Is it possible to actually get some sleep when you have a newborn? Newborns are meant to sleep 16 hours in a 24 hour period – but it often doesn’t feel like they do!
While a newborn may need a lot of sleep, he’s happy to have it fairly spread out through the day and night. Often, the second you actually fall back to sleep is the moment your little one will wake for a feed, leaving new parents in a constant state of sleep deprivation.
While there really isn’t any way to make your newborn sleep through the night (and you don’t want him to this early – he needs to feed!), here are some ways to begin the long process of settling your newborn into a sleep routine that is good for him and for the family.
1. Differentiate between night and day
Remember those nights when you were pregnant and kept awake by the constant movements and kicks in your belly? Well, now your wee soccer player is on the outside and still wants to play in the middle of the night. Coax bub into good habits by keeping it quiet and dark at night and letting some light and sound in during the day.
2. Mimic the womb
Every newborn would probably prefer to sleep in your arms, but you have to put them down sometime. There are a few products on the market that are designed to provide comfort and mimic the womb but we especially love the Cocoonababy, a sleeper solution that helps your newborn adapt to his new surroundings.
3. Limit ‘awake’ time
Newborns get tired extremely quickly. On average, your new baby will need to be put back to sleep 30 to 60 minutes after waking. This seems ridiculously short for awake time but, if you draw it out too long, it can cause over-stimulation and be harder to settle bub.
4. Stop worrying about self-settling
Eventually, your little one will need to learn how to put himself to sleep. This is known as self-settling and can easily become an obsession. But, for now, your newborn is too little. Some newborns will be able to put themselves to sleep straight away but not all.
At this stage, do what you need to do – cuddle bub, rock bub, feed bub, sing to bub. This is your time to get to know each other, to develop a closeness outside of the womb and to spend every waking moment breathing in his pure perfection.
5. Know the tired signs
An obvious sign that your newborn is tired is tears. But there are some much more subtle signs to watch out for including staring into the distance, jerky movements, sucking hands and yawning. As soon as he starts to demonstrate these signs, it’s time for a nap! It can take days, weeks and even months to learn these sleep cues so try not to beat yourself up if bub ends up overtired. It happens to all of us.
6. Take time every day to breathe and reflect
It can be so frustrating when you are exhausted, when you have just put your baby down and when, two seconds later, you hear a cry. It may seem like the cycle of exhaustion will never end. All you want is to sleep for a few solid hours (minutes even!) and yet it is just not happening.
Stop. Breathe. And remember this – your baby has had you close for nine long months. He has been able to hear your heartbeat, to feel your warmth. While you probably spent those nine months eagerly waiting for him to make his appearance, your little one was pretty comfortable and content in there. It’s only natural that the transition from the cosy womb to the big world is going to be a little confusing.
There will come a time when your little one will sleep (really!). So cherish those newborn cuddles, the sleepless nights spent in a rocking chair and the late night feeds that seem to last forever. They may seem tedious and tiring now, but these are moments you will want to look back on one day.
We hope these tips will help you to make the most out of this precious time and ensure the most successful, stress-free transition possible for your newborn.
Need some more baby sleep advice? Our Parent School sleep experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.