks
- 3 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
Physical and Motor Milestones
- Baby pushes up on arms while on tummy
- Baby lifts and holds head up while on tummy
- Baby brings hands to mouth
- Baby moves arms and legs up and down when excited
- Baby will be sensitive to noise in the beginning
- Within weeks after birth, expect baby to start responding to the sound of parent’s voices
- Baby will also begin to start turning their head in the direction of any noise that they may hear
- For the first few weeks after birth, baby will focus mostly on faces
- Around 4 weeks, baby will begin to enjoy bold colors and patterns
- Baby will start tracking moving objects around 2 months
- Around six weeks social smiles arrive. Giggles follow shortly after (the best!)
- Around 2 months, baby may start cooing and copying any vowel sounds she may hear
Being responsive to your baby and taking time to interact with your baby will help them not only with brain development but also with social and communication skills, vision, hearing, and physical development.
Congratulations on the birth of your baby, this is such an exciting time! Remember to be patient, give yourself grace and try to remember that this phase is short! Try not to compare yourself to other moms or your baby to other babies. Each child is different and is born with different needs and sleep patterns, and that is perfectly fine!
Ready to work with an expert to get your baby on a solid schedule? Want to get your newborn, infant, toddler or school-age child sleeping an extra hour? Perhaps the goal is your child sleeping the entire night?
Head over to Sleep Shore to select the sleep package that suits you and your family. Be sure to subscribe to our emails so you are getting sleep tips delivered straight to your inbox!
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