With the recent clock changes, parents across Britain gave a collective groan that their efforts on getting baby to bed with ease have been reversed! Don’t despair!
I have teamed up with Katy Huyerman, a Surrey based Sleep Consultant to bring you useful information for helping you survive the early months, get back on track after the clocks changed and find out more about great advice you can trust from a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants.
Tips for helping your newborn get off to a good start with sleep
The first few weeks with your new baby can be a whirlwind – for you, your partner and your baby. It’s a wonderful time, which comes with extremes of emotions.
In the beginning, try not to worry too much about schedules and rules, or what you feel you “should” be doing. Just focus on resting and recovering from the birth, getting settled with feeding, and getting to know your new baby! Accept help from friends and family so you can get as much sleep as possible when the opportunity presents.
Newborn sleep: what to expect
While every child is different, it’s unrealistic to think a newborn baby will sleep through the night. Newborns have no concept of night and day. And their stomachs are so small that they can only hold enough milk to last a few hours.
Newborn sleep patterns mean that your baby should not sleep more than 2.5–3 hours without eating during the day and they may feed sooner than this.
Newborns should only be awake for around 45-60 minutes before they need to sleep again during those ﬁrst few weeks. Just enough time for a feed, nappy change and a quick cuddle, before settling down to sleep again. Up until around 8 weeks babies sleep 16-20 hours a day. Newborn sleep patterns differ greatly compared to the sleep patterns of a toddler, so if it seems like your newborn never sleeps or only sleeps during the day, take heart – it will change.
As babies need a lot of sleep in the ﬁrst few months, it’s important to ensure they are sleeping safely. The Lullaby Trust highlights the importance of safe sleep in reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The Trust recommends that you always place your baby on their back to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket, with a ﬁrm, ﬂat waterproof mattress in good condition. No loose bedding should be used. Instead use a secure swaddle, baby sleeping bag or a sheet and blankets tucked in, making sure baby doesn’t get too hot.
Establish healthy sleep habits from the early days! Your baby should sleep in the same room as you for every sleep situation for the ﬁrst six months. You should never sleep on the sofa or in an armchair with your baby.
Newborn babies cannot distinguish between night and day when they are born. You can help to establish your baby’s circadian rhythm by taking them out in natural light during the day.
When your baby wakes at night, it can be very tempting to sit in front of the TV so you have something to do while feeding (we’ve all done it!). Instead, download some podcasts to listen to and try to stay in the bedroom, with the lights dimmed and keep the interaction to a minimum. This will help your baby to understand that night time is not for play, and will help you to get back to sleep more easily.
For more tips and ideas you can download your FREE Guide: 5 steps to a better night’s sleep!
Establish a predictable bedtime routine
For the ﬁrst few weeks, you won’t need to bath your baby at all. Once your baby is able to bathe, based on advice from your midwife/health visitor, it can be a good way to start the bedtime routine. Children soon learn that a bath means bedtime is going to be happening soon. If your baby dislikes baths, you could give him a relaxing massage instead. Follow this with a feed and a story or song, before placing him into his Moses basket or cot awake.
Try to keep the routine the same every night and around 30-40 minutes long. A consistent routine will mean your baby can learn what’s about to happen next, with the last step of going into the cot. When you are ready you can begin to try putting your sleepy baby to bed awake once or twice a day. This can be easier by following an “Eat – Play – Sleep” pattern during the day.
This means your baby is not always feeding to sleep but rather learns other sleep cues and ways to settle. Gradually, your baby will learn to put themselves to sleep and not be dependent on outside associations.
As new parents it is important to remember that newborn sleep patterns are temporary. Your baby will eventually develop a sleep pattern that is more compatible with your own. Also, do take comfort from the fact that, if you don’t get off to the start that you hoped, it’s never too late to teach your baby independent sleep habits.
If you’d like some more information and support for helping your baby to sleep well from an early age, my Newborn Sleep Kit has lots of tips and tricks to get you off to a good start and you can follow me on Facebook for tips and guides on baby sleep.
Katy Huyerman, Certified Baby & Child Sleep Consultant