Bringing a newborn home is a big deal and then some! You will probably be inundated with all sorts of advice about baby sleep – everything from where to how much they are getting and of course how you get them to sleep. While there will be time for all of that later, in these early weeks try to just focus on resting and recovering from the labour and getting to know your new little baby.
*SIDS and Kids recommends sharing a room with your newborn baby in the form of a separate cot or bassinet close to the parent’s bed, without pillows or blankets and placing your baby on his or her back for sleep. Avoid over bundling and overheating your newborn and never fall asleep while propped up in a chair or couch holding your baby. *
Newborn Sleep Needs
You may not realise how much sleep newborns need! In these early weeks they will sleep between 16 – 18 hours per day, distributed across both the day and night. There won’t be any pattern to their sleeping or waking at this stage as your baby’s body clock hasn’t yet developed and so they will usually sleep until they get hungry and need another feed.
It’s important to start to recognise when your baby is telling you that they need to sleep. This can sometimes be tricky as not all babies will show these or they can often be misinterpreted as meaning something else, like hunger. These are some common signs to look out for:
Grizzly or crying
Sharing off into space
Settling Your Baby
If your baby doesn’t fall asleep during or straight after a feed, you may have to settle them to sleep. It is good to build up a repertoire of different ways to calm or settle your baby. There are a number of options, including patting, rocking, pacing or walking and baby wearing to name a few. It can be useful to have a list of these somewhere and if you have been trying one for a while and your baby is not responding, look on the list to try another one.
Don’t Keep Your Baby Up For Too Long
When your baby is first born, he will sleep more than be awake. As the weeks go by, they will be able to stay up longer but in the first 6 weeks the maximum awake time is around 45 - 60 mins. After this they will start to get overtired and overstimulated, which then makes going to sleep more difficult. During the time they are awake this would include a feed, a good burp, a nappy change and some cuddles. After about an hour, if your baby is starting to show you tired signs or not, you should be looking to give them another chance to sleep.
Swaddling Promotes Better Sleep
Your newborn baby will sleep better and longer if you have them nice and snug. Young babies are born with an immature startle reflex which means that their arms and legs can wave and jerk as they are settling to sleep. By swaddling you contain these movements which in turn promotes better and longer sleep.
Here are my top tips to help with sleep at this age:
• Keep wake times short. A baby that is overtired will be harder to settle to sleep and stay asleep • Learn your baby’s tired signs for when they are telling you they need to go to sleep • Wrap or swaddle your baby before you put her to bed • Practice different settling techniques that help your baby sleep
Kate has a Ph.D. in Sleep Psychophysiology from the University of Melbourne and has worked in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and their 4 small children and now runs Babysomnia where she takes a mother- and family -centric approach to getting better sleep. If you need any help with your baby’s sleep visit her website (www.babysomnia.com) to book a one-on-one consultation and like her on Facebook